Dr. Brian Buckstead is Assistant Professor of Violin and Viola at Fort Hays State University in Kansas, as well as music director of the Hays Symphony. He enjoys a thriving career as a violinist, violist, conductor, and educator, having studied, performed, and conducted extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. Appearing as soloist with numerous ensembles, his eclectic repertoire includes Carmen Fantasy by Sarasate, The Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, The Four Seasons Recomposed by Max Richter, Havanaise by Saint-Saëns, the Concertino for Violin and Wind Octet by Robert Linn, Strings and Threads by Mark O'Connor, and the violin concertos of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Philip Glass. Brian also gave the world premiere performance of Latent Emotions for solo violin and symphonic wind ensemble by award-winning Spanish composer Oscar Navarro. He is the featured soloist on the CD Baroque Masterworks by the Beloit Janesville Symphony, playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4. His newest album, Forgotten Bériot: Virtuoso Opera Fantasies, is available in both digital download and CD formats. His follow-up album, to be released on the MSR Classics label, will feature music by forgotten 19th century Jewish composers.
An advocate of music by obscure, forgotten, and historically underrepresented composers, Dr. Buckstead’s repertoire as a conductor is extensive and eclectic. He has conducted a wide range of music by a diverse set of composers, including Einojuhani Rautavaara, William Grant Still, George Walker, and Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. In addition to conducting the Hays Symphony and FHSU Sinfonietta, Brian has conducted the Beloit College Orchestra, the Gustavus Philharmonic Orchestra, the Academy Orchestra of Medicine Hat College in Canada, and the University of Minnesota Duluth Chamber Orchestra. Brian began studying the art of conducting with Steven Amundson, Professor of Music at St. Olaf College and director of one of the finest undergraduate orchestras in the United States. He continued his journey with David Lewis Crosby, the late director of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, as well as Blake Walter, chair of the music department at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. He has been conductor and strings camp director of several summer music camps, including the North Shore Summer Music Experience in Duluth, Minnesota, and the High Plains Music Camp in Hays, Kansas. Additionally, Brian has been guest conductor and clinician at numerous music festivals featuring the top string students from the Midwest.
Dr. Buckstead is also active in eclectic string playing, having performed in multiple styles and directed amplified string ensembles. These ensembles focus on the technical and technological exploration of contemporary string techniques, including looping, chopping, and improvisation, and on the performance of various non-Classical styles, including pop, rock, jazz, and fiddle. Brian recently presented a session on Arabic violin technique and music at the 2022 ASTA National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
Brian is also passionate about the education of young musicians. In addition to adjudicating local, regional, and national music competitions, he co-developed Bring Back the Music, an initiative to bring string instrument education to two underprivileged public schools in Medicine Hat, Alberta. He is also the manager of the Western Kansas Orchestra Festival, a yearly string orchestra festival featuring hundreds of high school and middle school students from western and central Kansas.
Dr. Buckstead received his Bachelor of Music degree from St. Olaf College, and his Master and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, all in violin performance. His teachers have included Beatrix Lien, Charles Gray, Jennifer John, and David Perry. Brian has held teaching positions at colleges and universities in Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Canada.
Dr. Buckstead has thoroughly researched the teaching and philosophy of John Kendall, one of the world’s great string pedagogues and the pioneering developer of the Suzuki Method in the United States. His research culminated in the dissertation entitled A Maverick Pedagogue: The Teaching and Ideas of John Kendall.
Brian lives in Hays, Kansas, with his wife, Numa Ali, and their son, Oliver.