Dr. Michael Burch-Pesses

Dr. Michael Burch-Pesses

Director of Bands
Pacific University


Michael Burch-Pesses is Director of Bands at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, where he conducts the Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band, and teaches courses in conducting and music education. He holds Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in conducting from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Since coming to Pacific University in 1995 he received the Junior Faculty Award (1998) and was named a Wye Fellow of the Aspen Institute (1999). In 2006 he received the S.S. Johnson Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching, the equivalent of “Teacher of the Year” award, and the Citation of Excellence from the National Band Association. He is listed in “Who’s Who in America” and “Who’s Who in American Education.”

He enjoyed a distinguished career as a bandmaster in the United States Navy before arriving at Pacific University, enlisting as a hornist and working his way up through the ranks to become the Navy's senior bandmaster and Head of the Navy Music Program. During his Navy career, he served as Leader of the Naval Academy Band in Annapolis, Maryland. He also served as Assistant Leader of the Navy Band in Washington, DC, and Director of the Commodores, the Navy's official jazz ensemble.

Dr. Burch-Pesses also is the Conductor and Musical Director of the award-winning Oregon Symphonic Band, Oregon's premier adult band. The Oregon Symphonic Band is composed primarily of musicians from the Portland/ Vancouver area. Men and women of many professions are represented in the ensemble, which performs three-concert series annually and has appeared in concert at numerous state, regional, and international music conferences, including the All-Northwest MENC conference, the Western International Band Clinic, and the prestigious Midwest Clinic in Chicago. In 2007 the John Philip Sousa Foundation awarded the band the Sudler Silver Scroll, recognizing them as one of the outstanding community bands in the nation. Dr. Burch-Pesses is the author of “Canadian Band Music: A Qualitative Guide to Canadian Composers and Their Works for Band,” published by Meredith Music Publications; and is a contributor to the “Teaching Music Through Performance in Band” series.

His professional affiliations include the American Bandmasters Association, National Band Association, Association of Concert Bands, Oregon Music Educators Association, and the National Association for Music Education. He is President of the Oregon Band Directors Association and a founding member of the Oregon chapter of Phi Beta Mu.

  Session Titles

Better Performance Through Better Eye Contact


Conductors often have their head in the score rather than having the score in their head. By combining effective score study, easy-to-read score markings, and increased eye contact during rehearsals, we can conduct more effectively with better musical results.

Conducting - Rocket Science or Celtic Wizardry?"


Because conducting is an elegant, silent art, a language unto itself, the interaction between conductor and ensemble requires us to use a non-verbal syntax to convey the composer's intent. When we do this, we communicate the message of the music through our bodies. So conducting means that we must convert our knowledge into movement, which is our primary means of communication. This workshop explores several techniques to help the conductor improve non-verbal skills.

Improving Listening Skills for Better Performance


Successful performances seldom occur without astute listening from everyone in the ensemble. Like every skill, however, the ability to listen must be cultivated. Students must know exactly what to listen for and how to respond to what they hear. This clinic will address this topic and give specific examples on how to listen at a deeper level.

March Style 101


What makes a march an exciting aural experience? What elements of a march make the listener want to get up and march? Why did Sousa become known as the "March King?" These questions and more will be covered in this workshop on march style.

Working Toward Better Communication From the Podium


This session will demonstrate techniques to communicate the conductor’s intent more clearly, and offer rehearsal techniques to help the student grasp musical concepts more quickly. Participants should bring a baton.