SIOUX FALLS – For more than 40 years – 10 of which were in Hot Springs – Arlen Hofer has been striking up bands and impacting the lives of students all across the state of South Dakota.
On Saturday, March 25 in Sioux Falls, during the All-State Band Concert, his many years of dedication to teaching music was rewarded with his induction into the South Dakota Bandmasters Hall of Fame. To commemorate this honor, a plaque with a photo of the inductee along with biographical data will be permanently displayed in the National Music Museum in Vermillion.
A native of Bridgewater, Hofer received his B.S. in Music Education from Dakota State College in Madison in 1974. He then went on to receive his Master of Music Education degree from the University of Northern Colorado in 1981. In 1988, Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., chose him as one of four instrumental directors in the United States to be a “music fellow” and study conducting with John Paynter, Director of Bands at Northwestern.
Hofer’s teaching experience includes seven years (1973-1980) at Salem Public Schools; one year (1981-1982) at Washoe County Schools, Reno, Nev.; 10 years (1982-1992) at Hot Springs Public Schools; and finally 22 years (1992-2014) with the Canton Public Schools.
Over his 40 years of teaching, Hofer dedicated himself to the advancement of students through music. His passion for music left a lasting impact on students in every school where he taught. His students amassed numerous accomplishments and awards at contests and competitions under his tutelage.
Following his recent induction into the S.D. Bandmasters Hall of Fame, Hofer was asked by the Hot Springs Star to reflect on his 10 years spent in Hot Springs during the mid-80s to early 90s.
“There are so many fond memories of teaching in Hot Springs,” he said. “Solo and Ensemble contest for both middle school and high school was a lot of work but the students always gave their best. One year my regular accompanist could not help for the middle school contest. I ended up playing piano for each of the approximately 90 students that day! I can remember running from one contest center to the next center during the day.”
He said another fond memory was when the band hosted an annual carnival around Halloween.
“The band room would be transformed into a spook house and the classrooms in the middle school and the old gym in the high school would be used for the carnival,” he added. “The spook house and the jail were the most popular at every carnival. It was a challenge to come up with something new for each year’s spook house.”
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“Another fond memory was when the band played for the dedication of the Mammoth Site,” Hofer said. “The band played before Gov. Janklow gave the address. During the ceremony, I had a saxophone quartet play ‘Them Dry Bones.’ The words to the song go ‘the toe bone connected to the foot bone; the foot bone connected to the heel bone; the heel bone connected to the ankle bone, etc.’ The audience at first didn’t get the joke until one of the speakers reminded them of the words and then the audience got a good laugh out of it.”
Certainly one of the highlights for many of Hofer’s former Hot Springs High School band students from the late 1980s was when the band raised enough funds for the entire group – nearly 80 members strong – to travel to Orlando, Fla., by chartered bus and a double-decker bus in the spring of 1989.
“We perfomed at a Cypress Gardens; Old Town; and at a clinic at a university with the university’s director working with the Hot Springs band. The band also spent time at Cocoa Beach; EPCOT; The Magic Kingdom; and also enjoyed an all-day cruise,” he said. “The Hot Springs community really supported the band and gave the band a send off pep rally in Case Auditorium before we left. It was a long bus ride to Orlando but the band students had a fantastic time.”
Hofer says this was one of his proudest accomplishments from his time in Hot Springs, and something he would later go on to do a total of six more times during his 22 years at Canton High School.
“Another proud accomplishment was the Hot Springs Jazz Band winning the competition at the Augustana Jazz Festival in 1987,” Hofer added. “The American Legion and the DAV of Hot Springs helped to provide the money for travel and hotel expense by having the band students assist with their weekly BINGO sessions. This was the first time the jazz band competed in Sioux Falls. The winners in each class also performed for the evening concert at the Sioux Falls Coliseum.”
After leaving Hot Springs following the 1991-92 school year, Hofer’s love for music and drive for teaching were the force behind the program at Canton Public Schools. During his 22-year tenure in Canton, a total 261 students qualified for the South Dakota All-State Band and All-State Orchestra.
As one of his colleagues said, “Arlen wasn’t in it for himself. He was all about the kids, the people, the community, and the school.”
During his career, Mr. Hofer served as Band Chairman of the South Dakota Music Educators Association (SDMEA) from 1986-1992 and as president of the South Dakota Bandmasters Association (SDBA) from 1994-1996. Mr. Hofer was also recognized by School Band and Orchestra Magazine as one of “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” in the United States. Other past awards include the Phi Beta Mu Distinguished Service Award (2009) and the Outstanding Bandmaster Award (2014).