Colorado Springs Chamber Music Society

About Us

Michael Paul Gibson conducting rehearsal of Milwaukee Youth SymphonyBirth of the Colorado Springs Chamber Music Society

Once upon a time... there was a war known  as the “Vietnam Conflict.”  President “Tricky Dick” Nixon started the military draft on December 1, 1969, drawing lottery numbers for all men born between 1944 and 1950.  Musicians who were in college and professional musicians who had a lottery number of 195 or lower discovered that the N.O.R.A.D. (North American Defense Comand) Band in Colorado Springs,  a highly professional concert band and jazz band, was accepting selected musicians by audition process only -- at the expense of the applicant

The NORAD Band attracted some of the finest musicians in America at the time.  Most members had attended music school and had bachelors and masters degrees in music.  These were the musicians who would rather play in the band than carry a rifle in Vietnam.

Michael Gibson had a draft number of 21.  After being denied a student deferment by his draft board to finish his Masters Degree at Northwestern University, Gibson had his first airplane flight to Colorado Springs and auditioned to play trombone in the NORAD Band.  He was accepted for an Air Force slot that was a 4-year commitment.  Gibson enlisted in the Air Force in June of 1971 two days before he would have been drafted and according to entrance tests would most likely  have been flying over enemy territory in the back of a plane trying to decode secret messages (did well in languages).

MPG_Milwaukee_YS_7_400w_v2In January of 1971, Gibson’s primary orchestra conducting teacher, Bernard Rubenstein, Conductor of the Northwestern University Orchestra and the Milwaukee Symphony Youth Orchestra, asked Michael to substitute for a rehearsal of the MSYO.

The photos to the right were taken during the rehearsal of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony playing L'Oiseau de feu (Firebird) Suite by Igor Stravinsky in Uihlein Hall in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

At NU Michael had started on his Masters Degree program before finishing his Bachelors Degree  in order to keep his student deferment from the draft.  He finished his Bachelor of Music Education Degree and gave his Masters Degree Recital (see below).  The recital was a combination of trombone and conducting.  Gibson assembled a fantastic group of fellow musicians who performed expertly.  Then he enlisted in the Air Force in June and ended up at Peterson Field in Colorado Springs in the NORAD Band after basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, near San Antonio, TX.


Michael began playing in the NORAD Band in August, 1971.  The band was comprised of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, and Canadian forces and used extensively as a Good Will Ambassador during a very unpopular war.  We traveled about 10 days per month all over the US and Canada playing concerts in great halls and marching the 10 largest parades in the country.

Somewhere along the line my photo playing trombone in the band during a rehearsal got in the newspaper in the town where my parents were living.  I never lived there, so the headline is in error (see article below, click for full PDF to read it).


As the article says, “The 23-year-old musician hopes to continue his career as a conductor of a symphony orchestra when he is discharged from the Air Force.”  They got that right!  Michael had just pulled off assembling and conducting a fantastic group of musicians on his Masters Degree Recital and now he was playing trombone with an entire band of fantastic musicians.  So while on one of his multiple day band trips, he had plenty of time to convince some of these great musicians to join his ensemble and they decided to name it the “Colorado Springs Chamber Music Socitey.”

Note from Michael: My very special thanks to my great and unfortunately late friend Craig Oakley.  Craig helped me from beginning to end with the CSCMS.  Without his wonderful help, fantastic musicianship, and friendship, the CSCMS would not have existed.  A special thanks to our Composer in Residence, Rolf Johnson.  Please listen to the World Premiere of his amazing piece, “Music for 16 Winds and Percussion” which he conducted - it is marvelous!

Visit the Concerts and Recordings pages to get the story and history beginning with the first concert on February 28, 1972.

Colorado Springs Chamber Music Society
Colorado Springs Chamber Music Society

Please contact our Webmaster with questions or comments.
© Copyright 2017 BACH to Music  All rights reserved.