Lawrence Welk Arrangements, Memorabilia Given to NDSU

"Lawrence Welk Arrangements, Memorabilia Given to NDSU." Frontiers, 1992, 20.

Shirley Welk Fredricks and President Jim Ozbun
Don’t be too surprised if the next time the Gold Star Concert Band comes to your town, you hear the familiar strains of the Champagne Music of Lawrence Welk. On July 6, NDSU became the repository for some 15,000 musical arrangements used on Lawrence Welk television shows, plus a large collection of other memorabilia.

Speaking on behalf of the family and the Welk Group, Inc., Shirley Welk Fredricks, Santa Monica, Calif., entrusted NDSU with her late father’s memorabilia for “safe-keeping and preservation.”

“There simply is no better place for this collection than in this state and at this institution, which like our father, has roots so deeply planted in its culture and heritage,” said Fredricks. “We wanted a permanent site for it...and NDSU recognizes the significance of his contributions to the state and the music world.

In delivering the eulogy at her father’s funeral May 20, Fredricks said, in part, “The hardships of his boyhood, with deprivations of every kind, provided a major strength when he struck out on his own as a self-taught musician. No matter that he had to sleep in cornfields or in cars. A life of music, which had found its expression in his accordion, seemed like a miracle. Into that music he poured his immense sense of wonder, joy and zest for life. And people listened – and are still listening.”

In addition to the musical arrangements, all of the late bandleader’s office furniture, photographs, and other memorabilia are included. The gift includes 10 scrapbooks of Welk’s early days prior to his television career. Many of the musical arrangements were created by Frank Scott of Fargo, a longtime member of the Welk musical family. Scott has arranged for the NDSU Gold Star Band and other bands in the area.

“We are simply elated that the Welk family has selected NDSU to house this collection,” said President Jim Ozbun.

Ozbun was joined in his enthusiasm for the gift by Don Stowell, director of the Division of Fine Arts: “The Welk music is a national resource and music that should be preserved, played, and made available to scholars and musicians in perpetuity.”

Stowell noted the collection would not have been possible without the efforts of Michael Miller, the Germans from Russia bibliographer at the Library. He is a native of Strasburg, and a longtime friend of the Welk family.

Directors of Libraries John Beecher, chair of the Welk Collection committee, said, the collection represents valuable resource for the state, region and nation.

Plans call for the collection initially to be administered by the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, located in the NDSU Library, with occasional exhibits of portions of the collection at the Library. The music will be made available to musicians and researchers, including members of the Welk “musical family,” with future area and regional concerts a strong possibility.

Lawrence Welk was a son of German-Russian pioneers who emigrated from Black Sea German villages of the Ukraine in 1893 and homesteaded in south-central North Dakota. The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, located in the institute, is a major research center for the study of one of North Dakota’s major ethnic groups. Welk was awarded an honorary doctor of music degree at NDSU in 1965.

NDSU will actively acquire additional Welk-related materials such as photographs, artifacts, oral interviews, personal papers and other items. People who have Welk materials they would like to donate to the permanent collection are encouraged to contact the institute.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller