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Bradley Hilltopics

Spring 2008 • Volume 14, Issue 2
Alumni Profiles

Health Matters | Fogelberg family | Leo Von Scheben ’64 | James Kenny ’76

Leaders of the band

Fogelberg family’s roots at Bradley

By Gayle Erwin McDowell ’77

Dan Fogelberg at the Peoria Civic Center, 2002

Dan Fogelberg in concert, June 2002 at the Peoria Civic Center. © Peoria Journal Star/Ron Johnson

Margaret Irvine Fogelberg '43 and Lawrence Fogelberg

Margaret Irvine Fogelberg ’43 resides in Peoria and is a member of CIBAC; her husband, Lawrence Fogelberg, was the Bradley band director for many years.

Late summer of ’51 was a busy time in the Fogelberg household on Peoria’s East Bluff. Lawrence Fogelberg was named the new leader of the Bradley University band in September. Just a month earlier, he and his wife Margaret Irvine Fogelberg ’43 had welcomed their third son, Dan. A love of music was destined to make the family well known — Larry as a highly respected bandleader, Marg for her own musical gifts and community involvement, and Dan for the fame that comes with writing and performing hit songs.

In 1977, Dan told Rolling Stone he could trace his interest in classical music to his childhood. “I was constantly surrounded by good music, whether I wanted to be or not,” he said. His 1981 album, The Innocent Age, had four songs hit the nation’s top 20. Its liner notes thank numerous famous musicians and writers for inspiration, but conclude with “and most of all, my Father for his gift of music, and my Mother for her gift of words.”

His mother’s wartime enrollment at Bradley was the first of the family’s connections to the University. Margaret Irvine was a Peoria teen who had emigrated with her parents from Scotland as a young child. A music major, Maggie pledged Lambda Phi (later Pi Beta Phi) and directed the sorority’s chorus.

In 1946 she married Lawrence Fogelberg. The couple met when he was interviewing for a job at Woodruff High School. Larry’s talent as a director was undisputed. His first high school band in DeKalb had been national champions in 1940; he had directed an Army band composed of famous musicians that was broadcast weekly across America; and had produced the Detroit Lions’ halftime shows.

As band director on the Hilltop, Larry conducted 4 p.m. practices in Siepert Hall after his day at the high school. Some of the musicians had been his students at Woodruff or Pekin High School where he began working in 1956. The BU band played at the east end of Robertson Memorial Field House for basketball games, marched at football games, and played concerts and for convocations. The Fogelberg boys — Marc, Pete, and Dan — could be found at some of the performances. One of his earliest memories, Dan once told an interviewer, was being four years old and standing on a box in front of his father, “conducting” the band with a baton in hand.

Larry Fogelberg led Bradley’s band throughout the ’50s. Margaret was a music teacher and community volunteer. She was president of the Pi Beta Phi Alumnae Club in 1957–58 and of the Peoria Symphony League the next year. In 1968, her husband was selected from 32,000 band directors for a national award.

By the time their youngest son reached Woodruff High, he was playing in bands of his own. Classmates recall if the school had a chili supper or a talent show, they knew Dan Fogelberg would provide entertainment. His first combo, the Clan, was a finalist at an Illinois State Fair competition in 1966. Then he moved on to the Coachman, a popular group that often played for Bradley dances and events.

As a University of Illinois student, Dan was playing at coffeehouses when he was “discovered” by the same agent who managed the Eagles. His parents’ uncertainty when he left college and moved to California is reflected in a line from a moving, autobiographical song: “Thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go.”

That song, Leader of the Band, was a tribute to his father who died in 1982. Out of 15 albums’ worth of songs, many of them platinum, it remains one of Dan Fogelberg’s most famous. As a result, Larry was interviewed by national media, but his favorite part of the experience was hearing from so many former students, both from the high schools and Bradley. “I was so gratified that I was able to give him that song before he passed on,” Dan commented years later.

With his mother in the audience, the last time Dan played for a hometown crowd was June 2002. While arranging another tour two years later, he learned he was ill. Reported by publications ranging from the New York Times to Time Magazine, the news of his death on December 16, 2007, saddened millions who had been inspired by his words and melodies. While humming or singing Leader of the Band, some have to pause for a moment at another meaningful line:

“Thank you for the music” seems to say it all — to Dan Fogelberg, as well as his family.

Visit danfogelberg.com for more on his life and music.