Michael Colburn

Michael Colburn

Music Director and Conductor

Michael Colburn has served as the Music Director and Conductor of The Orchestra of Northern New York since 2024.

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Michael J. Colburn

A native of St. Albans, Vermont, Michael Colburn’s first musical love was the euphonium, which he began studying at age ten. His desire to become a professional euphonium player can be traced to a summer music camp he attended while in 8th grade, where he first met Lucas Spiros, Principal Euphonium in “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band. He began his post-secondary work studying music education at the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, NY, where he took lessons with Dr. Peter Popiel and played under the baton of Prof. Anthony Maiello. His strong desire to perform professionally led him to change his major to performance and transfer to Arizona State University, where he studied with renowned teacher and soloist Daniel Perantoni, and played in the legendary ASU symphonic band directed by Dr. Richard Strange. In 1987 he won a position with “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band and in 1990 was appointed Principal Euphonium by Director Col. John Bourgeois. In 1993 he recorded “The Golden Age of Brass, Vol. 3,” a highly acclaimed recording of virtuoso euphonium solos written around the turn of the 20th century.

While serving as a euphonium player in the Marine Band, Colburn attained a master’s degree in conducting at George Mason University, where he studied with Prof. Anthony Maiello. In 1996 he was commissioned a First Lieutenant and appointed as Assistant Director of the Marine Band. In this position he worked closely with Director Col. Timothy Foley and Executive Officer Capt. Frank Byrne in revamping the organization’s performance evaluation, promotion process, and educational outreach.  He also served as the officer in charge of overseeing the design and construction of the state-of-the-art John Philip Sousa Band Hall at the Marine Band Annex, which was completed in 2004. It was during his time as an Assistant Director that he established contact with John Williams, beginning a long and fruitful relationship between the Marine Band and the legendary film composer. 

In 2004, Colburn was appointed the 27th Director of the Marine Band and was promoted to Colonel by President George W. Bush in a private Oval Office ceremony. As Director, Colburn served as the music advisor to the White House and regularly conducted the Marine Band and Chamber Orchestra at the Executive Mansion and at the Presidential Inaugurations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. During his tenure, he led the band on several national concert tours, high visibility events, and national music conferences. He expanded the educational outreach of the organization, implemented a national concerto competition for high school students, started a conductor training program for Marine Band members, and strengthened the relationship between “The President’s Own” and Marine Bands throughout the fleet. Shortly before his retirement in 2014 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Medal of Honor by the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic Board of Directors.

Upon his retirement from the Marine Band, Colburn was appointed Director of Bands at Butler University, a position he held from 2014 until 2022. His duties there included conducting the Butler University Wind Ensemble as well as instruction in conducting, euphonium, and the history and literature of the wind band. Under Colburn’s leadership, the program experienced significant growth and the wind ensemble drew strong praise for its ambitious programming and high level of performance.  

Colburn has served as the chair of the Sousa-ABA-Ostwald Award and as an adjudicator for the Sudler Award, the Barlow Endowment, Music for All, and the Col. George S. Howard Award for Excellence in Military Bands. Colburn served as the 85th President of the American Bandmasters Association, has been a board member of the National Band Association, and currently serves as the Vice President for Project Enhancement for the John Philip Sousa Foundation. He is also a member of Washington D.C.’s prestigious Gridiron and Alfalfa Clubs.

In 2022, Colburn returned to his home state of Vermont, where he now resides with his wife Nancy. Colburn continues to work as a freelance guest conductor and clinician, and regularly leads professional and student ensembles in festivals, residencies, and a variety of other settings throughout the country. In June 2024 he was appointed Music Director and Conductor of the Orchestra of Northern New York, a professional orchestra based in Potsdam, NY. He is also the Music Director and Conductor of the Me2 Orchestra in Burlington, VT, a classical music organization devoted to erasing the stigma of mental illness through supportive rehearsals and inspiring performances, and he also serves as an Affiliate Artist at the University of Vermont. In 2024 he became a member of the Educational Consultant team at the Conn Selmer Division of Education.