Published: Dec. 8, 2021 By

Ed CannavaWith some 32 years’ experience as an instrumental music teacher in public schools, alumnus Ed Cannava (BME ’77, MME ’80, PhD ’94) is ideally poised to serve band directors as an adjudicator, clinician, conductor and consultant. 

Through his Band Resources Unlimited enterprise, Cannava has worked with all kinds of ensembles—from chamber and jazz ensembles to concert and marching bands—at the elementary, middle and high school levels. As an affiliate member of the Metropolitan State University of Denver music education faculty, he taught instrumental music education courses and assisted with conducting concert bands from 2010 to 2014; currently, he’s in his ninth year as director of bands at Regis University (see photo) where he leads a big band jazz ensemble and conducts the concert band.

An erstwhile transfer student from Long Island, Cannava came to CU Boulder in his third year and holds fond memories of completing his undergraduate degree at the College of Music: “I really enjoyed marching band and remember being so excited to perform at the Orange Bowl in ’76.

“I graduated mid-year in December ’77,” recalls Cannava, originally from New York, who now resides in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife, Pat. “And then I landed a mid-year job in the tiny town of Cotopaxi between Salida and Cañon City. It was a small K-12 school, but I got a band program going there—and I met my wife there.”

In fall 1978, Cannava landed a job with Littleton Public Schools, directing instrumental music at Euclid Junior High School for nearly a decade; at the same time, he continued his studies as CU Boulder, earning advanced degrees in music education. 

“That was challenging—getting my master’s and doctorate and working full time, plus starting a family at that point,” admits Cannava. “I credit my great relationship with [Professor Emeritus and former Associate Dean of Undergraduate Admissions] Kevin McCarthy, who was my main advisor.” Cannava also cites the late Hugh MacMillan, former band director, and College of Music alumnus and former Assistant Dean Willie Hill as highly influential in his career. 

“It’s been a great journey that includes my role as director of bands for Arapahoe High School,” Cannava continues, noting that he held this position for 22 years until his retirement in 2009. Under Cannava’s direction, the Arapahoe Band Program garnered notable accolades—including the Colorado Bandmasters Association (CBA) Exemplary Award for achieving excellence in concert, marching, jazz and chamber music for 11 consecutive years. 

“Twice, we were recognized as a Grammy Signature School,” adds Cannava. Not to mention, National Downbeat Outstanding Music Awards were bestowed upon Arapahoe’s Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band and traditional jazz combo.

Cannava has showcased ensembles in numerous invitational performances, including Colorado Music Educators Association (CMEA) Clinic/Conference performances by his junior and senior high concert, jazz and chamber ensembles, the Denver Jazz Club Youth All-Stars and the Regis University Jazz Ensemble. Abroad, Cannava also realized tremendous success, including performances at the Montreux, Switzerland International Jazz Festival; the Milan, Umbria and Assisi jazz festivals in Italy; and the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in Norway.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that education runs deep in Cannava’s family—his wife Pat taught second grade, daughter Angela is a science teacher in Denver and daughter Tricia is an elementary music teacher in Everett, Washington.

“Despite our crazy schedules, we’d always find time to take off as a family and do family trips. We’re a family of teachers and travelers.”

That dual passion further propelled Cannava’s concert tours to jazz clubs from New Orleans to New York City (including the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade); and from Carnegie Hall to NBC’s “Today Show” … as well as New Year’s parades in Vienna, Austria and London, England and the London International Choral Festival Grand Finale Concert.

Closer to home, Cannava has been a music education guest presenter at the University of Colorado and the University of Northern Colorado, among other music programs. His many honors and teaching excellence awards include being inducted into the CMEA and CBA Halls of Fame. 

Cannava is still going strong—the versatile, veteran music educator currently serves on the Executive Board for the Denver Jazz Club and directs the Denver Jazz Club Youth All-Stars.