And the Band Played On

There is no one happier to witness the revival of the Minnesota State Mankato marching band than Clayton Tiede.

“A marching band is part of the fabric of university life,” says Tiede, who was the University’s marching band director from 1960 to 1990. “It’s a catalyst for enthusiasm. I was so pleased when I met President Davenport at Homecoming a few years ago and, bless his soul, he said they were looking into rejuvenating the marching band.”msu16122 copy

The University is honoring Tiede this fall, anointing him as the Grand Marshal at the 2014 Homecoming Parade.

“I guess I’m just going to ride on a float and wave,” Tiede says. “Anything I can do for the marching band, I want to help.”

“Clayton’s been a huge supporter of our program,” confirms Michael Thursby, the new Maverick Machine Athletic Bands director. “It’s been great getting to know him; he knows the ins and outs of this campus better than anyone I’ve talked to.”

During his three decades as director, the original Maverick Marching Machine became a ubiquitous fixture at University athletic and social events. They even played during halftime at three Minnesota Vikings’ games and were featured on a national telecast. At its peak, it included 110 members.

“It became very important to the music department,” Tiede says. “There were some good times with that band.”

Tiede’s father was a clarinetist, and young Clayton followed suit. He was a member of the symphony orchestra in his hometown of Rochester, as well as Austin. After teaching music in Rochester, he was recruited to the Mankato Symphony Orchestra on the strength of his oboe and woodwind instrumental prowess. He was hired at then-Mankato State as an assistant to Dr. Herbert Owen, who eventually turned the marching band over to him. “And I guess we built it up into something pretty big and popular with the students,” Tiede says.

msu13863 copyTiede embraced an irreverent approach to his marching machine. He concedes he’s not a fan of rock and roll, but he listened to his students’ suggestions and added pop songs to the band’s repertoire.

Thursby praised Tiede’s foresight in incorporating non-traditional marches. Today, it’s common to hear marching arrangements of popular songs at athletic events.

“Before he was director, they would play strictly marches,” Thursby says. “He was one of the guys who said, well, no one wants to be at a sporting event and listen to that; they want something to pump them up. And that’s when he brought in pop music and more contemporary styles.”

Tiede became locally famous when he was briefly arrested and cited by a rookie Mankato police officer for “marching without a parade permit.” He had lined his band up on Fifth Street, near the Old Main campus when a cop stopped them and arrested Tiede. “I said, ‘OK, what do you want to do, take me to the station?’ He didn’t know what to do!”

The confusion was quickly settled when it was established that Tiede had a standing marching permit, but the local press picked up on it. “There was a headline: ‘Local band director arrested,’” he remembers. “We got all sorts of publicity.”

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Clayton Tiede

After Tiede retired in 1990, his beloved marching band was phased out. “It just sort of faded away,” he says. “I was really depressed to see the thing go.”

Tiede and his wife, Eunice, started wintering in Mesa, Ariz., where he attended a local marching band rehearsal. “It wasn’t very good,” he recalls. “They had 16 members at the time, and they were doing Mickey Mouse stuff.”

Tiede asked if he could work with the musicians. They agreed, and he soon became musical director. That little band is now a full-blown concert band with 60 members, including six former students from Mankato who had also retired near Mesa. Although they love to tease their musical mentor, Tiede is quick to remind his pupils who still calls the shots: “I say, ‘Hey, don’t forget, I can still change your grade.’”

Thursby was hired in fall 2013, and the renewal of the marching and pep bands at Minnesota State Mankato was hatched in earnest. Last year, 50 students registered for the band; at least 80 are signed up this year.

“You can tell there’s an interest there,” Thursby says, “because the students are coming in like crazy. They come from all over campus— probably 75 percent are non-music majors. It’s an opportunity for them to keep playing music.”

The pep band performed at football, hockey and basketball games last season. Thursby has three different marching band shows planned for football games this season—including spelling out “MSU” on the field.

“I think Mike is doing a great job,” Tiede says. “He’s a good man, and very energetic.”

Thursby hopes Tiede will direct a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” during Homecoming. He says it’s a small nod to the legacy Tiede left at Minnesota State Mankato.

“Legacy is the perfect word,” Thursby says, “because this program wouldn’t exist without him.”