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Chief Master Sergeant (ret.) Brian Bowman: Euphonium Legend and Legacy

The Bowman siblings all served as members of The U.S. Air Force Band. Pictured from left to right are euphoniumist Brian Bowman, vocalist Linda Jane Bowman, and trumpeter Victor Bowman.

The Bowman siblings all served as members of The U.S. Air Force Band. Pictured from left to right are euphoniumist Brian Bowman, vocalist Linda Jane Bowman, and trumpeter Victor Bowman.

Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) Brian Bowman, an unrivaled soloist, performs with The U. S. Air Force Concert Band under the baton of Colonel (ret.) Arnald Gabriel.

Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) Brian Bowman, an unrivaled soloist, performs with The U. S. Air Force Concert Band under the baton of Colonel (ret.) Arnald Gabriel.

Chief Master Sergeant (ret.) Brian Bowman engages with members of a Russian military band on a Band tour of Russia.

Chief Master Sergeant (ret.) Brian Bowman engages with members of a Russian military band on a Band tour of Russia.

JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C. --

The U.S. armed forces offer a broad spectrum of careers, one of them being military bandsman. Generally speaking, military bands are an essential public affairs tool in utilizing soft power between negotiating nations, and bridging communities and the armed forces worldwide. Looking closely at the military band personnel from all six branches, there is a fascinating trend amongst the euphonium sections. Out of the 27 premier band euphonium positions, 17 of those are occupied by individuals with a common thread: they were students of Dr. Brian L. Bowman, who served as The U.S. Air Force Band’s solo and principal euphoniumist from 1976-1991. 

A native of Dixon, Ill., Bowman is considered one of the world’s greatest and most prolific euphonium virtuosos and educators of all time. For over 25 years, he proved to be an inspirational and effective educator. His students consistently achieved the highest levels of performance, such as placing in and winning international competitions, securing positions in the military bands, and even teaching at the collegiate level. His successful career as an educator created and continued what his students refer to as “The Bowman Legacy.”

Bowman’s ability to motivate his students to become the nation’s finest euphoniumists can be attributed to his own career as a successful euphonium virtuoso. From 1970-1974, he was the principal and solo euphoniumist of the United States Navy Band. Additionally, Bowman served in the United States Armed Forces Bicentennial Band from 1974-1976, an ensemble composed of members from all branches of service. By this time, word of his incredible musicianship and sterling reputation spread. 

By 1976, it was time for Bowman to return to the Navy Band, but he was offered and readily accepted the position of principal and solo euphoniumist of The U.S. Air Force Band. By his retirement in 1991, he had promoted through the ranks, all the way up to Chief Master Sergeant. Throughout his service, Bowman continued to push himself not only to higher levels of instrumental performance, but to greater heights of leadership and patriotism. 

Additionally, Bowman served in a temporary role of chief of public affairs for The U.S. Air Force Band’s Airmen of Note within his first year of service. He also helped record and produce The United States Air Force Band’s first compact disc. Furthermore, during his time in service, Bowman proposed the Band commission two pieces, thrusting new and innovative repertoire not only into the Band’s music library, but into the personal libraries of euphoniumists worldwide seeking new and exciting works to perform.

One of the most interesting and wonderful parts of Bowman’s career in The U.S. Air Force Band is that he was able to share it with his siblings. His brother, Victor Bowman, played trumpet in the Concert Band, and his sister, Linda Jane (Bowman) Smith, was a vocalist in the Singing Sergeants. There is an adage which he frequently imparts on his students, “Two of the most important things to figure out in life are what you’re going to do, and who you’re going to do it with.” Bowman blazed a trail for future generations during his career in The United States Air Force Band, and was able to do so alongside his own family. The three siblings often performed together, and the Band even commissioned the work entitled “Duo Concertante” by James Barnes, set to feature the two highly-skilled Bowman brothers together. 

When asked what his most memorable missions were during his time in the Band, he recalls being excited about the inauguration of former President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan and Bowman happen to share the same hometown of Dixon, Ill. The Dixon High School Marching Band, which Bowman had been a member of, even came to march in the very same inaugural parade. Furthermore, he also holds the Band’s tours of Europe and China as some of the most impactful moments in his career because of the way the power of music speaks in circumstances where language barriers might inhibit unity among nations. He also performed at the funeral services of former Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson, but states that the most powerful and solemn funeral service he performed was that of the astronauts who perished in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. 

Following his retirement from the U.S. Air Force, Bowman shaped the next generation of euphonium players as an educator. He occupied the position of head of the brass department at Duquesne University for seven years, from 1991-1998. In 1999 he began teaching at The University of North Texas, holding the title of regents professor of music, and retired in 2018.  

Dr. Bowman is a master teacher and unrivaled performer. His reputation for fostering an environment of kindness, tolerance, self-betterment, and taking one’s community with them on their way to the top is what makes him remarkable. In both his performance career in the military bands and teaching career as a professor, he was able to live by example. He taught his colleagues and the next generation what it means to work hard, strive for the best, and do whatever you can to help your fellow man. While Dr. Bowman’s teaching and performing career speak for themselves, his legacy of kindness, hard work, and community will live on through his students for ages to come.