Winner of the American Prize in Wind Conducting (2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18) and lauded by Iowa Public Radio as a “major figure in Iowa arts,” Brian Hughes is an active conductor at home and abroad. In addition to clinic and concert performances across the country, he has led orchestras in the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, and Russia. 


Dr. Hughes moved to Dubuque in 1993 to serve as Director of Instrumental Studies at Loras College. In 1994, he was appointed Conductor of the Dubuque Symphony Youth Orchestra, and in 1995, he founded the Tri-State Wind Symphony, soon to celebrate its 25th Anniversary Season in Summer 2019. Following thirteen seasons with the award-winning Quad City Wind Ensemble, Dr. Hughes also leads the Bettendorf Park Band, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in Summer 2018. In November of that year, he became interim Conductor of the Symphony Orchestra at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

Dr. Hughes holds degrees in music education and conducting from Olivet College (MI), the University of Northern Iowa, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where his dissertation was “Alberto Ginastera: Variaciones Concertantes—A Conductor’s Study. An article based on that study, “A True Concerto for Orchestra,” is set for publication in the Journal of the Conductor’s Guild.


He has also offered clinics on conducting, repertoire, and music education at the Northern Iowa Conductor’s Symposium and the Iowa Bandmasters Association. A two-time recipient of the Richard and Agatha Church Conducting Prize (UW-Madison), he was presented the 2005 Elisha Darlin Award, given by the Dubuque Fine Arts Society to recognize his “outstanding contribution to the arts.”

Dr. Hughes resides in Dubuque, sharing time with daughter Caitlyn, a junior studying biochemistry and political science at Iowa State University, and Allegro, an 18 pound+ orange tabby. You'll find him in any of several local coffee shops or his own kitchen—glass in hand—working over the stove or oven. There's always extra! Come on over!












Verdi: La Forza del Destino--full of energy and fire. The orchestral version is hardly missed at all. A conductor fully in the moment. Absolutely relaxed in the arm and hand (and demeanor), with clear beating, which makes possible the kind of focused playing and tight ensemble that is achieved.


Whitacre: Lux arumque--careful control of dynamics and phrase shape. A conductor (who is) always listening, balancing, responding. Hardly could a better example of a skilled, seasoned, serious practitioner of the art be imagined.


Fucik: Gigantic--what a marvelous march. Evidence of a conductor in relaxed, seasoned control, with careful, restrained movements. A pleasure to watch his work. Classy.


Excellent repertoire--including classic marches, excellent transcriptions, more modern composers. Maestro Hughes is for this adjudicator always a privileged encounter. I wish him continued success and joy in his performances. 

Friedemann: Slavonic Rhapsody No. 1--The quality of the video makes it easy to see your many facial expressions and body language. You achieve a gorgeous, sonorous sound, with dramatic contrasts. Tremendous performance!


Elgar/Reed: Nimrod--This wonderful arrangement is a great choice for your group. The outstanding soft opening is clearly indicated. Your body language and especially the range of expressions are perfect.


Alfred Reed: Alleluia! Laudamus Te--Gorgeous and tight. The group responds sensitively to your varied hand gestures and communications. Your beat is always clear and appropriate to the musical style. A majestic and beautiful performance.

Karl King: Barnum and Bailey's Favorite. I like how he won't leave them alone--there is going to be energy and excitement in this familiar march they know well. The conductor is alive to the performance--very much "in the moment." Yes, the beat is large--a smaller gesture with the same intent might achieve good results faster, but good results these are. It is clear that no one sleeps when Brian Hughes conducts, players or audience. Bravo.

"Brian has charisma in abundance, a talent for speaking and relating to audiences of all kinds, a dynamic stage presence, and very creative programming...He treats musicians with respect and still is able to expect and get the best results possible with limited rehearsal time."

Nicholas Palmer, DMA, Music Director,

Lafayette (IN) Symphony


"I love it when my little community orchestra is coaxed and challenged to reach into the musical guts of the pieces we are playing. Thanks, maestro Brian Hughes, for a great rehearsal."

Hana Velde, First Violin,

Dubuque Community String Orchestra


"Brian is a distinguished musician, and his enthusiasm for teaching and conducting great music is quite inspirational for those lucky enough to perform with him."

James Smith, Emeritus

University of Wisconsin-Madison