Music of North Dakota

Music of the United States
AK - AL - AR - AS - AZ - CA - CO - CT - DC - DE - FL - GA - GU - HI - IA - ID - IL - IN - KS - KY - LA - MA - MD - ME - MI - MN - MO - MP - MS - MT - NC - ND - NE - NH - NM - NV - NJ - NY - OH - OK - OR - PA - PR - RI - SC - SD - TN - TX - UT - VA - VI - VT - WA - WI - WV - WY
Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra - Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra - Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra - Medora Musical - Minot Symphony Orchestra
Alerus Center - The AMP - Bismarck Civic Center - Chester Fritz Auditorium - Empire Arts Center - Fargodome - Fargo Theatre - Festival Concert Hall
Rockin' the Hills
State song "North Dakota Hymn"
Topics List of North Dakota musical groups - Fargo Rock City - International Music Camp

The Music of North Dakota has followed general American trends over much of its history, beginning with ragtime and folk music, moving into big band and jazz. With the development of mass media, local artists in North Dakota, as in the rest of the country, saw a rapid loss of opportunity to create, perform, and sell popular music to the regional audience that had previously provided a market. Although perhaps unexpected for a largely agricultural region of the nation, country music is not a major genre in the modern youth scene of North Dakota. A number of country artists who appeal to older audiences however, have emerged from the state.


Ethnic music

One aspect of music that has been around for over a century is the "old-time" German music, still played, danced to, and sung in parts of North Dakota. Such music is typified by fast waltzes, polkas, schottisches, two-steps, and the butterfly.

Musical organizations

Popular music

Presently, North Dakota has a number of active punk rock, metal, and indie acts and pop music. The most active music scenes for local artists in popular styles are in Fargo, Minot, Grand Forks, Bismarck, and Williston, while Dickinson, and Devils Lake are active to a lesser extent. Most shows are booked by independent promoters who find space for shows wherever available, though occasionally groups like the AMP have held permanent venues for musical acts.

Touring acts

Smaller musical groups passing through North Dakota often play at the independently promoted shows in the state's larger cities alongside local acts.

Medium-sized groups may be headlined in events thrown by financially interested promoters, such as the Hub's Venue[1] (formally Playmaker's Pavilion) in Fargo or the annual Rockn On The Ridge event, located just north of Sawyer, ND. It is a three day Rock Festival, featuring classic rock, and is North Dakota's premier rock music festival.

Large touring acts crossing North Dakota often use the state's larger event venues such as the Alerus Center (Grand Forks), Fargodome (Fargo), and Bismarck Civic Center (Bismarck), to draw large arena rock crowds. National acts in a variety of styles are also often booked for the North Dakota State Fair (Minot), though the fair does tend to have more country groups in keeping with the fair's rural focus.

Classical music

In addition to popular music, classical music and jazz are common across the state.

Many of North Dakota's universities have great music programs; the choir program at Jamestown College and the instrumental music programs at the University of Mary and Minot State University are particularly notable.

Concert orchestras operate in Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks, and Minot. Of these, the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra is the largest, while the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra is the oldest.

Many opera groups exist in the state. Two of the larger ones include the Fargo-Moorhead Opera Company and The Western Plains Opera Company of Minot, each of which stage two performances a year.

Choral music organizations include the Grand Forks Master Chorale, the Fargo Chamber Chorale, and the Nodakords, Heritage Singers, and Voices of Note, all of Minot.

International Music Camp, a summer camp providing intensive instruction in music and fine arts, is held each summer at the International Peace Garden.

Modern history

Since the late 20th century, North Dakota has seen a number of active musical scenes.

1970s and 1980s

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a small but thriving New Wave/power pop scene based in Fargo. Groups like "Silver", "Johnny Holm", "The Unbelievable Uglies", "The Newz", "Patriot", and "Fat City" were the premier bands. These bands played extensively throughout the upper Midwest, benefitting from a short-lived surge in bars that booked rock and roll bands during the early 80s. For example, in Jamestown, North Dakota, there was one bar and a "teen canteen" that booked rock and roll bands in 1978, but by 1984, there were five such venues. Bismarck, also had several venues for local bands such as "The Champ Band" and "Nightlife" to perform in. These venues would draw bands from all over The Midwest where they could perform 6 nights a week. This pattern was briefly replicated in many similar cities in the region. This led several regional bands to write original music and even record albums, some of which sold respectably by regional standards. The scene was also lucrative enough to allow many bands from the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area to play in North Dakota.

As the 1980s progressed and a farm crisis hurt the state's economy, new drinking and driving laws, plus bar insurance laws were passed,the nightclub and bar scene began to struggle. Thus,the music scene shrank and a number of bars and clubs that had booked music ceased to do so. For example, the five Jamestown bars that had booked bands back in 1984 were all closed or no longer booking in 1989. By mid-decade, most of the leading bands had disbanded. "Silver", after purchasing the rights to the "Uglies" name, had decamped to Minneapolis, Minnesota and become "The Metro Allstars" (later: "The Metros"), and "The Newz" performed all over the Midwest. As the thriving Twin Cities music scene of the mid-1980s dissipated so to did the Fargo music scene fade.

Many homegrown bands spawned in the wake of this brief renaissance. Some bands tried to emulate bands from bigger markets by mixing originals in among the hours of cover songs. Most earned a living playing the hits of the day instead of original music.

Heavy metal bands were also popular in the 1980s. Chuck Klosterman wrote a tongue-in-cheek book on his experiences in the rock scene in North Dakota in the book Fargo Rock City.

