BISMARCK, ND — Dennis Gowen remembers going on walks and hikes as a kid in his beautiful home state of Maine. The stunning vistas provided a canvas for the tunes and melodies that he would hear in his head.

“When I reached the view or pinnacle, I would hear sounds that have color and depth,” said Gowen, during an interview with a television reporter.

Today, decades later, Gowen has taken a similar path towards composing a musical masterpiece for band. Only this time his inspiration has come from his experiences hiking the buttes and rolling hills of the Badlands, Yellowstone and many corners of the Northern Plains. Mix in the imagination gleaned from reading the University of Mary 2016 Campus Read book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and Gowen quickly realized these adventures on foot and in his mind provided a unique opportunity for musical expression.


“I was then intrigued by the notion, and after reading Krakauer’s book, began reading a whole host of other books, namely Wild by Cheryl Strayed (focusing on the Pacific Crest Trail) and several by authors who had either partially or completely thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail,” added Gowen, who is professor of music and director of bands at the University of Mary. “Having undertaken many hikes, I recognized a kinship of determination and perseverance that seemed to link all of the books’ subjects together. Indeed, during many of my hikes over the years, I’ve found music coming to mind in certain shapes and sounds.”

Gowen’s interpretation has gone from his eyes to his soul to his computer to his sheet music to his band — a serious set of step-by-step tools for a new music piece that makes its public debut Sunday, March 20, at 3 p.m., in the Our Lady of the Annunciation Chapel on campus as part of the annual Spring Band Concert. According to Gowen, this concert, which is free and open to the public, also features numbers that were a big hit on a recent tour through Billings, Richardton and Williston.

Along with working in a couple of outstanding vocal students for his piece, Gowen has enlisted the talents of freshman pianist Daniel Plunkett, a music major from Clarkston, MI. Plunkett produced two or three ragtime offerings that add a sense of adventure.

“When people who have hiked and been on any excursion hear this piece, I hope they come away with intrigue and a sense of story as to what I feel or who I am,” added Gowen. “My band composition, which will be named shortly before the concert, seeks to honor that spirit of perseverance that permeates each soul about whom I’ve recently been taken on an adventure.”

The piece is just over seven minutes in length. Although that’s pretty typical for a single movement piece, it’s a mere snapshot considering Gowen’s lifetime worth of reflection dating back to his childhood days in Maine.