Director of Bands
Director of the Wind Symphony
Alicia Neal joined the EIU faculty as Director of Bands in the Fall of 2012. Her teaching responsibilities include Wind Symphony, Concert Band, Conducting Classes, and overseeing the band area. Originally from Kingwood, Texas, Dr. Neal earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Colorado, where she graduated with honors. She completed her graduate conducting degree with Allan McMurray at the University of Colorado. Dr. Neal attended Northwestern University for her doctoral degree, where she studied with Mallory Thompson and graduated in 2007 with Conducting Program Honors.
Dr. Neal’s dissertation, titled Traveling of the Mind: An Interview with Michael Colgrass and an Analysis of “Raag Mala,” focuses on the music and compositional process of the Pulitzer Prize winning American composer. Other research interests include increasing post-secondary participation in band ensembles for non-music majors and enhancing undergraduate music education major training through the collegiate band curriculum. Dr. Neal is a nationally sought-after clinician and guest conductor, and, in 2008, was a co-presenter at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic for a session titled, “Four Centuries of Masterworks for Brass.” Her professional affiliations include College Band Director’s National Association, College of Music Society, National Association for Music Education, Illinois Music Educator’s Association.
Prior to her appointment at Eastern Illinois University, Dr. Neal served as the Assistant Director of Bands and Associate Director of Athletic Bands at the University of Minnesota, where she assisted with Marching Band, directed Pep Band, conducted University Band, and taught Basic Conducting Classes. Dr. Neal also spent one year at St. Xavier University in Chicago as the Interim Director of Instrumental Ensembles, and three years teaching high school and middle school band in the Humble Independent School District in Houston, Texas.
Assistant Director of Bands
Director of the Panther Marching & Pep Bands
Benjamin James Druffel recently completed his DMA in Wind Band Conducting at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University. As a Wind Conducting Associate, Druffel studied conducting with Dr. Kraig Alan Williams and regularly guest conducted the Wind Ensemble, Symphony Band and Concert Band. His duties also included serving as an instrumental instructor with the Rutgers University Marching Scarlet Knights and leading performances of the Pep Band. In January of 2014, Druffel was part of the instructional staff that prepared the marching band for a pre-game performance at Superbowl XLVIII.
After completing a BA in Music Education at Luther College, Decorah IA, Druffel began his career abroad in Dubai, United Arab Emirates teaching music at an American/International school. Over his six year tenure his duties were varied from elementary general music to high school band to the International Baccalaureate Diploma music curriculum. A special benefit of this experience was the opportunity to work with a truly international student body including a high school concert band with representatives from six continents.
Upon returning to the United States, Druffel began graduate work at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He studied conducting with Dr. Amy Roisum-Foley and was conductor of the Symphonic Band. Druffel also made regular conducting appearances with the Concert Wind Ensemble including a performance at Orchestra Hall, Chicago. He completed his MM in Wind Band Conducting in 2012.
Druffel enjoys conducting and performing with ensembles of all types from semi-professional orchestras to church choirs. Most recently, Druffel served as Assistant Conductor of the Mankato Community Band of Mankato MN during the 2016 summer season. In Dubai, he played French Horn with the Dubai Chamber Orchestra and Dubai Wind Band before becoming conductor of both ensembles. Druffel has also conducted and performed with ensembles in Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE.
Druffel is a member of the College Band Directors National Conference (CBDNA), The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and a former member of the Association for Music in International Schools (AMIS). He regularly attends conducting workshops and symposiums whose teachers include Richard Floyd, Jerry Junkin, Steven Peterson, and Anthony Maiello.