History of the Gold Star Marching Band
The band owes much of its existence to a personal tragedy. In spring 1903, Clarence Simeon Putnam, a local Fargo doctor, watched his downtown Fargo medical practice burn to the ground – five days after his insurance had lapsed. Essentially out of a job, Putnam landed a position teaching arithmetic at North Dakota Agricultural College. While the next set of events is not entirely clear, a need arose for leadership of NDAC’s ROTC band. Putnam, a cornetist, found himself in charge of 14 members known as the “Cadet Band” on April 14, 1903.

While the band regards the first full year of Doc Putnam’s association with the band (1904) as its “birthday,” student newspaper references indicate a band existed as early as 1901. In fall 1902, Claude Nugent, secretary of the college, and Harry M. Rudd, a local musician, purchased instruments from a local farmer with the intention of creating an NDAC band. Rudd directed the band in some capacity until April 1903 when C.S. Putnam took over.

Putnam’s leadership was quite dynamic and the band thrived under his direction. This peaked in 1923-24 when the band as an ROTC unit earned its third consecutive 100 percent inspecting rating, which entitled it to a presidential citation and a “Gold Star” rating. Putnam incorporated the moniker into the band’s name and the Gold Star Band was born. Following Putnam’s death in1944, the band’s numbers deteriorated until former Gold Star Band member William Euren became director in 1948. Euren restored the band’s pre-war numbers and worked toward expanding its persona beyond its military role.

Euren retired in 1968, and Roger Sorenson became director of bands for two years before leaving in 1970. During his brief tenure, Sorenson engendered a level of lasting loyalty among alumni who performed under his direction. Orville Eidem arrived in 1970 and was director of bands for the next 23 years. Besides the perpetuation of the marching band tradition, Eidem also had a great love of jazz and expanded the scope of NDSU’s program. The band also played a role in lobbying efforts for a new facility. Reineke Fine Arts Center replaced Putnam Hall and the old Festival Hall in 1981.

Several other names have been associated with the band. While C.S. Putnam was away from the band in 1914-17, Harold Bachman and B.A. Orr were directors. Edward D. Schroepfer directed the band following Putnam’s death. Roy Johnson also played a significant role in the band’s musical leadership during the Sorenson years.

Orville Eidem retired in 1993, at which time Wayne F. Dorothy became the new director. Dorothy was previously Assistant Director of Bands under Eidem. Then in 1999, Dorothy retired and was replaced by Warren Olfert as director of bands.

2007 was a year for changes when the band received new uniforms, repainted drums, and Dr. Sigurd Johnson was hired as the newly created Athletics Band director leading the marching band and bison pep band. A successful 2008 season became a hopeful sign of things to come with such new implementations as a front ensemble and more recruitment, which is evident in the growth from 83 members in 2007 to 163 in 2008, with indications of an even larger band in the future.

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