100-Year-Old Conductor to Lead Concerts in His Honor
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100-Year-Old Conductor to Lead Concerts in His Honor

Airplanes and music have never been far from Col. Hal Gibson’s extraordinary 100 years of life.

At age 98, he decided it was time to give up flying, but the centenarian continues soaring through music.

“I had been flying since World War II and thought that was enough,” said Gibson, who piloted single-engine fighter planes in the war’s Pacific Theater, and at age 93 was flying experimental airplanes

He may be grounded, but he is still making music. When Melbourne Municipal Band honors Gibson — the longest living conductor of the much-lauded U.S. Army Field Band — with special concerts April 17 and 18 that celebrate his 100th birthday, Gibson will be conducting a new arrangement of the Space Force Song. He also will close the program with “Stars and Stripes Forever” — music as classic as the conductor himself. 

“There are so many wonderful pieces for the band that it would be hard to choose one, but ‘Stars and Stripes’ would certainly be on that list,” Gibson said when asked to choose a particular piece. 

There will be an ample supply of great conductors taking to the stage at the concerts, including five past conductors of the U.S. Army Field Band, as well as Dr. David Gregory, founder and Conductor Emeritus of the Georgia Wind Symphony, and Melbourne Municipal Band conductor Staci Rosbury. 

“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see all the past living US Army Field Band conductors in one concert,” Rosbury said. “We will feature stirring renditions of ‘American Overture for Band,’ the ‘George Washington Bicentennial March,’ ‘Superman March,’ ‘America the Beautiful,’ and ‘Hymn for the Innocent,’ to name a few. MMB is thrilled to honor the many contributions Col. Gibson has made to the music world and to our band.”

Gibson has led bands at every level of the Army, including at West Point Military Academy. As its fourth commander, Gibson directed the U.S. Army Field Band from 1968 to 1974, when he was chosen from among bandleaders of all military branches to form and conduct the Department of Defense Band, the group that would represent the nation’s military during Bicentennial celebrations. 

That band, comprised of members of all five uniformed services, has been called the greatest military band ever assembled. Gibson conducted in all 50 states and 38 countries. Not bad for a former high school band teacher.

After a 33-year military career, Gibson headed for academia as director of bands and professor at Columbus State University in Georgia. After becoming professor emeritus upon retirement, the school named its new state-of-the-art rehearsal hall in his honor.

In 1993, Gibson and his wife, Marie, moved to Melbourne, and the music continued. He formed the Space Coast Winds, which performed at the annual convention of the American Bandmasters Association, and became involved with Melbourne Municipal Band, stepping in as conductor when needed with both the concert band and the organization's Swingtime ensemble.

In 2004, Gibson was inducted into the National Hall of Fame for Distinguished Band Conductors, and in 2021, was the first recipient of the National Band Association’s Al and Gladys Wright Legacy Award for lifetime achievement. 

His love affairs with flying and music don’t seem disparate, the way he explains it.

“There are many similarities between flying and conducting,” Gibson said. “In both instances, you are totally responsible for whatever happens, and both take you into realms above this earth. In both cases, you are in another world.”

Come to think of it, Gibson is indeed still flying high at 100. 

Learn More

“Honoring Colonel Hal Gibson”
When: 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 17 and Thursday, April 18
Where: Melbourne Auditorium, 625 E. Hibiscus Blvd.(doors open at 6 p.m. with pre-show entertainment by Sunshine Brass Quintet)
Admission: Free
More information: Call 321-724-0555 or visit melbournemunicipalband.org

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