Lewis J. Buckley was born in Columbus, Ohio, but considers himself a native of Florida, the state in which he grew up. He earned his undergraduate degree from the Eastman School of Music and his Master's degree from Connecticut College. While at Eastman, he earned the Performer's Certificate for outstanding performance on the trumpet, and he studied conducting and composition.
He enlisted into the U. S. Coast Guard Band in 1969, where he served as Principal Trumpet and Trumpet Soloist for six years. Then, in 1975, he became the Coast Guard Band's fifth Director at age 27, a post he held for over 29 years, becoming the longest-tenured conductor of a senior military band in American history.
Under his baton, the Coast Guard Band became a famed, national touring organization; released some 20 recordings; aired more taped and live concert broadcasts on National Public Radio than any other concert band, military or civilian, in the United States; and earned a reputation as one of the most accomplished wind bands in the world. Upon his 2004 retirement, Buckley was named Conductor Laureate of the U. S. Coast Guard Band.
From 2004 through 2011, Buckley served as the Conductor and Artistic Director of the Manchester (CT) Symphony Orchestra. For fifteen years, he conducted the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in its annual Symphony on Ice/Toys for Tots program, and he has also conducted the Eastern Connecticut Symphony during its summer series.
In 2007, he was named Music Director and Conductor of the Metropolitan Wind Symphony, a superb community wind band in the Boston area. This remarkable group has an active commissioning program which has added over two dozen works to the wind repertoire by composers including Johan de Meij, Peter Schickele, James Curnow, Michael Gandolfi (by consortium) Chen Yi, and, in 2010, Buckley himself.
As a conductor, Buckley brings to the podium more than 45 years' professional experience in an unusually wide range of music-making. He is equally at home conducting, writing, or performing, with bands, orchestras, and choruses, in all styles of music from classical to commercial to jazz. The guest artists whom he has conducted reflect his range of experience; they include Walter Cronkite, opera giant Placido Domingo, Lorrie Morgan and Lone Star of country fame, the Motown sound of Martha Reeves, and many others.
Buckley is a member of the College Band Directors National Association, the American Band Directors Association, and the Association of Concert Bands, where he served as a member of the Board of Advisors for nearly 30 years. In 2012 he was elected to the Board of Directors, and he became the President in 2015.
He continues to compose, arrange, and publish prolifically, bringing to his work the knowledge earned in 40 years on the podium, and his music is widely performed. He also remains an active trumpet soloist, frequently combining solo appearances with conducting, often in premiere performances of his own commissioned works.