DUNSEITH Dale Hallack was teaching music in Oregon in 1966 when he first contacted the International Music Camp because of his interest in seeing Europe. Hallack, then 26, had never been a camper but hoped the camp would accept him for its annual European band tour.
Merton Utgaard, camp director, didn't see a spot for Hallack. Still, Utgaard encouraged him to send an audition tape anyway. Hallack sent the tape. The camp sent back an offer to join the summer teaching staff.
Hallack accepted the offer and has returned to the camp nearly every summer ever since. This year, the camp held a reception in honor of his 40th anniversary as a camp instructor.
Submitted Photo • Dale Hallack holds his saxophone in this photo from the International Music Camp.
"There's something about the camp that's kind of magic that happens with people," he said. "It's just not the average teaching situation. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here for 40 years."
His favorite part of the camp is the students. He's taught thousands of students from the United States, Canada and around the world.
"That's the thing that draws me back," he said. "They are really interested in learning how to play better. When you have students like that, it's great."
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Joanne Alme, formerly of Minot, remembers starting saxophone lessons in third grade with Hallack at music camp.
"Because he was so methodical and he was so careful about the way he described everything and the way he taught everything, I don't recall, literally, having struggles in the beginning whatsoever," she said.
Alme, who now runs a music school in Baltimore, said she wanted to play loud, fast jazz, and Hallack would slow her down to stress breathing and tone. As she improved and grew closer to the day when she would be able to play the jazz, he would dangle a carrot by picking up the saxophone and running off a sample.
"I got to the point where I couldn't wait until the next summer to show off what I had done that year. He was always very proud," she said.
In time, she became an instructor of saxophone and oboe at the camp, working alongside Hallack. It was a little intimidating, not just because he was such a good instructor but also because of the way he could play the saxophone, which she described as "mesmerizing."
"He's probably one of the most amazing lyrical players I have ever heard in my life," she said of the emotion in his music. "His tone is absolutely phenomenal."
Rita Garrity Knudson of Golden Valley, Minn., said she had never heard a professional level player of any kind perform until attending International Music Camp as a seventh-grader in the mid-1970s.
"It was a magical week. After that first session, I vowed to attend at least one, if not two - if my parents allowed - sessions at IMC every summer. And I did. Dale Hallack had a lot to do with that decision. I wanted to learn to play just like he did," she said.
Garrity Knudson said she didn't stick with the saxophone but six years ago picked it up again.
"I saw a poster for IMC in my son's middle school band room. I was thrilled to learn that not only did IMC offer a session for adult community band players, but Dale was still teaching saxophone. I signed up right away. Dale is still the extraordinary, classical saxophonist today that he was back then. I have attended workshops taught by internationally known classical saxophonists and, in my opinion, Dale outshines every last one of them." she said.
She described Hallack as even tempered, patient, exacting and methodical as a teacher. As an artist, Hallack, with his rich and pure sound, emotes as a singer would, she said.
"Dale's musical inspirations are not other classical saxophonists, but rather singers known for their impeccable phrasing and expression. This is why his sound is his own and unique onto him," Garrity Knudson said.
Tim Wollenzien, camp director, said the camp prides itself in offering the best instructors.
"Dale is certainly one of them. He's just a pleasure to have here," he said.
Hallack, who is semi-retired, substitute teaches in Reno, Nev., where he previously has taught full-time. He enjoys his free time because it gives him chance to do what he loves practice his alto sax. He plays three to four hours a day, saving his evenings for other things he enjoys, such as taking walks, riding bicycle or viewing a good movie.
"It's a very simple life, but I love it," he said.
When he feels like performing, his outlet is his church, Faith Lutheran. He also has traveled to participate in concerts when invited and performs regularly in the summer with the camp faculty band. Last year, he recorded his first full-length CD with pianist Diane Thornton.
Hallack's father, M. Dale Hallack, had played saxophone and clarinet with Lawrence Welk before the bandleader became famous. Hallack said Welk had told his father to stick with him because he was going to make it big, but his father found it unrealistic to think someone from a small town in North Dakota was going anywhere. He left Welk's band to teach music.
Dale Hallack was born in Michigan and grew up in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, New Mexico and Oregon as his father held various jobs in the music profession.
Around music all the time, Hallack gravitated toward the saxophone, first taking lessons from his father at age 10. He said he never felt pushed by his father. On the contrary, he said, "He used to get on my case for practicing too much, which is unusual. I just got hooked on it."
Receiving a music degree from Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., Hallack taught on the elementary and high school level. He taught in North Dakota at Edmore, Milton and Underwood in the 1970s. He also taught as a graduate assistant at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, where he received his master's degree, and at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Ore., where he did post-graduate work.
Hallack has been a soloist with the University of North Dakota Wind Ensemble, the University of Nevada Concert Band and the U.S. Navy Band in Seattle. While living in Billings, Mont., he performed with bands at shows on ice, Tom Jones and Ringling Brothers Circus.
"It's the hardest thing I have ever done," he said of the circus performance. It was three hours of playing with only a 15-minute intermission.
In his youth, he played with a Mandan orchestra and later with a Grand Island, Neb., band. These territory bands played a number of concerts around their regions.
"Most towns now are getting community bands, which is a good thing because it involves adults. So many times we teach kids how to play these instruments, then they get out of college and there's nothing for them to do," Hallack said.
The adult band session at the International Music Camp is a way for people to revive that band experience.
Bob van der Poel of Wynndel, B.C., has attended the adult sessions for the past 12 years. He looks forward to learning from Hallack each time he goes.
"Without doubt, he is a world-class saxophonist," he said. "Dale is modest to a fault and quick to share all of his 'secrets' with students."
Hallack said he is still learning when it comes to music.
"I am learning how to learn," he said, noting that one of the useful learning tools that he discovered is recording and listening to his own music. What he has learned about learning is making him a better teacher, he said.
Although he never attended the International Music Camp, Hallack has attended other music camps, studying under some renowned musicians.
"But I probably learned more about playing the saxophone from someone who didn't know how to play a saxophone," he said.
Gregory Stone, who composed scores for Paramount Pictures in Hollywood and later founded the Reno orchestra in 1969, became like a father to Hallack, giving him a prominent role in his orchestra.
"That's where I really learned to play saxophone because the attitude was, 'I don't care who you studied under. I don't care what your credentials are. I want to hear music,'" he said. "If you had some problems with a certain passage, you were going to have to work it out."
Hallack's involvement with International Music Camp has given him a chance to share his knowledge and pass on his love for playing to the next generation.
In 40 years, the educational aspect of the camp hasn't changed, he said. What has changed is the facilities. No longer does he have to haul water and warm it with an internal heater. The camp now has modern facilities, including a performing arts center, auditorium, faculty housing and music education building that weren't there in 1966.
Looking back on the years, Hallack said his time at the camp has been positive experience no matter what the facilities were like. That's why he's still coming.
And by the way, he did go on the European concert tour in 1966. He even took a second tour in 1974, performing as a featured soloist.