DUNSEITH – Governor Doug Burgum on Friday announced the late Merton Utgaard, award-winning musician, educator and longtime founder and director of International Music Camp, as the 47th recipient of the North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, the prize of the ‘State. the highest honor for its citizens.
Burgum presented the Rough Rider Award, symbolized by a bust of President Theodore Roosevelt, to the three Utgaard children ahead of a Friday night concert at the Music Camp during the 90th anniversary celebration of the International Peace Garden this weekend .
Utgaard founded the International Music Camp in 1956 at the International Peace Garden along the Canada-US border near Dunseith in north-central North Dakota. He served as the camp’s full-time director for 28 years, overseeing phenomenal growth and gaining international recognition for the music program, the International Peace Garden and North Dakota.
“With passion and vision, Dr. Utgaard founded the International Music Camp to provide a unique educational opportunity for young musicians from North Dakota, the United States and around the world”, Burgum said. “For more than 60 years, International Music Camp performers have spent their summers developing their musical talents and creating lasting memories. Under Dr. Utgaard’s leadership, International Music Camp has grown into a nationally and internationally recognized program supporting arts and culture in our communities and sharing North Dakota with the world.
Utgaard died on December 19, 1998, aged 84.
“We are extremely proud to accept this award on behalf of our father, Dr Merton Utgaard. He would be humbled and honored to be counted among the recipients of the Rough Rider Award,” said Utgaard’s daughter, Karen Rolston, of Mesa, Arizona. “Our father loved North Dakota. He was born and raised here, and although his teaching career took us to several other states, he returned to North Dakota in the late 1950s and always considered North Dakota his home. He loved music, teaching and young people. Since this was where he got his start in music, it was the logical place for him to start a music camp. He was a man of few words, but someone who made his voice heard with his love of music. He never stopped sharing this love with the citizens of North Dakota, the United States, Canada and many places around the world. We thank Governor Burgum and the Rough Rider Committee for this incredible honor and thank the Peace Garden for the spark you gave Dad, so he could achieve his dream.
Utgaard, a native of Maddock, and his wife, Noella, founded the International Music Camp in 1956. The idea of a music camp in North Dakota first came to Utgaard while teaching in a summer program at Ball State. After some thought and research, he remembers attending the dedication of the International Peace Garden in 1932 as an Eagle Scout and felt it would be an ideal location for a summer music camp for students from the United States and Canada. After personally recruiting for the camp from schools in North Dakota and with help from the International Peace Garden and the University of North Dakota, Utgaard launched the first International Music Camp on July 1, 1956, with 113 students and 19 directors present. The program grew rapidly, and in 1960 he was appointed the camp’s first full-time director, a position he would hold for 28 years.
Utgaard’s vision, perseverance and tireless efforts have helped make International Music Camp a world-renowned program serving more than 140,000 students and performers from 84 countries around the world. Today, in addition to music education, the International Music Camp offers week-long programs in dance, creative writing, painting, drawing, acting, and several other fine arts disciplines, with nearly 1,000 students this year served by a team of more than 150 artist-teachers from mid-June to early August.
In addition to his work founding and directing the International Music Camp, Utgaard was a dedicated public servant. He has served on numerous local, state, national and international boards and commissions, including the North Dakota Economic Development Commission and the Federation of ND Music Clubs. Among many awards, Utgaard received the ND Outstanding Music Educator Award and is a member of the ND Music Educators Hall of Fame.
Utgaard’s portrait will be unveiled and installed in the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Hall of Fame at the North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck at a later date.