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Gerald Guilbeaux ’72 wins the 2021 American Prize in Conducting

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Music has always been a core component of alumnus Gerald Guilbeaux’s life. Now he’s receiving national recognition for his musical talent. Guilbeaux ’72 is the winner of The American Prize in Conducting (community band/wind ensemble division) for 2021. The American Prize National Nonprofit Competition in Performing Arts is the nation’s most comprehensive series of non-profit competitions in the musical and theater arts. Guilbeaux was selected from applicants from across the country for his work with the Acadian Wind Symphony. He is the founding conductor of the Acadian Wind Symphony and has been the conductor of the Lafayette Concert Band since 1993. Guilbeaux’s passion for music started at a young age. Still, he grew his love for the art form when he attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Originally from Carencro, Guilbeaux decided to major in music at the University. After taking a brief hiatus from school to join the United States Army, Guilbeaux returned and dove headfirst into music. He was a member of the Pride of Acadiana Marching Band and credited the organization for teaching him more than just melodies. “We learned a lot about life and not just about music,” Guilbeaux said. Years later, he’s kept a connection with the band and has been the voice of the Pride of Acadiana at football games for the last 40 years.

After graduating in 1972, Guilbeaux began working as a high school band director. He taught for seven years before moving into the insurance industry, but he knew that he wanted to keep music in his life. In an effort to bring people together who had a passion for music, Guilbeaux worked with other community members to start the Lafayette Concert Band in 1982. Shortly after that, he became the founding conductor of the Acadian Wind Symphony. These two community bands have brought music to Acadiana for decades. But for Guilbeaux, these bands serve as more than just a place to play music — they truly are a community. “We’re a family, and we care about each other and about making music,” Guilbeaux said.

During the pandemic, both bands had to pause all of their performances. Guilbeaux stumbled upon The American Prize’s website with this extra free time and decided to enter their award competition. He had videos saved from when he was conducting with the Acadian Wind Symphony from the year prior, so he took the chance, submitted his files, and applied. Months later, he received an email that genuinely took him by surprise — he had won! “I was honored because the groups that are represented [in the competition] are phenomenal bands. I was amazed we were able to come out on top,” Guilbeaux said.

As these community bands continue to grow, Guilbeaux is excited to see more people embrace their love of music and performing. “Over the years, we’ve developed the idea that music is for life,” Guilbeaux said. Not only does Guilbeaux get to enjoy performing in the community, but he now gets to watch his grandchildren play music as well. And for him, that’s what music is all about — bringing communities and people together.

Photo Caption: Gerald Guilbeaux