The Wisconsin School Music Association Marching Band Hall of Fame is intended to recognize the contributions made by individuals to the marching activity in Wisconsin and is open to any person that has made a significant contribution.
Rick Kirby has been integral to the excellence of Wisconsin marching band activities since his
arrival on the scene in 1974. A sought-after composer and arranger of marching music but also
teacher, director, and adjudicator, Kirby has nurtured and propelled the growth of Wisconsin
marching with his many contributions.
As a youth in his native New England, Kirby developed a love for marching and teaching. He
marched in Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s Golden Eagles Drum and Bugle Corps and served as
a student director of University of New Hampshire’s ROTC marching band before joining the
United States Army. He landed his first job as a high school band director in 1970. Kirby later
honed his ability as a music educator at the high school and collegiate levels in Wisconsin.
Kirby distinguished himself early on as a marching pioneer. In 1976, his Sussex Hamilton High
School band was the first to perform at the inaugural Bands of America (formerly Marching
Bands of America) contest. His New Berlin Eisenhower High School band performed at the first
WSMA State Marching Band Championships in 1984. When Waukesha West High School
opened its doors in 1993, Kirby became the school’s first band director and worked quickly to
establish its strong marching tradition. Under his leadership, the band won three AAAA titles at
WSMA State Marching Band Championships.
Due to Kirby’s entrepreneurial spirit and varied talents, his musical groups and audiences
benefited from 27 years of his own creative output and expertise. Kirby’s compositions and
arrangements were staples in each of his bands’ repertoire, adding a personal touch to their
performances. The Cadets of Waukesha West perform Kirby’s music with pride to this day;
crowds at each of the 35 and counting WSMA State Marching Band Championships have
applauded his music played by the Cadets and other bands.
Since his retirement from teaching in 2001, Kirby continues to compose and arrange music for
marching bands and other ensembles in Wisconsin and around the country. A gifted composer
of diverse music styles and for several performing group types, Kirby’s works have been
published by both major publishers and his own company, Spirit of the Music Publications.
Kirby received Wisconsin Music Educators Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2002
and Phi Beta Mu – Pi Chapter’s Outstanding Band Director Award in 2007. Civic Music
Association of Milwaukee honored Kirby with a Lifetime Achievement in Music Award in 2018.
Described as a kind and humble professional who has kept student success his focus in the
music and on the field, Kirby has inspired students and teachers alike. In the classroom, he
encouraged students to ignore rankings and rivalries and work toward their personal best. A
fervent marching advocate, Kirby has also mentored band directors new to marching, lending a
hand where needed. In addition to his numerous achievements, Kirby’s shining character has
illuminated the promising future of Wisconsin marching and marked him among its leaders.