Dr. Cynthia Johnston Turner

Dr. Cynthia Johnston Turner

Dean of the Faculty of Music and Professor of Music
Wilfrid Laurier University


Cynthia Johnston Turner is Dean of the Faculty of Music and Professor of Music at Wilfrid Laurier University (wlu.ca) in Waterloo, Ontario. Until mid-2021 she was Director of Bands, Professor of Music, Area Chair of Conducting, and Artistic Director of the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music , University of Georgia, where she conducted the Hodgson Wind Ensemble, led the MM and DMA programs in conducting, and oversaw the entire band program including the 430-member Redcoat Marching Band.

Before her appointment at the Hodgson School at the University of Georgia, Cynthia was Director of Wind Ensembles at Cornell University. Earlier in her career, Cynthia was a high school music educator, taught middle school beginning instrumental music in Toronto and choral music in Switzerland.

A Canadian, Cynthia completed her Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Education degrees at Queens University and her Master of Music in music education and conducting at the University of Victoria. Touring with her ensembles inspired her master’s thesis on the musical and personal transformations that occur on tours, and her D.M.A. thesis at the Eastman School of Music centered on the music of William Kraft, one of this generation’s leading composers. At Eastman Cynthia was the recipient of the prestigious teaching award in conducting. She received the National Leadership in Education Award (Canada), the Excellence in Education Award (Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation), and the Marion Drysdale Leadership Award (also from OSSTF). She is also the recipient of the Donald A. Reick Memorial Award for research with wearable technologies and music pedagogy, and the American Prize for innovative programming with wind bands.

Cynthia has commissioned numerous new works for wind band, contemporary music ensembles, and orchestra, and she continues to actively promote commissions by today’s leading and emerging composers around the world. Under her direction, the Cornell Wind Ensemble was invited to perform at the College Band Directors National Association’s Eastern Division Conference in 2007 and 2012, and the Hodgson Wind Ensemble performed at CBDNA National in Kansas City in 2017. In 2008, the Merrill Presidential Scholars at Cornell recognized Cynthia as an outstanding educator, and in 2009, she was awarded the Kaplan Family Distinguished Faculty Fellowship. Her performances have been praised by such composers as Steven Stucky, William Kraft, Steven Bryant, Marc Mellits, Nancy Galbraith, Peter Lane, Eddie Mora Bermudez, Dana Wilson, Roberto Sierra, and Karel Husa.

From January 2006, Cynthia led the Cornell Wind Ensemble on biennial performing and service tours to Costa Rica that included performances across the country, conducting masterclasses with Costa Rican teachers, instrument master classes for Costa Rican musicians, and the donation of over 250 instruments to music schools across the country. She led the Hodgson Wind Ensemble to Panama in January 2016 to teach, perform, and donate instruments.

Among other recent engagements, Cynthia has guest conducted the National Youth Wind Ensemble of Great Britain, the Syracuse Symphony (“Symphoria”), the National Youth Band of Canada, Concordia Santa Fe, the Ithaca College Wind Ensemble, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, the Latin American Honor Band, the National Band of Costa Rica, the National Orchestra of Heredia, and numerous state honor bands. Cynthia has been invited to present her research with teaching and technology, innovative rehearsal techniques, and service-learning and music performance at numerous conferences nationally and internationally. She is published in such journals as Music Educators Journal, Interdisciplinary Humanities, International Journal of the Humanities, Journal of the World Association of Bands and Ensembles, Fanfare Magazine, and Canadian Winds, and has recorded CDs with the Innova and Albany labels.

Cynthia has served as a board member with WASBE, and is an active member of CDBNA, Conductor’s Guild, College Music Society, Humanities Education and Research Association, the National Association for Music Education, and National Band Association.

  Session Titles

21st Century Rehearsal Techniques that Engage and En-Courage


Rehearsing, conducting, and performing using the iPad. How projecting the score further engages our visual learners and more deeply involves students in the process

Crowd-Sourcing Ensemble Rehearsals


How a more student-centered approach to rehearsals can deeply engage students learners in music

Designing Programs that Matter


Imagining and developing concert programs that are artistically conceived and provide meaning for students and audiences.

Implicit Bias and What it Means in the Band World


Outlining the statistics of gender bias in the band world and offering concrete solutions to change.

What Defines "Quality" in Music?


It's easy to criticize 'bad' music (it's banal, it's predictable, it's 'pop' music, etc.) but what are the defining characteristics of 'good' music? What elements of good music make it good?