June 27, 2008
Department of Music, 657-2350
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269
MSU Billings students and faculty to benefit from library worker's love of music
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — When Jeff Edgmond was alive, his was a relatively quiet existence.
Aside from tympani work performed like clockwork over the course of four decades with
the Billings Symphony Orchestra, the short, demure man was best known for a stint
of radio programs and his devotion to information at Parmly Billings Library and later
at the Montana State University Billings library.
This week, however, with all the closing power of a Wagner opera, Edgmond’s passion had an immeasurable impact.
Edgmond, a government documents technician with the MSU Billings library for more than 25 years, died from pancreatic cancer earlier this month. Justly as importantly, he had a deep passion for music, and after his funeral last weekend, his family decided that it was fitting for college students to benefit from Edgmond’s enthusiasm.
On Thursday, an estimated 10,000 compact discs, record albums, cassette tapes and 8-track tapes — a zeal for music embodied in stacks of plastic and vinyl — began arriving at the MSU Billings Department of Music at Cisel Hall. An obituary published just after his death said that Edgmond “enjoyed most all types of music and had many records, tapes and CDs,” but nobody was fully prepared for what arrived at the university this week.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Dr. Gary Behm, who recently retired from 29 years of teaching at MSU Billings, 27 of those as department chair.
Faculty, staff and students worked together to load a small U-Haul truck at Edgmond’s small central Billings home and then unload it at the university. Stacks of old albums and new CDs were hefted one armload at a time into Cisel Hall, where the music faculty and students learn, practice and share their love of music.
“And this is just the start of it,” said Ashlee Young and Katie Ellis, two junior music majors who were working on the move.
Next to an old vinyl copy of the soundtrack of “The Sound of Music” was a rare Shostakovich LP which was next to a box of CDs that contained a mixture of classical and jazz music. Starting another long line of albums was a copy of record issued in the early in the Cold War by The Three Young Men (From Montana) which was next to a colorful album from Andre Kostelanetz.
Ken Gilstrap, who teaches the technology courses for the music department, noted a number of 8-track tapes of four-channel recordings of noted operas.
“This is unusual to find,” Gilstrap said.
He also noted that while the format was unusual, Edgmond also had the equipment to play the music and that will be coming to MSU Billings as well. Combined, Behm and Gilstrap valued the donation in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The next task for the music department, said Dorothea Cromley, longtime piano instructor, is to seek grant funding to pay for the staff time and specialized equipment that can help catalog the music so that it can be used by students. Once the items are sorted and reviewed for any possible damage, they will be sorted into cabinets for safekeeping.
“We sat down and figured out that even if we started today and spent just a few minutes on each one, there wouldn’t be enough time this summer to catalog everything,” said Young.
While the Jeff Edgmond collection might not be available for student and faculty use this fall semester, it is expected that it might be ready in early 2009.