We’re proud to announce the 2022 Distinguished Music Alumni Award recipient.


The UNM Department of Music is awarding the first Distinguished Alumni Award to Colonel Jim R. Keene in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments in the field of music. Col. Keene was presented with the award by Michael Walker, Associate Chair, Department of Music, at the Army Field Band’s concert February 26, 2022, at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “It was a joy to listen and watch Col. Keene conduct the Army Field Band in a beautiful and impressive performance.” Said Michael Walker, Associate Chair, Department of Music. It is inspirational to see such a distinguished Lobo in action, and we thank Col. Keene for his incredible service to our Country”.  

Col. Keene was nominated by his professor, Karl Hinterbichler, Professor of Music. “I vividly remember Jim Keene as an undergrad at UNM. He was one of my students in the yearlong Music of History Class and he expertly accompanied many of my trombone/tuba students on piano for recitals and juries.” Said Karl Hinterbichler. “Several years ago, when he was conductor and commander of the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus in Heidelberg, Germany, he returned to NM over Christmas. He and his wife Carmen Gomez came to midnight mass, and I happened to be in a brass quintet that was hired to perform at the service. Jim and his wife came up to me afterward and I caught up on his career and we reconnected. Wonderful memories”.

Before the Army Field Band Concert, Col. Keene visited the UNM main campus where he and Michael Hix, Interim Chair, Department of Music, got to spend some time-sharing memories of when Col. Keene attended UNM. “It was truly a pleasure to honor Col. Keene as a Distinguished Alumnus. He has enjoyed an exceptional career, and he represents UNM with distinction,” said Michael Hix, Interim Chair, Department of Music.

Colonel Jim R. Keene became the Commander of The United States Army Field Band in January 2015. Prior to this assignment, he served as Commander of the United States Military Academy Band at West Point, New York; Commandant of the Army School of Music at Norfolk, Virginia; and at The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in Washington, DC, the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus in Heidelberg, Germany, and the Army Ground Forces Band in Atlanta, Georgia.

COL Keene has led numerous performances for international military and civilian leaders, dignitaries, and heads of state. During his time as Commander of the United States Military Academy Band at West Point, he led performances for the 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, co-directed the music for the National Park Service’s “A New Birth of Freedom” special for the 150th commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg, and directed a one-hour music special holiday production by the West Point Band aired on Fox News, “A West Point Holiday.” COL Keene led The U.S. Army Chorus in performances at the interments of former Presidents Ronald Reagan in Simi Valley, California and Gerald R. Ford in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has performed for seven U.S. presidents, at the 1996 Summer Olympic and Para-Olympic Games in Atlanta, the dedication of the National WWII Memorial, the one-year anniversary of 9/11 at the Pentagon, the “Kennedy Center Honors,” and the Military District of Washington’s production “Spirit of America.” He has worked with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and Chorus and the National Symphony Orchestra, and has conducted the Dallas Wind Symphony, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic.

Prior to joining the Army, COL Keene served as Assistant Conductor of the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Symphony, Orchestra Conductor at the SMU International Conservatory Summer Festival in Taos, New Mexico, and Music Director of the Albuquerque Civic Light Opera. He holds a Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting from the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University and a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from the University of New Mexico. He is a violinist, fiddler, pianist, accompanist, and songwriter, and is a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico.



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