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Kolpack: From Mick Jagger to classical music, former Bison Fairbairn's voice continues to resonate

Former Bison player returns for homecoming for a concert with longtime singing friends.

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Mike Fairbairn sings the national anthem before kickoff against Southern Utah at the Fargodome on Oct. 27, 2007. David Samson / The Forum

Fargo

The last time Mike Fairbairn combined his musical expertise with football was in 2007 when he sang the national anthem at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. He was wearing his North Dakota State uniform.

He remembers being more nervous for the song than he was for the game against Southern Utah. It was also an exercise in preparation. He was fine the day before during rehearsal, but he didn’t consider the effects of the normal 60-minute Bison warmup before games as the starting nose guard, either.

“I didn’t take into account I would be out of breath from that,” Fairbairn said.

It’s homecoming this weekend when the Bison host Northern Iowa and Fairbairn is returning to Fargo for more than football. He’s singing on Saturday, too, just not in front of 19,000 people.

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This performance will be more refined. He’ll be part of a reunion concert of some of the finest singers the school has produced, a group of men and one woman who sang and performed together in the late 1990s into the 2000s in the NDSU Concert Choir. They called themselves Uberkor, performing classical pieces, among others, at colleges and churches.

Some remained in the field. Matt Tintes was a member of Cantus out of Minneapolis for several years. It was no stay-in-the-area group, either, performing in Dubai, South America, Europe and some choice venues on American soil like the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Cantus is one of two full-time men’s choral ensembles in the country. Tintes was part of five albums.

They never forgot their college roots. Most of the members from the NDSU choir gathered in Minneapolis in 2019 to sing at a wedding of one of the former members. It couldn’t have gone better.

“We’ve been singing on and off with each other over the last 15 years now,” Fairbairn said. “But we haven’t sung together as a group in at least a decade. We planned homecoming as a time to all get together.”

After college, Fairbairn was all over the map in music, from being a member of professional choirs (VocalEssence the most notable) to a full-time teacher for three years. The latter wasn’t his calling.

So it’s back to school as a graduate student these days in music therapy at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. He’s quick to point out he lives in McKinney, about 10 minutes from Frisco, where NDSU won eight FCS national titles in a nine-year span.

What is music therapy? It’s probably something Bison head coach Matt Entz won’t be using with his team before games.

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“Music for therapeutic purposes,” Fairbairn said. “We’re trained to do more than that. There’s wellness and medical issues, it’s pretty fascinating. Texas Woman’s University is pretty cutting edge with it.”

Speaking of cutting edge, Fairbairn has done something in the singing field that not many people have done in the world: perform with the Rolling Stones. He was part of a 15-member ensemble in the Twin Cities in 2015 that was hired to accompany the band for one encore song, in this case the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Doing a solo performance in a football uniform in front of 19,000 is one thing, being on stage at a sold-out TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis with an iconic rock band is another.

“The stage was pitch black and they’re shuffling us out there,” Fairbairn said. “When we started singing the lights were completely off, but you could hear the stadium was full. Now being in arm's reach with Mick Jagger, that was cool.”

The singers prepared for the song with a rehearsal band. The scene will be different Saturday night when Uberkor plays a free concert at Peace Lutheran Church near campus at 7:30 p.m. It’s free and open to the public.

When it comes to homecoming and musical performance, sometimes you can get what you want.

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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