NDSU band director, EGF native dies

FARGO -- Orville Eidem, a fixture on the Fargo-Moorhead area jazz scene who for years led North Dakota State University's band department, died today at age 79.

FARGO -- Orville Eidem, a fixture on the Fargo-Moorhead area jazz scene who for years led North Dakota State University's band department, died today at age 79.

"Orv" Eidem was a gregarious man, known for an engaging sense of humor and a deep love of music and his students, friends and family said.

"You can not imagine how he loves those kids. He loved his (NDSU) Gold Star Band kids," Eidem's wife, Gen, said.

"Whether they graduated in 1970 or 1993, he remembered their names, he remembered the instrument they played. He remembered where they were from," she said. "He was a father figure to so many of them. He loved them. And they loved him."

Eidem suffered a major stroke in late April, which left him paralyzed on the left side of his body. He lived at Eventide Lutheran Home in Moorhead, and despite his own optimism that he would recover, his health declined, and he died there, his wife said.


A memorial service will be held 3 p.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church in Fargo, Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home of Fargo confirmed.

Eidem had a passion for playing the euphonium, and played trombone, too.

He was director of bands at NDSU from 1970 to 1993, and started the university's jazz program, friends and family said. He also played with groups in the area, including a couple of Dixieland jazz bands.

"He's my second father. He's my mentor," Bill Haring said.

The Forest Lake, Minn., man studied euphonium under Eidem and eventually taught band throughout the region. "There are a lot of people mourning today," he said.

Eidem was born Sept. 13, 1931, in Grand Forks.

He earned a bachelor's degree in music education from UND in 1953 and a master's of music education from VanderCook College of Music, Chicago, in 1960.

He served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955, then was director of music for Erskine (Minn.,) Public School from 1955 to 1958. He was band director at East Grand Forks High School from 1958 to 1970. He then became director of bands at NDSU, serving until 1993.


Many of his students become band directors, said Warren Olfert, current director of bands at NDSU.

"He established the jazz program at NDSU. He had a deep love of jazz. ... And it flourished under him," Olfert said.

"I know very, very few people that gave of himself to his students the way that Orv did," Olfert said.

Bill Law, NDSU's assistant director of the division of fine arts, remembers Eidem as a patient mentor.

"He was a very nurturing kind of a teacher. He could have very easily given up on me, and he didn't," Law said. That influence led Law to become a professional musician.

He was also a man of great humor, Law said.

In a social setting "the world would really sort of revolve around him. He was really a unique personality," Law said.

His is survived by his wife, Gen, four daughters and a sister.


One of Eidem's last performances was in January at Fargo's First Lutheran Church, Gen Eidem said. He had to use a walker to get to the gig, she said.

"The joy that he got from playing with those buddies of his, made up for any discomfort," she said.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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