THE GOLD STAR ALUMNI BAND
BRIDGING GENERATIONS OF BISON
Published: Monday, October 14, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2013 14:10
Homecoming Week is always a special time of year, especially for those involved with the Gold Star Alumni Band. A culmination of generations of former Gold Star Marching Band members, this group’s biggest event of the year is Homecoming Week, when the football game, parade and various other band gatherings all take place.
With its origins in the early 1980s, the Alumni Band is composed of a vast assortment of former marching band members. Bill Haring, along with Curt Lundberg, Carol Houglum and Wendy Anderson cofounded the band over 30 years ago with the guidance of Orv Eidem, NDSU band director from 1970 to 1993.
“We started organizing in 1980, and we actually passed our charter, our constitution in October of 1981 at Homecoming that year,” Haring said. “We’re starting our 33rd year in October now.”
Alumni over the years have included everyone from members of the original college marching band in the early part of the 20th century to fresh-out-of-college graduates from 1980 onward. Members ranging in age from their 20s to their 90s have all come out for Homecoming throughout the years, with many members from the ‘80s infancy years still coming back every fall.
“There’s hundreds of potential alumni out there, and year to year, you know, we’ll have 30 to 60 members that’ll come home for a Homecoming event,” founder Bill Haring said.
On average, 50 to 60 people come home for homecoming events, unless it is a larger event for the band. The last event, which was the Gold Star Marching Band’s 100th anniversary, attracted 250 or more alumni.
Coming home to NDSU for Homecoming Week means breaking out the old instruments for many returning members. Just like the alumni band members, their instruments span generations as well. Members lacking instruments are provided with ones from area high schools such as West Fargo and North High.
“…Most of us still have instruments from our college days,” Haring said. “We have many of our folks that are playing with [bands] around the areas where we live. We have performing musicians that are still playing and then we have people that come home once a year and only play once a year at Homecoming.”
Events during homecoming week include a slot in the homecoming parade, playing appearances with the Gold Star Marching Band, a few social events and alumni recognition. This year’s honoree is Steve Anderson, a band director at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, Minn. and a 1969 graduate of NDSU.
“He’s been active with the band over the years,” Haring said. “He kind of gained a little notoriety—he invented his own sousaphone for the alumni event, we call it the ‘Bisonaphone.’”
Anderson’s “Bisonaphone” is painted in NDSU colors, has bison horns and NDSU logos on it.
Other honors bestowed by the alumni band are scholarships made possible by its endowment fund. An initial charter membership of 80 people established a scholarship endowment, now up to $30,000.
“It continues to grow; we have people that contribute to that endowment every year,” Haring said. “We’ve pushed that account and our members have continued to support it.”
Haring also said the bad has a couple members who have given considerable amounts of money to the Alumni Foundation for different endowments. The band also supported, and continues to support, the Orv Eidem Endowment after he passed away.
Bringing together generations of Bison band members, past and present, the Gold Star Alumni Band is right at home during homecoming week. Reuniting past band members and honoring the young and old with a variety of events is what the alumni band is all about.
“We have a lot of grads who come out of the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s…recent grads have been joining us now,” Haring said. “We’re kind of just a real broad spectrum of people who have been involved with the Gold Star band.”