“OK, you guys stop sounding like a bunch of rats on a sinking ship.”Stay on board and we will get this song worked through,” thundered Dr. Hegstad as he worked with the members of the Minot State College vagabonds. My favorite one, though, had to be “Basses, I want to hear those low notes and make sure they are coming from the very deep chambers of your music soul!” While attending Minot State, I had the joy and privilege to sing with the MSU Vagabonds under the steady and solid direction of Dr. Hegstad. And, of course, Rugby’s own, Pam Berg Anderson, was one of the accompanists during her days at Minot State. Her fingers tickled the ivories for many a melody that was sung by this group.
Cantabile comments, tonal thoughts, and staccato stories about the Vagabonds will be shared at the upcoming Minot State Vagabond Reunion. The reunion will be held during the 2010 Homecoming festivities. In 1968 Dr. Paul Swanson started the Vagabonds, and it is believed the name was a joint effort of the members. Oh, the life of a Vagabond–the wanderer, the unsettled soul. Of course, we all know every campus has a smorgasbord of them. The music department did their best to get some of the vagabonds in perfect harmony by singing together as a male chorus. In 1970, Wayne Nelson handed Dr. Hegstad the baton of the group. Dr. Hegstad came to MSU after obtaining a doctorate of musical arts in music education from the University of Missouri. Dr. Gary Walth continued with the Vagabonds until 1988.
“Doc,” as he was affectionately known, became the father figure for many a male on the MSC campus. He guided several wandering souls and taught us the meaning of being committed to worthwhile aspects of life. With his realistic and unbiased baton in hand, he gave us measures for forte music and allegro living. His devotion to music coupled with his unbound belief in his students made him a natural for leading a pack of vagabonds. Under the direction of Hegstad, the Vagabonds flourished. They were in demand to sing at many events on and off campus. The Vagabond Variety Show soon became a hit on campus as well as the community of Minot. The money raised from the variety show was used to take the Vagabonds on the road–often to Winnipeg.
In 1980, Doc made arrangements for the Vagabonds to sing at the Easter Sunrise service at Vail, Colorado. With the help of Rev. Phil Simonton of Vail, all Vagabonds enjoyed complimentary ski passes. For many, it was their first time skiing and the elements of this deluxe resort forever made a great impression. Doc made sure we sang all along the way. It may have been at a gas station while we waited for our tire to be changed, a village church, or the impressive Air Force chapel. Each performance reinforced the joy of men singing together.
Jackie Hegstad was an added delight on all the Vagabond trips. Her cheerful and supportive nature prospered our journey. She kept many a driver company in the wee hours of the morning. It was always inspiring to watch the team of Doc and Jackie express their excellent style and commitment towards one another– whether or not there was anyone around to notice. I can remember thinking to myself, now there is a great example of a duet-a couple who enjoys one another. The Hegstads will be in attendance for the upcoming reunion-via the airline rather than the tour bus!
Vagabond Variety Shows have included a great scope of singing talent and hilarious skits throughout the 20 years they existed on campus. Joys for me included Doc’s first performance for a Variety Show in 1981. At that show he wowed the audience with two numbers, “Send in the Clowns” and “My Way.” And, of course, always in the show we performed the traditional Vagabond Song.
Doc thought the Vagabonds should have a more stylish and uniform look. Wanting this to be an ultimate triumph, Doc did his homework before approaching the guardian of the MSU purse strings, Oscar Quam. In fact, Doc ordered a Vagabond jacket in Quam’s size and had him try it on. Quam was most impressed and gave Doc the OK to order 50 royal blue, ribbed polyester jackets– complete with a Vagabond patch. Pair the jacket with black dress pants, black bow tie, and white shirts and you have the official Vagabond ensemble. Sporting that, we could have walked down Fifth Avenue with no problem! This was only after Doc informed us– “Don’t even think of wearing brown shoes with black pants, you guys!”
The reunion has much planned for the all the former Vagabonds starting Wednesday evening with the Block Party on the lawn in front of Old Main. Thursday evening will bring a chance for Vagabonds to sing with the Heritage singers during practice. Friday evening will give way to a gathering at the Grand International where there will be more singing. On Saturday the Vagabonds will be invited to be part of the MSU Homecoming Parade. After that it will be on to the homecoming game where the Vagabonds will gather on the football field to sing the national anthem before the game. For many, the rekindling of the fine camaraderie that Vagabonds have always stood for will be repeated, and all will agree that men singing together is rewarding and warm-just like a North Dakota Indian summer.
Repnow is a Rugby resident
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