Gustavus Wind Orchestra

The Gustavus Wind Orchestra, founded in 1878, is the premiere and official touring wind ensemble of the Department of Music at Gustavus Adolphus College. Gustavus Wind Orchestra is the oldest touring ensemble at Gustavus and holds the distinguished honor of being the oldest touring collegiate band in the United States west of the Mississippi River. With traditions more than 135 years in the making, the Gustavus Wind Orchestra serves as a primary artistic center of excellence, service, justice, faith, and community at Gustavus.


During its rich and storied history the Gustavus Wind Orchestra has toured annually within the United States and Canada, traveling internationally every four years. These tours bring GWO’s music and service model to all corners of the globe and have reached thousands of communities and hundreds of thousands of people world-wide. Their esteemed touring tradition began in 1881 when the band boarded the train on their way to East Union, Minnesota, completing the last leg of their journey from Carver to East Union in horse-drawn wagons!

Perhaps the most significant historical tours occurred in March of 1941, when the band toured with legendary composer, soloist, and conductor, Percy Aldridge Grainger. Grainger loved the experience with the Gustavus Band (then under the direction of famed director Frederic Hilary) so much that he returned to the campus on three additional occasions during the 1940’s. In January 1990, during noted American Bandmaster Dr. Douglas Nimmo’s era, the wind orchestra was honored as the first American ensemble to receive an invitation to present a concert in East Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Then in 1994, the wind orchestra toured to Eastern Europe to perform for standing-room-only audiences in Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary, Austria and Germany, returning to that area of the world in 2006, 2010, and 2014 with similar results. In 2017 the Gustavus Wind Orchestra will return to Gustavus’ Swedish home with a mulit-week international tour to Sweden and Norway under the direction of conductor, James Patrick Miller, better known to the Gustie musicians as “JPM.”

Throughout the past decades the Gustavus Wind Orchestra has established itself nationally as a leader in the creation of new music for wind band. Recent commissions have included works by composers Shawn Brogan Allison, David Gillingham, Jack Stamp, and James Stephenson. Their most recent commission is the 2014 work “Wind Up/Winding Down” by composer Michael Gandolfi for solo clarinet and wind ensemble. GWO will premiere this work with soloist Karrin Meffert-Nelson in 2015.

A national leader in music ensemble service learning, Gustavus Wind Orchestra also celebrates its connection with Gustavus’ Center for Servant Leadership. Through GWO: Gustavus Winds Outreach, members of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra engage in artistic service projects reaching children and communities around the country and the globe. Projects include instrument and sheet music drives to support students in need, free lessons in schools, a Christmas Giving Tree supporting local shelters and food banks, and a progressive school outreach program complimenting all domestic and international tours where members of GWO engage, teach, and mentor schools students.

With the establishment of the Douglas Nimmo Endowed Chair in Music in 2014, named for the Emeritus conductor of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra, James Patrick Miller now leads one of the most storied American collegiate ensembles towards the goal of blending artistic performance with faith and service. Modeled after the flexible wind ensemble and allowing for all students to perform both as soloists and members of the large ensemble, GWO musicians benefit from a comprehensive music performance education regardless of their Gustavus major of study. The 65 members of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra, represeting almost all academic majors on campus, perform solo repertoire, chamber music, and large ensemble music. Flexing out of the ensemble is a select harmonie ensemble, Chamber Winds, led by Dr. Heidi Johanna Miller, the Christ Chapel Brass, the premiere brass quintet at Gustavus, and many trios, quartets, and quintets. All members experience sitting in the principal chair of their section, sing together in rehearsal and performance, rotate parts, and work collaboratively to uphold creativity and artistry in all aspects of what GWO does. The ensemble is constantly performing the most artistic and creative wind ensemble repertoire from all time periods. Gustavus Wind Orchestra, in all that it does, prides itself upon the foundation of the ars liberal education, and the liberal arts stand as the pillar of their flexible, creative programs.

Frequently performing for campus events like the Nobel Conference, Family Weekend, Commencement, Honors Day, and many others, for 135 years and counting the Gustavus Wind Orchestra prides itself in being one of the eldest and most storied organizations at Gustavus.

For more information on the Gustavus Wind Orchestra please contact conductor James Patrick Miller at

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