Skip to main content
Close Search


Music has been a part of the history of South Dakota State University virtually since its inception. Choral music study was available informally as early as 1881 under the direction of a “Professor Parker.”

The first conclusive evidence of band program is from 1902, where an ensemble conducted by J. P. Mann performed a concert. A four-year Department of Music was initiated in 1904, with Professor Mann becoming its department chair in 1906.

In 1906 Frances J. Haynes was hired to teach voice and direct the band. Haynes’ legacy can be felt to the present day as it was he who composed the music to the school song, The Yellow and Blue. Also in 1906, Carl Christensen was appointed to the music faculty, and in 1911 took over as the director of the State College Military Band. Affectionately known as “Christy”, it is he for whom the Christy Ballroom, now the home of the SDSU Band program, is named. Under Professor Christensen, the “South Dakota State College March” was written by Karl King, and the band made an international trip to perform for King George and Queen Elizabeth while they were in Winnipeg, Canada.

W. A. Peterson joined the Music Department in 1911 as Instructor of Keyboard Instruments. Together, “Prof Pete” and Christensen enjoyed a long and successful tenure. Both retired in 1954.

The SDSU-Civic Symphony was formed in 1914. In 1938, Karl Theman joined the staff and was responsible for starting the male chorus which eventually was named The Statesmen.

While the four-year Department of Music was established in 1904, the music major was dropped during the Great Depression and not reinstated until after World War II. When it was revived, the department grew in both quantity and quality.

For many years the only degree available within the department was the Bachelor of Arts degree, to which music education course requirements could be selected by students desiring teaching credentials. In 1972 a Bachelor of Science degree was added. The Bachelor of Music Education degree was adopted in 1978, and in 1984 the Bachelor of Science-Music Merchandising Option was initiated. The Bachelor of Science option was re-organized under the Bachelor of Arts curriculum in 2010.

The All-State Music Camp was organized by Professor John Colson in 1967.

The Music Department was conditionally accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) in 1974. It received complete accreditation in 1979. Accreditation was most recently re-affirmed by NASM in 2011.

Prior to 1979 the department’s activities were housed in various sites across campus. Woodbine Cottage (now the President’s residence) housed the department in the late 1800’s. Doner Auditorium in the Administration Building served as home to activities before and after World War II. In the mid-1950’s a temporary facility was moved to campus from Fort Thompson and served as the primary location of music activities.

In 1979, the Music Department was moved to the remodeled Lincoln Library. The new home was renamed Lincoln Music Hall. The old library reading room became a 300-seat recital hall named in honor of Professor W. A. Peterson. Phase I of the Performing Arts Center opened in 2002, which houses a 1000-seat concert hall.

Ensembles have flourished in recent years. Our choral ensembles toured Europe in 1998, 2003, 2010, and 2012. The Pride of the Dakotas Marching Band performed in inaugural parades for Presidents Reagan and Clinton. They have also performed for the 2003 and 2008 Tournament of Roses parades, and for the 2011 Fresh from Florida Parade.

The Department of Music has only had four department heads over the past fifty years. Dr. Warren Hatfield became department head in 1967, having assumed that role from Dr. John Rezzatto. In 1994, Dr. Corliss Johnson became head of the department, and served until his retirement in 2005. Dr. David Reynolds joined the University as Department head and now serves as Director of the School of Performing Arts.