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A life of music: Bemidji MusiCamp inducts Col. Arnald Gabriel into Hall of Fame

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Arnald Gabriel conducts a rehearsal for the wind ensemble at Bemidji MusiCamp Friday at BSU. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer) 1 / 2
The French horn section rehearses with retired U.S. Air Force Col. Arnald Gabriel at Bemidji MusiCamp Friday at BSU. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer) 2 / 2

BEMIDJI—In addition to his numerous other accomplishments, Col. Arnald Gabriel will now receive special recognition in the local music community when he's inducted into the Bemidji MusiCamp Hall of Fame.

Scott Guidry, who's a board member and conductor at Bemidji MusiCamp, said they look for renown individuals who've had an impact on education and music and who have a connection to the camp when selecting inductees for the hall of fame.

"He was an obvious choice," Guidry said. "It was pretty easy for his name to come up in a very short list of people right away."

Gabriel will be inducted into the hall of fame Saturday. In addition to conducting several numbers with the camp, Gabriel will conduct several songs for the Bemidji Community Band on Sunday, July 22, on the lawn of the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex. He will lead the band in "The Light Cavalry Overture," the "Armed Forces Medley" and "Hollywood," which is a medley from Hollywood's golden age.

Gabriel worked at the Bemidji MusiCamp in 1967 and 1972 as a guest conductor, bringing a wealth of experience to the students. He served as the commander and conductor of the U.S. Air Force Band for more than 20 years before retiring in 1985. He then worked as a faculty member for George Mason University from 1985 to 1995.

The city of Bemidji and the music program have changed quite a bit since Gabriel worked with the Bemidji MusiCamp more than 40 years ago. At 93, however, he still knows exactly what he needs to impart to his musicians.

"The disciplines you learn in music are the disciplines you learn in life; that's what I try to bring home to them," Gabriel said about working with the students at Bemidji MusiCamp. "I said, 'I treat you like professionals, and if I treated you any less, it would be a disservice to you.'"

Gabriel remembers being exposed to music ever since his father would listen to the Texaco Metropolitan Opera on Saturday afternoons when he was growing up. He eventually became a flautist in the school band.

Gabriel's history with the military goes back almost as far as his history with music. He enlisted in the army in 1943 as a machine gunner, eventually landing on Omaha Beach during D-Day.

When he went to college after the war, he used music to help recover from the post traumatic stress. He conducted a drum and bugle corps, a town band, as well as a church choir.

"I had something every night in addition to a full load. And, that way, my mind was so busy I never had time to think of the war," Gabriel said.

Jordan Shearer

Jordan Shearer covers crime and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. A Rochester native and Bemidji State grad, he previously spent several years in western Nebraska writing for the Keith County News. Follow him on Twitter @Jmanassa

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