Artistic Director: Col. Dennis M. Layendecker
Dennis M. Layendecker; D.M.A.; Col. USAF (Ret.), is the Director of the George Mason University School of Music. He holds the Heritage Chair in Music and serves as Director of University Orchestras in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA), positions he has held since joining the faculty in August 2009. The Heritage Chair in Music was established in the 1980s by former Mason president George Johnson and his wife Joanne as a way of promoting the arts on campus and within the community.
During his 26-year Air Force career Dr. Layendecker served as a band commander, conductor, artistic director, pianist, public spokesperson, educator, and diplomat for the Air Force at home and abroad. In July 2002, then Colonel Layendecker assumed command of The United States Air Force Band, Washington, D.C. As part of his duties he provided direct musical and ceremonial support to the President of the United States and his Cabinet, members of Congress and other high ranking civilian and military leaders nationally and internationally. In addition to his duties at the USAF Band, from December 2007, he also served as the Chief of Music for the Air Force. In this capacity he advised the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs leadership on music policy, officer hiring, development and assignments, force structure, and total force integration of Air Force active duty and Air National Guard musical units. During his military career he led more than 6,000 musical performances worldwide in support of public outreach, community relations, troop morale and welfare, and recruitment and retention programs for the Air Force and Department of Defense. He officially retired from the Air Force in late August 2009.
Dr. Layendecker is a graduate of the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Music Education in 1975. He began his conducting studies in 1977 while on full piano scholarship attending the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, Belgium. He subsequently augmented his conducting studies during summer master classes at the Academia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy, and at the Vienna (Austria) Academy of Music. In 1981, he earned a Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and in 1988, completed a Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the Air Force, Dr. Layendecker served on the music faculties of The American Conservatory of Music, Chicago, Illinois and Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. He was inducted as a member of the American Bandmasters Association in 2006. He has remained active as a conductor and clinician throughout his professional career.
During his distinguished career in the Air Force Dr. Layendecker led many of America’s finest musicians throughout the United States, Asia, the United Kingdom, and Europe—from Los Angeles to New York, Vienna to London, and Oslo to Tokyo. Gifted in foreign languages, he is fluent in French and functional in German and Italian. He has performed in such notable venues as Washington D.C.’s National Theatre and D.A.R. Constitution Hall; Kodak Theatre in Hollywood; Semper Opera, Dresden; Neues Gewandhaus, Leipzig; Royal Albert Hall in London; Alte Opera, Frankfurt; and the Beethovenhalle in Bonn. He has led his ensembles before numerous world leaders to include seven American presidents, Queen Elizabeth of England, and Pope John Paul II. His radio and television broadcast credits include appearances on BBC, German Radio and Television, Polish National Radio, Radio Luxembourg, RAI Italy, and public radio and national television across America.
In addition to his civilian academic credentials, Dr. Layendecker is a graduate of the Air War College, a distinguished graduate of the Air Command and Staff College, and a graduate of the Air Force Academic Instructor’s School and Squadron Officer School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Organizational Excellence Award with oak leaf cluster, National Defense Service Medal with bronze star, and the Global War on Terrorism Medal.
A native of Springfield, Illinois, Dr. Layendecker resides with his wife Myriam in Burke, Virginia. They have been blessed to raise six children, and late in 2009 welcomed their first grandchild, Simon Peters.