Mitchell honored with Robert M. McCowen Award

-Submitted photo
Larry Mitchell received the Robert M. McCowen Award for Lifetime Achievement on Thursday at Central College in Pella. Mitchell, a long-time Fort Dodge Senior High choral music director, delivered his acceptance speech at the Iowa Choral Directors Association summer symposium.

Larry Mitchell, long-time Fort Dodge Senior High choral music director, recently received the Iowa Choral Directors Association’s most prestigious recognition, The Robert M. McCowen Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Mitchell delivered his acceptance remarks onThursday at the closing concert of the ICDA Summer Choral Symposium on the campus of Central College, Pella.

McCowen, professor of music at Iowa State University, was a leader in choral music in Iowa. Music was his tool to serve mankind and that was obvious in the sincere relationships he developed with students and professional colleagues. To honor the work of McCowen, ICDA created the award in 1967 and has presented it to 36 recipients who reflect his lifetime of work.

Mitchell’s professional career spanned 38 years starting in Orange Township School District (Waterloo), a semester at Iowa State University, and 31 years at Fort Dodge Senior High.

His goal to study veterinary science at Iowa State University was derailed when he began singing for Robert McCowen, who became his mentor and directed him to his calling as a music educator, completing his degree at Iowa State Teachers College/University of Northern Iowa.

His choral ensembles performed at festivals, state, regional and national conventions. Larry produced and directed more than 80 productions of more than 60 musicals over his career. He authored “A Practical Handbook for Musical Theatre,” which continues to be in demand and is now in the fifth edition. A life member of the American Choral Directors Association, he served ICDA, the Iowa Music Educators Association and the Iowa High School Music Association in numerous leadership roles.

In 1968, The Comedia Musica Players, a semi-professional adult troupe, was founded and introduced the Fort Dodge Community to dinner theatre producing a musical every year for 50 years. The consummate educator, Mitchell was in demand as a guest director, clinician, speaker, mentor, workshop presenter, music event host, actor, singer and author.

Mitchell introduced hundreds of young people to showcasing their musical talents for the first time. It is ironic that Victor Herbert’s “Naughty Marietta” was his last production at FDSH — “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life at last I found thee.”


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