Donald Gjerdrum, who directed many award-winning concert and jazz bands at Burnsville High School and other schools during 35 years as a music educator, died Sept. 21 of a heart condition. He was 91 and in recent years resided near Mabel, Minn., on the farm where he grew up.
He was a lifelong musician, specializing in clarinet, and taught all band instruments. He also had served as president of the Minnesota Music Educators Association and in 1990 was inducted into the organization's Hall of Fame.
"He had a unique way of motivating students," said Leo Bedard, a retired music educator in Burnsville schools who worked with Gjerdrum for many years. "He was always extremely positive. The Burnsville band program under him was one of the best."
Bands that Gjerdrum directed won many regional and state awards, often were invited to play at colleges and other places in the region and toured Europe, Bedard said.
"He brought enthusiasm to teaching, and it spread to his students," said Judy Ruehmann, who learned to play coronet under Gjerdrum at Spring Grove High School, one of his first jobs, in the early 1960s. "I loved it. I still like playing. A lot of it is due to his teaching."
Barbara Arnold said she learned to play flute from Gjerdrum in Spring Grove and performed with the band he led. Later, she became a music educator and taught in the Burnsville schools. Throughout his career, she said, he offered students the quality of instruction usually available only through private music lessons.
He was born in 1921 and attended school in Mabel. He graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in 1943 and later attended the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, earning a master's degree in music education in 1968.
During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy aboard landing ships that participated in the invasions of Italy and France. He also served in the Pacific before his discharge in 1946.
His first post as band director was in Independence, Wis., where he met his first wife, Doris, who preceded him in death.
Gjerdrum moved to Burnsville High School after getting his graduate degree in 1968 and spent 15 years as band director there.
He continued to play clarinet until he was 90.
He survived by his second wife, Linda; his daughters Mary Holman of Ghana, and Sara Gjerdrum and Dorothy Gjerdrum of St. Paul; his son David Gjerdrum of Minneapolis; five grandchildren; four stepchildren, and two step-granddaughters.
Services have been held.
David Shaffer • 612-673-7090