1030 Campus Drive
Big Rapids, MI 49307
The year 2007 marked the 100th anniversary of organized music activities under professional teachers at Ferris. The music program, which has been widely acclaimed for its excellence, continues its mission of providing students a diversity of opportunities to continue their contact with music. As Dr. Dacho Dachoff, former director of Music Activities, remarked: "We particularly take pride in our commitment and dedication of providing a strong music program for the non-music major."
It was in 1907 that Mr. Woodbridge N. Ferris hired Louis D. Gerin to become the first Director of Music of Ferris Institute. He organized a band and an orchestra, and he gave lessons on violin, clarinet, cornet and other instruments. Gerin received the prix d'honneur in violin from the Royal Academy of Music at Brussels in 1883.
According to Dachoff, music classes were offered as early as 1895, but they related to the training of elementary teachers. "Gerin served until 1915," Dachoff says. "There was a student directed band about 1906 and other informal music activity clubs prior to 1907 and it may be such activities that encouraged Mr. Ferris to embark upon an organized music activities program."
Dr. Dachoff is the eighth Director of Music in the history of Ferris. Now in his 27th year at Ferris, the music program has grown drastically in quality and the scope of its offerings and services to students and the public during this period. In addition to Dachoff, the music faculty includes: William Donahue (1964), director of the Concert Choir and Women's Glee Club; William Munroe (1973), director of Men's Glee Club and Collegiate Singers; Kent Krive (1977), director of Bands (Marching, Symphonic and Concert); and Harry Dempsey, director of the Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Lab Band and College-Community Orchestra. He also serves as assistant marching band director in the fall. At the present, ten major music performing groups, which enrolled nearly 400 students last fall, present nearly 60 public appearances annually. Audiences this year are expected to number more than 100,000. Of course, 80,000 of those witnessed the special appearance of the 140-piece Bulldog Marching Band at the Pontiac Silverdome as the featured band for the Detroit Lions NFL football game last October.
Although the music performing art organizations are the most visible, over 850 students during the 1980–81 enrolled in humanities related elective music courses such as music appreciation, American music and fundamentals and theory.
Another dimension of the music center activities is the self-directed music program, which encourages college students to form their own small singing and instrumental Jazz/Rock combos and chamber music groups or to use the practice rooms for individual practice.
According to Dachoff, "The Music Center is open to all students of the college who desire to participate in a formal setting under highly competent and dedicated music teachers and conductors or to just make their own music on their own time." The Music Center is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays.
The Music program since 1962 has been housed in the Music Center building. Prior to that, rehearsals and classes were in room W213 in the West Building. The first Music Hall was built in 1908 which included in addition to a large rehearsal room, several practice rooms. As reported in the 1909 Crimson and Gold yearbook, "the various musical organizations met regularly: the FI band and orchestra, the Harmony Club, Chorus and Octette." The building encouraged many social activities. In one sense, according to Dachoff, it may have been a fore-runner of our student center building (Rankin Center).
Over the years, the music program has had its ups and downs with the lowest enrollment periods during World Wars I and II. According to Neva Martin, secretary to the Board of Control, "The college choir in the fall of 1944 numbered 24. There were only 75 students at Ferris that fall term." However, since 1955 the music activities program has grown from a one-man department to four full-time teacher/conductors who have wide and broad experiences in the classroom and as professional performers.
Many of America's leading college and university band directors have conducted the Ferris bands, including Hugh Curry, U.S. Army Band; Bill Revelli, University of Michigan bands; Frederick Fennell, Eastman School of Music; and Harry Begian, University of Illinois. Leading opera and concert singers have sung with our choral groups. Over twenty nationally known instrumentalists have been guest soloists with the Ferris bands, including "Doc" Severinsen of the Tonight Show and principal players from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Marching Band represented Michigan in the Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington D.C. in January 1973. Since 1958, the FSC Marching Band has made five appearances on national television as part of NFL football games of the Detroit Lions in Tiger Stadium, and Chicago's Soldier Field in addition to appearances at the Pontiac Silverdome.
During the 1970s, annual "Messiah" performances with the choral union, College-Community Orchestra and guest soloists provided a Christmas season musical highlight for students and the people of the area. As a pre-75th Anniversary observance of music activities, the Music Center introduced a "Gala Christmas Concert" on December 14 which included six major music performing arts organizations. Over 1,400 students, faculty and area people enthusiastically applauded the "collage" of music groups.
As Charles B. Fowler wrote about Ferris Music program in the May 1980 issue of Musical America, widely acclaimed national publication, "While the college is career oriented and has been since it was founded in 1884, the emphasis on learning how to make a living has not blinded the administration and faculty to teaching students the dimensions of what that living can be about." Fowler quoted President Ewigleben, "There is a high degree of probability that this is the last formal educational experience many of our students will have -- we are concerned that these students be exposed to and develop an appreciation for the arts -- not hoping that they will become performers, but rather consumers with a background on which they can constantly build."
Ferris boasts two published school songs, "Fighting Bulldogs"(Fight Song, 1958) and "Ferris Fidelity" (Alma Mater Song, 1957).