Published on May 6, 2021 by Ashley Smith  

Captain Brian O. Walden, associate professor of music in the School of the Arts is retiring from teaching this May.  He joined Samford’s faculty three years ago to lead the wind ensemble in the Division of Music, however, he quickly ended up assuming major roles in music education, teaching trumpet lessons, overseeing the instrumental music area, and mentoring many of the faculty members in the department. 

“Brian has been the best mentor I could have asked for within the School of the Arts. I will continue his traditions of excellence and passion for music. He will be missed at Samford,” said Ryan Lovell, director of Samford’s athletic bands.

“Brian seems to have been exactly the person that we needed in recent years.  We certainly did not anticipate all the ways that he would end up guiding and influencing the instrumental music program and the music education program, but it is abundantly clear that he was placed here for the great benefit of our university.  It seemed like every time we had a need for something else, he was equipped with the skill and knowledge to step in and provide that help,” said Grant Dalton, professor and director of the percussion and jazz band areas. 

Walden brought an intense work ethic to the program and demanded the same from his students.  “He expects a lot from himself, and he has worked tirelessly to improve our program,” said Dalton.

“Capt. Walden has also been extremely creative with his ensembles,” Dalton said. “Early on, we had times where we ended up focusing more on chamber music than wind ensemble music, and he managed to put together some ambitious programs that had great unifying themes along with lighting, video artwork, singing, and other theatrical elements that we rarely use in a formal ‘classical’ style concert.  I think he really opened some eyes to the importance of presentation and variety in concert planning.”

A native of South Carolina, he came to Samford from Marshall University where he was the Director of Bands, Coordinator of Music Education, and Program Coordinator of the Graduate Conducting Program following his 2015 retirement as Commanding Officer and Conductor of the United States Navy Band in Washington, D. C. He has an extensive recording resume’ as a conductor and has commissioned and premiered important works for the wind ensemble medium. He has conducted international recording artists live and for television performances with Neil Patrick Harris and other artists such as Jason Mraz, James Taylor, Colbie Caillat, Take 6, Phillip Phillips (American Idol winner), Isaac Slade of the rock band “The Fray,” Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Branford Marsalis (former Director of The Tonight Show Band with Jay Leno) and many other artists. He has guest-conducted ensembles and performed as a trumpet instrumentalist on every continent except Antarctica. In 2012 he was awarded the Outstanding Alumni Award by the Alumni Council of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.  At the time of his retirement from active duty, Captain Walden was the senior musician/conductor in the Department of Defense and President Barack Obama awarded Captain Walden the distinguished Legion of Merit  for his 35 years of service to the nation.

Walden noted that one of his most meaningful roles was conducting the choir for the funeral of Neil Armstrong. He often shared with his students, “If you believe in what you do and work hard, it can take you to the moon and back.” 

Walden will retire to his home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where he plans to spend time with his family and sail up and down the Atlantic coast.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.