Spartan Proud: Marty Erickson: It’s all about that bass.

March 21, 2017

mcc_erickson_leadSpartan Proud: Marty Erickson: It’s all about that bass.

Hometown lessons molded a career as a world renowned musician

Class of ’65 graduate


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Spartan Proud is sponsored by Mason County Central Schools. This series features alumni of Mason County Central telling their stories.

Martin D. “Marty” Erickson grew up in Scottville. He was born into a family that took music very serious. His mother, Margaret “Sunny” Erickson was a gifted musician, teacher, and composer, who also ran a small music store on North Main Street. His father, Earlan “Erik” Erickson, prior to his career as a wheelsman on the Ludington carferry fleet, was a singer in the Indiana University Army choir.

His mother’s influence and the influence of his high school band director, Gilbert F. Stansell I, directly led Marty, a tubaist, to choose a career in music, which included serving 26 years in the U.S. Navy Band. Today, Marty serves as instructor of tuba/euphonium and chamber music at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., a position he has held for 15 years. His wife, Alison Shaw, is director of percussion studies at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

With respects to my Mason Country Central experiences, the most positive of those include my parents and their friends and my teachers at Mason County Central,” Marty says. “My mother was a musician; a composer/band director/performer who was incredibly versatile. Because of her personal friendship with my band director during that time, Mr. Gilbert F. Stansell, my early years led me directly to the career I enjoy now.

“Mr. Stansell was the consummate musician and his passion, intellect and respect for the creative arts continues to guide the way I think about music and the arts. Between Mr. Stansell and my parents and their personal musician friends, I experienced the joy of performing, listening and earning an abiding respect for not only the arts but for my fellow man.

“Whenever I had a decision to make, the voices in my head guiding that decision were of those wonderful people. I learned about discipline and practicing to achieve perfection and through interacting with the band members, I learned the importance of teamwork, team-building, the art of positive communication and active listening and much more.

“Growing up in a smaller community and attending a smaller school was a plus for me rather than a drawback as we knew everyone and the clichéd phrase ‘it takes a village’ was certainly true. We all looked out for each other. So many of us that were in Mr. Stansell’s band went on to highly successful careers in many different fields of music, as we were given an appreciation of  and curiosity for exploring our interests and seeing possibilities in having careers in fields we loved.”

After graduating from MCC in 1965, Marty attended Michigan State University. There, he won an audition for the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, D.C. He served the Navy as the principal tuba player and became the auditions supervisor for the Navy band, was head of the brass section, chief-in-charge of the Navy Concert Band Division, and led the U.S. Navy Band Brass Quintet and Tuba-Euphonium Quartet.

“I moved away from Mason County simply because I won a position in the ‘World’s Finest U.S. Navy Band’ in Washington D.C., where I served for 26 years and raised a family. Following retirement, job offers led me to the next positions and opportunities, first at Penn State University and now at Lawrence University.

“I return to Mason County several times a year to visit my brother Al and his wife Karol and their family and to spend time with lifelong friends who were also in the Scottville Band. Many of the MCC graduates enjoy careers outside of music, but keep music in their lives, performing in local groups and supporting the arts. Two years ago our MCC Class of ’65 enjoyed our 50th Class Reunion with dinner and the sharing of wonderful memories and current lives with more than half of our original class. We all feel that this particular class was special, not only because we were together, but that so many of us enjoy the reunion and because this was a class of service and dedication, helping to start the MCC Education Foundation and more. We still have interest in each others’ lives and I am on Facebook with at least 15 of those classmates on a regular basis. They are caring, bright hard-working people and involved in enriching lives where they live now, whether it be in Mason County or around the U.S.

Marty was also the first student to receive a scholarship from the Scottville Clown Band and was an original attendee of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, where he continues to serve as the adjudication chairman for the annual Leonard Falcone International Euphonium Tuba Festival. He is also the current president of the International Tuba Euphonium Association and a life member of the Scottville Clown Band.

Marty has traveled the world as a professional tubaist. He performed solo at Carnegie Hall in New York City and even has helped to design the Erickson Model E-flat tuba for the Getzen Company.

MCC still holds a place in his heart and he has some favorite stories about the school:

“There was the time math teacher Cyril Hemmer climbed to the top of the flag pole at a Spartan football game to untangle the U.S. flag, which had become wrapped around the pole in a blinding rain prior to the playing of the National Anthem by Mr. Stansell and the Spartan Band.

“As so many of us more “mature graduates” know, there was a tradition of honking our car horns as we drove by O’Neil “Boots” Newkirk’s house on the highway. He was a history teacher, coach and for many of us, the driver’s education teacher who taught with joy and had the best laugh you could hear echo through the hallways at MCC. Even though he is no longer with us, I still honk my horn when I pass his old place. His son, O’Neil “James” Newkirk was my classmate.

“I was a terrible Latin student (might have scrambled to get a B- or C) but learned so much from Mrs. Andresen (not Anderson!). As it turns out, all of those Latin terms found their way into much of my classical music.

“I had some great teachers at MCC all the way from elementary school, through middle school and high school. In the past, many of those teachers/counselors attended our reunions; Earl Keith, Mr. Hemmer, Richard and Marilyn Chambers, Coach Detrich and Duane Ingraham were some from my era. What was instilled in all of us at MCC was the sense of family, pride in our school and community and a genuine interest in each others’ lives as we grow older. I’m hoping that many more generations of young people get to experience those same feelings at MCC.”

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