Alumni Award of Excellence for 2000
Western Oregon University’s Alumni Association named 1973 graduates Marv and Rindy Ross recipients of the 2000 Alumni Award of Excellence.
The Rosses are being honored for bringing Oregon history to life in words and music as founders and members of the Trail Band. After 10 years of performing in the rock group Quarterflash and earning a platinum record for “Harden My Heart,” the Rosses were asked by the Oregon Trail Coordinating Council to create a new band and perform music exclusively from and about the era of the Oregon Trail to commemorate the trail’s sesquicentennial in 1993.
The Rosses blended their musical talents and love of Oregon’s history to write and produce the signature piece of Oregon Trail Celebration ’93, “Voices from the Oregon Trail.” They began by tracing the trail from Missouri to Oregon, immersing themselves in the physical experience of the journey. The trip was followed by extensive research of Oregon Trail diaries and period music. After an initial performance at the Oregon National Historic Trail Interpretive Center at Flagstaff Hill in May of 1992, “Voices” toured Oregon.
The Rosses love of history began in their youths. Marv’s interest began during childhood family trips around the state; Rindy’s when she heard stories of an ancestor who traveled the original Oregon Trail. That interest grew when they were students at WOU. “We had a history professor by the name of Gary Huxford, and he had a big influence on our interest in history,” Marv said.
At WOU, the Rosses formed a small band with the help of the Music Department. “My greatest memory of WOU is that the professors from the Music Department allowed us access to their musical instruments, materials and human resources. The professors would sit down and play music with us students who weren’t even music majors,” Marv said.
The Trail Band performs songs ranging from marches and hymns to hoe-downs and Native melodies. Concerts display the emotions and history of the Oregon Trail through the use of older instruments, such as the bassoon and walking stick recorder, brass instruments, fiddle and powerful a capella vocal performances. In addition, performers dress their parts in 19th century military-style band uniforms.
The Trail Band has released two very successful albums that provided soundtrack for Oregon Public Broadcasting’s televised specials on The Oregon Trail. Their music has also been used by the Portland Trailblazers, the Oregon Economic Development Department, and the Oregon Trail Council.
Oregon’s fourth graders might well second the selection of the Rosses as the recipients of the WOU Alumni Award of Excellence. Fourth grade is the year when Oregon’s history is studied, and the Rosses’ expertise and talent have proved to be a great resource. Printed materials were created for the classroom and a CD was recorded that featured songs from the past 150 years in Oregon. Classroom study preceded performances by the Trail Band. The Rosses’ commitment to historical accuracy, their ability to capture the Oregon Trail experience in words and music, and the cast and musicians they have assembled all combine to educate, inspire, and preserve a unique time in our nation’s history.
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