On this date in 1987, The Bismarck Tribune reported that Daniel Preston was still singing at 90 years old. Mr. Preston had a long and storied career as a singing instructor in the area, starting at the Moorhead Normal School, which is now Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Preston was born in 1896 in Bangor, Wisconsin. As a young boy he wanted to be a forest ranger, but his mother insisted he take violin lessons. When he went to Lawrence University in Wisconsin he still hoped to major in forestry, but didn’t care for the required science classes. So, he decided to major in music.
Once he graduated, he had a job offer from the Moorhead Normal School, but due to World War I, he would have to serve six months in the army first. After the war he asked the Normal School if he could still have the job, and after getting accepted, he arrived in Moorhead with his wife Ruth in January of 1919. He took over directing music and started a choir. He also composed the school song, which is still in use.
Mr. Preston was most famous in the Fargo-Moorhead area for directing and co-founding the Amphion Chorus in 1930. The chorus was comprised of 100 local men and was nationally renowned. The chorus toured the country, including the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 and Carnegie Hall in New York City. One critic in New York declared, “It is quite possible that they are the finest group of male singers in America today.” Unfortunately, the Amphion Chorus had to cancel its 1941 tour of Europe for obvious reasons.
Mr. Preston left Moorhead in 1948 to become the chair of the music department at Pacific University in Oregon. He retired from there in 1962 and returned to Fargo. He worked as a music consultant for the Episcopal Churches in North Dakota and directed a boys’ choir and the choir at Gethsemane Episcopal Cathedral in Fargo. He received a prestigious Bicentennial Service Award from Moorhead State University in 1976. Mr. Preston continued to teach singing until a stroke in early 1987. He hoped to get back to teaching, using a method he learned in the 1920s from Russian singers who had fled the Bolshevik takeover of Imperial Russia, but Mr. Preston passed away in August of ‘87, a few months before his 91st birthday.
Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa
Associated Press, “Song Man Warbling at Age 90,” The Bismarck Tribune, May 27, 1987, pg. 2B.
Lundquist, Tom, “Press Release,” Moorhead State University Information Service¸ October 4, 1976.
McEwen, Craig, “Dan Preston Still Living Life of Music,” Fargo Forum, May 6, 1979, pg. C1, C6.
Watkins, Grace V., “They Hail From the Red River Valley,” The Etude, July 1947, pg. 366, 413.
Zaiser, Catherine, “Dan Preston: He’s Been Music in F-M for nearly 55 years,” Fargo Forum, May 24, 1987, pg. F1, F5.