By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- Lyle Dilley was not a tall man. But everyone noticed when the 5-foot, 6-inch Dilley walked into a music room, especially when he began conducting.
Dilley, retired band director at Fort Hays State University, died last September, but he will forever be associated with FHSU music.
A remodeled room that virtually doubled the space in the existing rehearsal room in Malloy Hall has been named the Lyle Dilley Rehearsal Room in honor of the university's longtime band director.
A formal dedication was held Friday afternoon, beginning with "Salute" by the FHSU wind ensemble under the direction of Dr. Jeff Jordan, associate professor of music, who had composed the piece for Dilley's 90th birthday in 2015.
Members of Dilley's family and FHSU musicians past and present were on hand to help commemorate the event.
Benjamin Cline, chair of the Music and Theatre Department at FHSU, detailed the renovations of the space, which included doubling the floor space, dedicating storage space for instruments, marching band equipment and ensemble libraries, as well as adding amenities such as dimming lights and acoustic paneling.
Dilley’s career at FHSU began in 1961 when he accepted the position of director of bands and instructor of low brass. Under his leadership, membership in the Tiger Marching Band grew from approximately 50 members in 1961 to the university’s largest band of 150 in 1970.
Dilley's encouragement influenced many students and musicians over a long and distinguished career.
"I always set the bar by his standards," Darrell Cox from Lawrence said.
Cox came to FHSU to play football but was so impressed with Dilley in a music class that he changed his major -- and his path in life. Cox went on to become a band teacher for more than two decades, mainly in the Lawrence area.
"He nurtured me all along the way," Cox said. "I'm still using the Lyleisms that he taught me."
Bradley Dawson, FHSU assistant professor of music, recalled Dilley’s excellence at rehearsing groups.
"He was both a very friendly person, but also quite demanding," said Dawson, a former student and then a fellow colleague of Dilley's. "That’s how conductors need to be -- very demanding to bring the best out of people. But once Lyle came off of the podium, he became his nice, friendly, helpful self again."
When Dawson returned to his alma mater to teach in 1982, he said he continued to learn under Dilley, no matter what the setting.
"Even talking over coffee and donuts with him, it was like being in a classroom," Dawson said. "It was great mentoring. Even after he retired, he continued to be a great mentor."
Dilley retired from Fort Hays State in 1989, but he remained active in music education by serving as a judge for area competitions, attending performances and supporting the High Plains Music Camp through a low brass award. In 1990, Dilley was admitted into the Kansas Music Educators Association Hall of Fame. In 2015, the FHSU Alumni Association awarded Dilley the Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his dedication and commitment to advancing music education across the nation in addition to his character and personal attributes.
Dilley and his wife, Bonnie, have been longtime supporters of Fort Hays State. In addition to contributing to a High Plains Music Camp scholarship, the generous couple established the Lyle Dilley Instrumental Music Education Scholarship, an endowed fund that assists FHSU music students majoring in music education and will do so in perpetuity.
Their endowed scholarship fund, coupled with the rehearsal room named in Dilley’s honor, guarantee that his legacy will forever be part of FHSU.
Just as the Dilleys chose to support music education, the university's current fundraising effort, The Journey campaign, encourages alumni and friends of Fort Hays State to give to the area of FHSU that means the most to them -- whether that be a specific department, scholarship, student organization or athletic team.
To contribute to the Lyle Dilley Instrumental Music Education Scholarship, or to support FHSU’s Department of Music and Theatre, visit http://foundation.fhsu.edu/donate. Learn more about the FHSU Foundation, the fundraising arm of the university, by visiting http://foundation.fhsu.edu/ or contacting its office at 785-628-5620 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
"From his life, it was clear he understood the value of investing in people," David Dilley, the Dilleys' youngest son, said of his father.
"It was his passion to teach and mentor others -- a passing of the baton to future generations," added David Dilley, who participated in band during his days at FHSU.
One student who is honored to be grabbing that baton and running with it is Galen Whisman, a senior music education major from Palco.
Whisman is the youngest of three brothers in a musically inclined family. Two of his aunts studied music education under Dilley at FHSU, and Whisman said he felt like he knew Dilley long before he ever met him.
"Every holiday, Lyle Dilley was a part of a conversation at some time or other in our family," Whisman said. "Christmas, Thanksgiving, at least once, if not more on those days, his name came up."
Whisman got to witness firsthand as a sophomore at FHSU why his aunts were so enamored with Dilley.
"I formally met him when he was rehearsing the wind ensemble one day," Whisman said. "He had so much energy and expected so much quality from whoever he was talking to or whatever group he was dealing with.
"What I remember is that he moved a hundred miles an hour," he continued. "He was a quiet conductor, but if you weren't paying attention, you missed it. Everybody was always on their toes."
Whisman saw how Dawson emulated Dilley, his mentor, and Whisman hopes to do the same when he begins his teaching career after graduating in the spring of 2018.
"That's where I learned how to rehearse, from Lyle Dilley," Dawson said. "There's nobody who rehearsed quite like the way he rehearsed. You would hang on for dear life. You would make a lot of progress in an hour.
"That's what I remember best about him, that and just the respect that everybody seemed to have for him. There was no doubt about that."
Whisman, who plays trumpet in the Tiger bands and is student director of the FHSU pep band, said he thinks the additional band rehearsal space helps signify the importance that Fort Hays State places on music.
"I was excited, flabbergasted," was Whisman's reaction when he heard about the remodeling project. "I was seeing all the musical groups growing in size and was hoping that would not only excite the students here but excite the students looking at Fort Hays State and see that the university is promoting the Music Department as it continues to be successful."