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CLEAR LAKE | Years ago, a young musician approached band director Lud Wangberg and asked him how he was ever going to learn a difficult piece of music.

Smiling, Wangberg told him, "Go in the woodshed. Put the music down on the wood pile. Practice it until you can play it."

Many memories have been shared this week about Wangberg, legendary band director in Clear Lake for more than half a century, who died Saturday in Rogers, Minnesota. He was 94.

Longtime Mason City music teacher and musician Harvey VonWald said Wangberg had the kind of personality in which he could get along with anyone.

"I don't remember him ever being angry," said VonWald, who first met Wangberg more than 50 years ago when VonWald was teaching in Northwood before a long career in the Mason City school system.

"I still have a plaque he gave me years ago. It was in appreciation for my 50 years in the Clear Lake Municipal Band," he said.

VonWald said Wangberg was a great musician. "He could play the French horn as fast as anyone," he said. "Carlton Stewart (noted Mason City band director) said, 'Lud could play in anybody's band.'" 

Jim Reynolds, a retired Clear Lake band instructor, first played for Wangberg as a fifth- and sixth-grade student, then in the Clear Lake High School Band and then in the Clear Lake Municipal Band.

"He loved kids," said Reynolds. "He was always enthusiastic. He never got down on himself or anyone else. He was always a lot of fun."

Reynolds said a lasting tribute to Wangberg is the large number of his students who have had careers as professional musicians or music teachers.

Mike McEniry, who retired this year as a Mason City High School band director, said he played for a few years with the Clear Lake Municipal Band while Wangberg was the director.

"He spent his life with music. As the municipal band director, he really knew how to pick a program that would entertain the audience and that the band enjoyed playing," McEniry said. "He was always positive and upbeat and had a great sense of humor."

Wangberg taught at Clear Lake High School for 34 years and directed the Drum & Bugle Corps, as well as the choirs at Zion Lutheran Church and Galilean Lutheran Church.

He was instrumental in building the bandshell in City Park where he directed the Clear Lake Municipal Band from 1951 to 2006. The bandshell is named in his honor.

Wangberg came from a musical family. His father was a baritone soloist and violinist, and his mother was a soprano who played the mandolin.

Despite the musical heritage and Wangberg's given name, Ludvig, he was not named after Beethoven, he said in a 2006 interview with the Globe Gazette. He was named for a Norwegian immigrant who was his father's friend. 

In that same interview, he recalled that at age 10, he saw John Philip Sousa lead his band at Madison, South Dakota, and especially loved the way he conducted "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

He decided then he would some day lead a band — and he did, for more than 50 years.

A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Clear Lake Bandshell in City Park. In case of rain, the service will be at Galilean Lutheran Church in Clear Lake.


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