Gold Star Band adjusting mojo; not sure if it will be able to play at Bison football game

North Dakota State Gold Star Band director Sigurd Johnson is adapting to changes during the pandemic. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — The tradition for Sigurd Johnson, the director of the Gold Star Marching Band at North Dakota State, and his wife Rooth is to have a burger somewhere around town after a Bison football game. They’ll probably savor this dinner.

For that matter, the marching band is hoping they’ll be able to savor a performance on Oct. 3 when the Bison host Central Arkansas at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. It’s the only game NDSU is scheduled to play in the fall and it has yet to be determined if the band will be part of the show.

Whatever the case, they’ll be ready.

The first meeting of the 150 band members was Monday on the infield of the outdoor track at Ellig Sports Complex.

“It can be a little disheartening but it’s really important that we try to make it as positive of an experience as we can for everybody,” Johnson said. “My job is being the head cheerleader with that.”


Sigurd Johnson leads the North Dakota State Gold Star Band in Frisco, Texas, last January. David Samson / The Forum

NDSU and the Fargodome are expected to release the estimated capacity and what groups will be able to see the game in person in the next week or so. Johnson said the Gold Star Band has gone over scenarios of having a full band in the facility or parts of it.

One steadfast component has already been ruled out: marching. That’s been part of the planning since April.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of playing and hopefully be doing a lot of moving while standing,” Johnson said. “We’ll be working on dance moves and horn flashes to try to generate the visual excitement with that.”

Guidance from a national organization of band directors has helped with the protocols, citing an aerosol study with instruments, singing and talking. For instance, the trombone players will need more space because of the slide of the instrument.

The North Dakota State Gold Star Band fires up fans in the tailgating lots in October, 2019. David Samson / The Forum


Perhaps the hardest part for Johnson was canceling the one-week band camp held every August, a chance for the musicians to not only get to know their director but get to know each other. It’s where they learn pregame routines and formulate possible halftime shows. With the Missouri Valley Football Conference moving league games to the spring and the Bison ending fall practice after one week, Johnson followed suit.

But on Monday, the Bison announced the Central Arkansas game.

“I still stand by that decision,” Johnson said of no band camp. “I think it was the responsible thing to do but man it’s hard not having a band camp. Everybody understands but it still doesn’t make it any better or any easier.”

Each member will receive a green and gold mask specifically designed for the band, with the wind players having one that has an opening at the mouth.

The band has already set three concert performances on Sept. 19, Oct. 17 and Nov. 7. The first one will feature numbers from the band Queen. Dan Michaels, the public address announcer for Bison football games, will be the master of ceremonies for each one.

“His Saturdays are going to be a lot different too,” Johnson said.

The last show, the annual sounds of the gridiron concert, may include Bison student-athletes who couldn’t compete in their fall sport.

“To recognize them and show our support,” Johnson said. “Students in the band will still be getting good experiences and some fun. Hopefully they’ll want to come back next year when hopefully we’ll be marching and doing more traditional marching band."

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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