THE LEADER OF THE BAND
by Michael Miller
When the young man with the guitar sang the song about his father in the Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois last fall, more than a few eyes became misty. Lately, more than a few ears have been attracted to the song, which is in Billboard magazine's Top 10.
And more than a few people have had their lives affected by the "Leader of the Band"--Lawrence Fogelberg.
His 30-year-old son, Dan, one of the hottest acts in the contemporary music business, recorded the song last year for his "Innocent Age" album. The LP has since gone almost double-platinum, and he just wound up a tour supporting its release.
Larry, a long-time and much-heralded band conductor in Peoria and Pekin, among other places, first heard the song about a year ago at his Peoria residence.
"Dan was home and played a tape of it," he said. "I wasn't supposed to hear it. I've been breaking up ever since."
The bandleader's eyes became moist as he spoke of the tribute, sitting on a living room couch with two gold records ("Souvenirs" and "Captured Angel," both of which eventually went platinum) and three platinum records ("Nether Lands," "Phoenix," and "Twin Sons of Different Mothers," with flutist Tim Weisberg) on the wall above.
Dan included his father's arrangement of "The Washington Post March" by John Philip Sousa on the LP, the UCLA Band recording it. Dan even showed up during the band's recording session to play cymbals, according to his parents, throwing the band director for a loop.
It didn't surprise his father, though. "He knows the Sousa accents," Larry said.
The most gratifying thing for Larry about the success of the "Leader of the Band" are the letters he has received from former students. Another pleasing thing for the Fogelbergs is how the song has touched so many people.
"Dan says it's amazing how many people say they wish they had the foresight" to tell their fathers of their love for them while they still could, his mother, Margaret, said.
"I was surprised when Dan said he thought he was going to put it out as a single," Larry said. "It's so intimate. It's tremendous."
"It's getting to an older generation than yours, too," said Mrs. Fogelberg, referring to the relatively young reporter sitting across the room from her.
What about the "thundering, velvet hand?" Larry laughs. "I'm basically a perfectionist and knew what I wanted, but I didn't insult people to get it," he said. "I never belittled anybody in front of the band."
Or bands. Larry has conducted at Woodruff High School (1945-55) and Pekin Community High School (1955-76). From 1951-59, he directed the Bradley University band for football and basketball games as well as concerts. Talk about a schedule.
"I get a kick out of these guys now about how they have so much to do," he said, laughing.
One of the nicest compliments he received, Larry said, was when sports announcer Lindsey Nelson told him that the half-time show during a televised Bradley-Cincinnati basketball game was the best he'd ever seen.
Now, Larry is giving private music lessons at the rate of 40 half-hour sessions a week and conducts the Pekin Municipal Band in the summer, doing 12 concerts on Sundays.
Still, it isn't easy being the parents of such a famous performer. The Fogelbergs get gifts for Dan at their house all the time, saving them until he comes home for a visit. And they get phone calls in the wee hours of the morning.
Larry told the story of one girl who was driving to New York with her father. The girl convinced her father to turn off Interstate 80 and stop in Peoria so she could see the Fogelbergs' house. "We invited her in, and showed her the albums," Larry said.
"Tell them we don't do that anymore," Mrs. Fogelberg said, laughing.
The Fogelbergs last got the chance to see their youngest son perform when he appeared at the U of I with a great group of musicians dubbed The Bar Codes. Though he gave a great show, that was a rough night for Dan. He had laryngitis, and so couldn't sing "Illinois" from the "Souvenirs" album, which the crowd clamored for. But, his parents explained, the range on the song is too great, and the high register would have really hurt his voice.
Dan's voice was in bad shape anyway; after appearing in Champaign, he had to cancel his next three performances, two of which he made up after the holidays.
He ended the tour Sunday in Honolulu, renaming the group The Sunburned Bar Codes.
How does the Leader of the Band feel about his son's music? "It's very melodic," Larry said. "The lyrics, he writes well because of this gal," he added, gesturing to his wife, adding Dan gets his rhyming ability and voice from Mrs. Fogelberg.
She has a solid musical background, also. In fact, she was a music instructor for Peoria public schools when she met her husband-to-be.
"I'd been in town about two minutes when I met my future wife," Larry said.
While stationed at an Army base in Detroit, Mich., he'd got a call telling him there was an opening in the music department at Woodruff High.
"Listen, I'm in the Army," he said. "I don't just change jobs."
Eventually, though, he made it to Peoria to interview for the job, after being director of a military battalion band in Detroit (" . . . his music wouldn't wait"). "Back then, I was still the leader of the band, I guess."
While interviewing for the job, he met Margaret.
One of their sons, Pete, still lives in Peoria, performing his music. Their oldest son, Marc, is a lawyer in Chicago, residing in Evanston.
Reprinted from the Peoria Journal Star
March 7, 1982
FOGELBERG--PEKIN'S ENCHANTED MUSIC MAN
He'll Retire from Teaching
It would be nice to report that Larry Fogelberg rode into Pekin 21 years ago with a battered suitcase and a wild, improbable dream of putting together the best band around. Not quite. He came in an Oldsmobile 98 with something of a reputation behind him. And what Prof. Harold Hill accomplished in "The Music Man" is pretty much peanuts by comparison to what Fogelberg did in 21 years here. He not only put together the best band around, but more like 21 of them, and he managed to enchant half the town with his music as well.
Not quite half the town was there for his final concert Tuesday night since the F. M. Peterson theater on East Campus will hold a mere 875 with all the extra chairs in place. There was an overflow crowd, however, and they tendered to Fogelberg the kind of prolonged, standup ovation that few music men ever win, especially in the somewhat restricted field of the high school band.
There is no point in reviewing the concert at this late date. But I confess being uncommonly stirred by the first view of that erect, disciplined band as the curtain swept open and Fogelberg's iron baton stirred up the first resonant chords of the March "Grandioso" of Roland Seitz.
Wham. There is something iron-hard about the way Fogelberg has his bands play, not the martinet nor the military precision, but the impact. It makes people listen, react. He does not merely wave a stick and have people in front of him play in time, on tune, but he makes music, exciting music. There were some special moments, too, the "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" for his wife as a special, the introduction of his sons, Mark, Peter, and Dan, and the presentation at the ending of a framed collection of some of his sayings under the title, "It's Been Great."
Some of these quotes, directed over the years to his musicians, "If you were a professional, you'd be in the unemployment line . . .pp doesn't mean pretty powerful . . . quit composing . . . what's that rumbling I hear?"
Fogelberg taught at Woodruff and Bradley and made the move to Pekin partly because they offered him considerably more money. He had open heart surgery a year ago. He will continue, at least for now, to conduct the Pekin Summer Band.
After the concert, the stage band played in the cafeteria and the well-wishers crowded around Fogelberg between punch and cookies. One father who had had four children in Larry's bands, said, "He's tough on the kids and they love it. It shows the importance of good discipline."
And there is something more there, too. A mutual admiration, maybe, a striving for excellence, something extra. Whatever it was could be seen in the eyes of a grade school boy who solemnly shook Larry Fogelberg's hand and said, "I'm sorry I won't get to play under you." That, perhaps, is the best tribute of all.
Reprinted from the Peoria Journal Star
May 23, 1976
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