'It's time': NDSU Gold Star Band director to retire baton, will continue teaching

The longtime director of athletic bands told his students he is stepping down from those duties after 14 years of football and basketball game performances.

FARGO — In what's promising to be fall's last hurrah, a perfect marching band practice in what feels like a late summer sun, Sigurd Johnson, who has directed the Gold Star Marching Band for 14 years, is entering his own autumn of leading this North Dakota State University tradition.

After years of Saturday Bison games and nights of practice, as well as pep band at basketball games, Johnson will step down from the portion of his duties with NDSU's music program. He'll still teach.

On Twitter this week, he said he's "not retiring from NDSU - just the gridiron and court."


"I am getting a little older, and it's a little harder to recuperate the next day or the next weekend or next week after — or the next semester after," Johnson said. "It was time. It really is. I really, firmly believe that it's a younger person's game."

But Johnson not only announced his retirement from the Gold Star Marching Band, he took to Twitter in October to announce another life change.

"It makes me happy to say that as of today," Johnson wrote, "I have been sober for six months."

A private battle shared publicly, with a big heart impact.

"I get some strength from reading (about) other people who have gone through the same thing that I am going through," Johnson said. "It's obviously a process.

"I thought, you know, I don't consider myself at all any kind of an influencer, at the same time I do I know that people read my tweets and that people read my Facebook posts. ... I have the ability for these people to go, 'Oh, wow, he stopped drinking. Maybe I should think about it.' and I will say that I've had at least ten people who have written messages to me and said, 'Thanks for doing that, I am actually thinking of doing that myself,'" Johnson said.


It has been a journey. The Northfield, Minnesota, boy who spent his musical life around drums and percussion, is about to hand over the whistle and baton to another lucky director who will get to listen and guide performers for generations to come.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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