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Einar Einarson reflects on life of inspiring, uplifting others through teaching, performing music

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Former students of music educator Einar Einarson say his influence on music education in the region is considerable. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 3
Einar Einarson and his granddaughter, Emerson Rosenthal, 11, play "Row, Row, Row your Boat" during her Christmas break from school. Emerson, a fifth-grader at Kelly Elementary School, is switching from sax to trumpet because of her grandpa's influence, she said. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)3 / 3

It probably was inevitable that Einar Einarson would become a beloved music teacher and accomplished trumpet player. He was born into a family of musicians.

Growing up on a farm near Upham in north-central North Dakota, Einarson was surrounded by kinfolk who loved to make music for their own and others' enjoyment.

His career in music education and performance spanned more than four decades.

Former students say his influence on musicians and music education in this area and beyond is remarkable.

"The trumpet students who've had Einar (as a teacher) are all over the place," said Christie Aleshire, retired director of bands at Grand Forks Central High School.

Considering the years he taught at UND, she said, "There's 40 years' worth of people around the country that have had an impact on music because of Einar."

Steeped in music

It all started in Upham, where Einarson grew up the youngest in a family of five children.

"Music has always been important and significant in my family all my life, starting with my grandparents," he said. "The value for music has been in my family forever."

His siblings "all played piano or played instruments," including trombone, sax and clarinet, he said. "Everybody played in the band."

"We were always singing," he said. "And that goes on today yet at every family gathering, we always sing."

He and his siblings often provided entertainment at community gatherings, "sometimes before we were ready," he said with a laugh.

His early success with music sparked his interest in a career in music, he said.

"I could play by ear before I learned to play by note. If I heard a song, I'd go sit down at the piano and play it."

He started playing trumpet in sixth grade.

"It's the flashy, loud instrument," he said with a smile.

He earned a bachelor's degree in music education at Minot State College and then taught in north central North Dakota.

"Those two years at Souris were the best two years of my life, musically," he said. "I fell in love with 100 kids, and have been close to them ever since."

He then pursued a master's degree in music education at UND where, in 1966, his second year of studies, a job opened that he landed.

He was a tenured member of the UND music faculty until retiring in 2006. Upon retirement, he was inducted into the North Dakota Music Teachers Association Hall of Fame, an honor he describes as "one of the biggest rewards" of his career.

'One of the greats'

"Einar is one of the 'greats' who taught music at UND," said Brad Sherwood, director of vocal music at Red River High School, who's known Einarson since the '70s.

Sherwood, who holds undergraduate and master's degrees from UND, said Einarson was a valuable mentor.

"He taught me, early on, that the most important aspect of being a teacher is the relationship between teacher and student," Sherwood said.

Einarson also became a mentor to Aleshire when she pursued her master's degree at UND 25 years ago, she said.

"He taught you things sometimes you don't learn in a book. ... You teach from the heart, teach with good musicianship—everything doesn't have to be technical.

"I'm so glad I had a chance to work with him and learn from him. He taught me a lot."

Einarson also taught for many years at the International Peace Garden Music Camp near Bottineau, N.D., which drew teachers and young musicians from around the country and abroad.

As a teacher, Einarson said "student success" gave him the most satisfaction.

"The art of teaching is the art of helping people become who they are, what they want to be—helping them get there and flourish."

The lifelong benefits students gain from studying and performing music have been confirmed by research, Einarson said.

"They're ahead in math and science, especially math. I can't explain that, but I think it has do with imagination, the development of the mind."

Admired performer

Einarson is known and admired as a performer, Aleshire said. "He still plays a mean trumpet. He has the sweetest trumpet sound that exists out there."

For many years, he played with Ernie Myerchin's "Starlighters Orchestra" at area supper clubs.

"We played all year 'round—60 or 70 jobs a year," he said.

It wasn't always a lark.

"I fought performance anxiety for a lot of years," he said. "I got over that eventually.

"How you get over performance anxiety is to play things that don't scare the hell out of you. Play things you have success with."

Einarson plays trumpet with Second Wind Band and for services at his church.

As a bugler, he's played "Taps" with the Honor Guard at funerals for more than 60 years.

"That's one that you can't miss a note on," he said, "so we practice."