« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Jeff Kolpack, Published September 19 2009

Music man: NDSU defensive lineman Mike Fairbairn also an accomplished musician

He makes for a valuable North Dakota State football teammate for a variety of reasons. For one, Mike Fairbairn’s level-headed demeanor brings a sense of maturity to the Bison defense.

For another, he’s available to sing at weddings and it’s a good bet he’ll have a few in the next several years. He sang at three weddings of football players last summer and if anybody associated with the team is looking for somebody good, it would be hard to find somebody better than Fairbairn.

He’s already scheduled for a few next summer.

“It’s a blast. I get to do what I like to do and then go hang out with my friends,” he said.

Fairbairn has hung out on the Bison defensive line for four years now and has been a steady contributor every year. At 299 pounds, he’s responsible for clogging the middle and he’s been good at that.

That’s what fans have seen since 2006.

But what they haven’t seen is one of the true talents on campus. He’s an accomplished singer and an astute musician on the piano and most of the brass instruments.

“He’s really quite talented,” said Jo Ann Miller, professor and director of choral activities at NDSU. “He knows how to make something expressive.”

Football players and music majors are an uncommon pair. Miller said the last football player to be an accomplished musician on campus was former basketball player and football quarterback Craig Aamot, who finished his career in 1995.

“Craig was really a beautiful singer and a gifted leader,” she said. “Mike is similar in that regard.”

Fairbairn gave Bison fans a glimpse of his singing ability two years ago when he sang the national anthem before almost 16,000 fans at the Southern Utah game. He said he’s often asked if he’ll do it again.

His response: combining the two is too nerve-wracking.

“It was cool to do it once,” he said. “But I lost all my focus before that game.”

Fairbairn is a music education major with a goal of teaching and coaching. But it appears he’ll give professional performing a shot first.

He likes performing in classic ensembles and he has an eye on a couple: the Chanticleer singing group based out of California and Cantus male vocal ensemble out of Minnesota.

“If that doesn’t work, I’ll try whatever I can find,” Fairbairn said.

While at NDSU, he was casted in an opera and has done several choir performances. He’s scheduled to be in a play next summer called “The Secret Garden.”

In high school, he performed in five musicals including “Oklahoma” and “Guys and Dolls.” From a peer pressure standpoint, it wasn’t always easy combining football and theatre.

“You’re going to get kids that don’t understand what is going on there,” Fairbairn said. “At first, people kind of question, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ But as you progress in it, people understand it’s actually interesting, unique and cool, so people start buying into what you’re doing.”

Football and music may be on the opposite ends of the physical ability scale, but there are similarities. There’s competition in both.

The philosophies are more similar than most people think, Fairbairn said, citing team work and unity. Tonight, the team work will be in the form of trying to stop the Wagner College offense in the season opener at the Fargodome.

Fairbairn admits to the butterflies before football games and musical performances, but deals with them in different ways.

In music, you want to try and relax yourself, he said. In football, he makes the aggression switch.

“I’ve been doing it for so many years, the switch has come natural,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546