If students are willing to come back to school decades after they have graduated to honor a teacher, there must have been something special about the man. And there was.
Dr. Edwin Kruth died at 90 years old Feb. 22 of this year. His legacy at SF State is made of more than 40 years in the school’s music department where he led the wind ensemble and department to become a world-renowned institution.
“In the ’60s he really had this place hopping and thriving,” said Martin Seggelke, who now conducts the wind ensemble. “He’s the person who really made the program what it was in those days. He touched the lives of so many people.”
The ensemble, made up of more than 50 trumpets, horns and percussion, will be performing pieces in Kruth’s honor. During one song, Seggelke will leave and a lone spotlight will shine upon an empty podium in the center of the stage.
About 150 alumni and former students of Kruth’s are expected to be there, a few of which graduated school as far back as 1950. A special band made up of 40 alumni was put together just for the occasion, and they will also be performing. Some are even flying in from out of state.
“He’s kind of a legend,” said Joe Schillaci, a faculty member who is helping to organize the event.
Tony Striplen, a lecturer at SF State and member of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, learned from Kruth that “there are no short cuts to achieving a high standard in any discipline.”
“He demanded and got the best of the students in his bands because of high standards,” Striplen added in an email. “I believe many of us who played for Dr. Kruth had feelings that ran the full range, from admiration, fear and anger, to respect and reverence.”
Seggelke had the idea for the memorial concert when he was hired at the beginning of the semester. He had heard of Kruth’s influence and contribution to the program, and as head of the wind ensemble and a conducting teacher himself, he felt the need to pay tribute.
“One of my ideas just spawned the next and here we are,” Seggelke said. “I didn’t expect it to be this big, but I’m very happy with it.”
The concert is not only celebrating the life of Kruth, but also the rebirth of the wind ensemble. The band was without a conductor for five years and had dwindled to about a dozen students who would meet up and play. Seggelke has revived the ensemble back to over 50 members.
“Within the last few years, and with this internationally-known conductor, the department has been rebuilt,” said Wendell Hanna, SF State professor in music education. “He has reached out to students who aren’t music majors.”
At one time, the music and dance department had over 600 majors, said Seggelke. They are now limited to around 300 because of budget cutbacks, though demand to enter the program is still high.
“Many of the alumni, some of which have very powerful teaching positions, are sad, to say the least, about the condition this program was in,” Seggelke said. “And they are all thrilled that something is going on again.”