1990s and 2000s

Today, hardcore, metal, metalcore and some indie dominates the youth music scene in North Dakota, though it is by no means exclusive, with a number of death metal and black metal bands on the heavier end of the spectrum, and Folk on the lighter side.

Many of the acts are transient, seeking opportunity in larger cities, or breaking up as the band members grow older and move their separate ways. Though some organizations attempt to provide opportunities to local musicians, most bands are not able to obtain sufficient backing to allow them to "quit their day jobs".

Notable North Dakota musicians

  • Lawrence Welk – Welk, born in rural Strasburg, became one of the most popular band leaders in American history. His long-running weekly television show brought his style of "Champagne Music" into millions of homes. His low-key on-air manner and faint rural German accent mixed with a shrewd sense of business and showmanship to create a franchise that lasted over thirty years.
  • Jason Joyce - Joyce, a Denver, Colorado native, moved to Minot, North Dakota to focus steadily on writing electro-pop music for his return back to his home state.
  • Peggy Lee - Pop torch singer Lee was born Norma Delores Egstrom in Jamestown in 1920. She left North Dakota in her late teens, and joined the Benny Goodman band. For the next two decades, she was one of the United States' most popular pop singers.
  • Bobby Vee - Vee, born Robert Velline and a native of Enderlin, North Dakota, got his break when Buddy Holly was killed in the 1959 plane crash known in popular culture as "The Day the Music Died", en route to a concert in Moorhead, Minnesota. The 16-year-old Velline and his band, "Bobby Vee and the Shadows" replaced Holly at the concert. Vee went on to over forty years of popular music stardom.
  • Lynn Anderson - Anderson, a Grand Forks native, went on to stardom in country/western music. Her biggest hit was 1971's "Rose Garden".
  • Jonny Lang - Jonny Lang was born in Fargo and became a nationally acclaimed breakout blues guitarist and singer in 1997.
  • Shannon Curfman - blues guitarist and singer
  • Richard TorranceRock guitarist, singer, songwriter. Born in Bismarck, N.D., he relocated to Southern California soon after graduating from high school, to pursue his dream of becoming a recording artist. He signed his first recording contract with Shelter Records, Leon Russell's label, in 1972. He recorded three albums for them before moving on to his second contract with Capitol Records in 1975. His first of four albums for Capitol, Bareback, produced his song "Rio de Janeiro Blue". "Rio" has achieved international acclaim and has been recorded by several other artists, as well. Through the 1970s, he put together a band of Los Angeles-based musicians and did three national tours. Richard and his band opened for some of the most famous rock groups in the world, such as Little Feat, Kansas, Taj Mahal, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Seger, Chicago, The Beach Boys, REO Speedwagon, Loggins and Messina, The Kinks, Average White Band, Pablo Cruise, and Aerosmith, to name a few. After leaving Capitol records in 1979, Richard moved north to Ojai, California and focused on building a home recording studio, producing local talent and continuing to write music. He stayed there for over ten years, raising a family and touring the west coast.
  • Danny MangoldRock guitarist, songwriter and producer. Founding member of Silver, and The Metro All Stars (later changed to "the Metros".) Moved from Fargo, ND to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the band won several "Best Rock Band" awards in the Minnesota Music Awards. Mangold moved to Seattle where he played guitar and toured with Ann Wilson/Heart, Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers and recorded "Songcatchers-Dreaming in Color A&M Records" with Neville. Mangold also toured with Chris Barron of the Spin Doctors and produced the "Heart of the City" record.
  • Jody HanksRock singer, songwriter. Born in Mandan, N.D., performed in local bands for years, then moving to Minneapolis. Member of "Raggs" then later, "The Metro All Stars", recording two albums, one on MTM Records, and performing twice on "Star Search". "The Metro All Stars" performed all over The Midwest and Canada. Jody Hanks released a solo album in 2009 "Side of the Road" with fellow songwriter Danny Mangold.
  • Mark Knoll-Rock guitarist, singer, songwriter. Born in Mandan N.D.,A passionate and immediately recognizable stylist, Mark has performed all over the United States in a rich and diverse career that spans over 30 years. He has performed with and shared the stage with many national acts including Bonnie Raitt, Little Feat, Edgar Winter's White Trash, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, the Drifters, the Platters, the Coasters, and the Marvelettes. He has appeared as a session guitarist and songwriter on many regional releases including the Lamont Cranston Band, Scottie Miller, and George Faber. Mark Knoll released his first album "High Time" in 2008.

Mark has been a member of the Doug Maynard Band, Lamont Cranston, T. C. Jammers, Northcoast, and many others,

  • Dean WeisserRock drummer, singer, songwriter. Born in Bismarck N.D., Dean played music with a number of local bands such as "Spice" and "Champ" opening for "Head East" and "Chubby Checker". He moved to Minneapolis in 1986 and started working of KARE-11 TV, where he has won two regional Emmy's for live audio production. Dean works with Grammy winning, national and local artists that perform on the show. Dean has recorded three albums, "Give it a Shot",(Solo-1992), the second, "Boppin' the Blues",(2000), getting airplay all over the country as well as Europe, and third, "Back in the Day" released in 2010. "The Dean Weisser Band" was formed in 1996 and performs all over the midwest opening for acts such as Jonny Lang, Little Feat, Cory Stevens and Susan Tedeshi .

See also


  1. ^ The Venue • Fargo, Nd

External links

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