Page 43 - foxtalk issue 2

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43
Winter 2011
“I love getting their e-mails,’’ he says, smiling broadly, sharing notes from students
past and present that begin, “ ‘I can’t thank you enough…’”
“Tat’s my payback,’’ he says. “I try the best I can to touch their lives through music.’’
Now you are able to match this man to the intense guy leading the Marist fght song
from the foors of basketball courts, or conducting the symphony band from the stages
of great concert halls.
And that’s when you know you are in the right place. Tis hallway, these classrooms,
this is the home of “Music at Marist.’’ Tis man, his devotion, his connection to stu-
dents, he
is
“Music at Marist.”
He is Art Himmelberger. He tells his story and like any tale worth telling, it starts
with a confict.
It was 1986 and Marist needed someone to help prep its band for an upcoming
basketball game at Madison Square Garden. Te S.O.S went out to Himmelberger, a
member of the senior leadership team at U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point.
It is the oldest and most prestigious professional band in the United States Army.
He drove north to supervise a practice, not knowing exactly what to expect, though
he certainly did not expect to fnd what awaited him.
“Two nice kids showed up,’’ he recalls. As the story goes, Himmelberger barely
blinked as he morphed from bandleader into band member and practiced with the two.
Ten he toted his drum kit to the Garden and they performed as the Marist College
Band.
IT WAS A HARBINGER OF THINGS TO COME AND THE LITTLE BAND
carried on after that, gaining members here and there, but relying at frst on
Himmelberger’s musician friends at West Point to fll in the ranks in return for gas
money, hot dogs and sodas. Te year of the Garden performance, Himmelberger joined
the Marist staf. Te Music Department continued to grow in the 1980s and 1990s
and when he retired from West Point with the rank of Sergeant Major, he became the
full-time music director at Marist.
Himmelberger honed his musical discipline as a student and band musician under
Band Director William Revelli at the University of Michigan. In 1972, he was drafted
into the U.S. Army under the Vietnam draft lottery, while he was 12 credits shy of
graduating, but later fulflled those credits. He played percussion for 26 years in U.S.
military bands in Washington, D.C., West Point and Germany.
His teaching career is as illustrious. At 19, he was a Michigan undergrad with
a graduate fellowship, making him the youngest faculty member in the University
of Michigan School of Music He also taught at Dominican
College, the University of Albany, and of course, West Point.
His involvement with music does not end at the Marist bor-
ders. Last summer, he presented an academic paper at a confer-
ence in Austria on Robert Hoe, local bowling alley empire heir
and famous march music record collector.
And in 2010, he organized the National Convention of the
Association of Concert Bands, which met in Poughkeepsie.
WHAT MANY MAY NOT KNOW IS HOW IT ALL
began, in a small Pennsylvania town, where a little boy was
promised mint ginger ale and a performance of “How much
is that doggie in the window?’’ if he could sit still while his
father’s band rehearsed. Te father, a drummer in a local band
in Rehrersburg, Pa., for 55 years, was a teacher and later a high
school principal.
Te band began letting young Art play with the cowbells and
his frst paying job was to pull the carriage with the band’s bass
drum afxed to it during a fremen’s parade. He was paid 75
cents.
“I never opened the pay envelope. I still have it,’’ he says.
As luck would have it, the Himmelbergers lived close enough
to William Schinstine, a famous percussion teacher, that
Himmelberger could take lessons.
During the spring of 2006, in an at-
tempt to build spirit and pride among
Marist fans, alumni, faculty, staf and
students, Art Himmelberger created
lyrics and music for Marist’s frst fght
song. The Marist Band learned the
music and words that fall.
The song debuted at the Red Fox-
Tip of event that marked the start of
the 2006-2007 basketball season. This
fght song is now a proud tradition,
and Himmelberger leads the band and
crowd in song at most home games.
For many, it is a game day highlight
and the thing that is remembered most
about Himmelberger and his impact on
the Marist community.
Leading us all in
song and spirit