A new song for MSU

MSU instructor composes new music for alma mater

Jill Schramm/MDN Emerson Eads directs a Minot State University choir, shown in part, during a rehearsal Feb. 25. The choir will be performing the university’s new alma mater at Saturday’s symphony concert.

Combining forgotten lyrics with a fresh melody, a newly composed anthem to Minot State University is once again giving students and alumni a song to sing.

Composed by Emerson Eads and orchestrated by Minot Symphony Orchestra director Efrain Amaya, both on the MSU music faculty, the new alma mater song will be featured by the orchestra and the MSU Concert Choir at Saturday’s symphony concert at 7:30 p.m. in Ann Nicole Nelson Hall.

Eads said upon arriving at MSU last fall, he inquired as to the school songs. He discovered there was no alma mater, or school anthem.

He visited with history professor Bethany Andreasen to learn there had been lyrics written by a former MSU employee that had been sung to the Wisconsin fight song. Eads loved the rhapsodic lyrics but found the combination with a fight song to be a wrong fit. It also bothered him that the song had fallen into obscurity.

He obtained the lyrics, but it was a few weeks before he sat down to compose an appropriate melody. When he did, the music just flowed.

“The text just sang itself,” Eads said.

The lyricist, the late Huldah Lucile Winsted, was an unofficial poet laureate at MSU. She worked at Minot State from 1913 to 1937, serving as a geography teacher, librarian, registrar, dean of women, co-founder of the local branch of the YWCA and an author who published three volumes of poetry.

The images cast by lyrics declaring, “from the valley of the river of the rolling red, to the fertile plains and Bad Lands, beyond Missouri’s bed” are easily grasped by students familiar with local geography, Eads said.

“Something like this that is so evocative, and I think is so representative of a people and a place, it’s easier to connect to and actually make a tradition,” he said.

He hopes the song will catch on and become a staple, or tradition, at the school.

He ran the song by his students before he took it to the administration to seek approval as MSU’s alma mater. The students liked it, and so did the administration.

“It’s a really effective composition, well chosen, well crafted,” said Erik Anderson, MSU Music Division chairman.

“Establishing a sense of place and a sense of belonging to a community is really what this is about. An alma mater brings something that’s beautiful, nostalgic, communal,” Anderson said. “We hope Dr. Eads’ work will end up being one of those factors that helps identify people as being part of the Minot State community.”

Eads wanted the alma mater to be more than just his work, though.

“I thought it was important to be something that was from the community,” he said.

To that end, Eads asked Amaya to orchestrate the song. It was his first time in turning one of his compositions over to another musician, but any trepidation proved unwarranted

“It’s exactly what I have wanted,” Eads said. “The orchestration is fantastic. He adds so much thrust and excitement.”

Amaya said he knew immediately upon hearing the song that although the hymn starts intimately, it needed to crescendo into a dynamic arrangement. He extended the musical introduction but kept true to the melody so that when people hear it, they will recognize it and want to sing along.

“It will be a nice tradition to have here as well so that people can gather around and feel part of the family of MSU,” he said.

The public can expect to hear the song at concerts, graduations and sporting events in coming years.

“Every choral concert, we will include it and maybe ask the alumni to sing too,” Eads said. “It kind of makes you want to sing.”

Eads will be taking an MSU choral group in May to Minot’s sister city of Skien, Norway, where the alma mater will be performed with a Norwegian orchestra and choir.