The ACDA-MN awards program, which recognizes and affirms the outstanding accomplishments of choral conductors at various career levels, was presented at the annual Award Luncheon during the state conference weekend on Saturday, November 21.  Three recipients, nominated by their peers, received these respective awards for 2015:

Laura Odden, Milaca High School
Outstanding Young Choral Director Award

David L. Mennicke, Concordia University
Minnesota Choral Director of the Year

Larry McCaghy, Lakeville High School (ret)
Melius Christiansen Lifetime Achievement Award

Their career bios appear as follows:


Laura-Odden-State-Award-Winner-2015Laura Odden was born and raised in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.  She was a member of two honor choirs and one All-State Choir (5th, 7th and 12th grade) and has been under the direction of many great names in the choral community throughout her life.  Upon graduating from Fergus Falls Senior High School, she attended Fergus Falls Community College (now known as M-State-Fergus Falls). In 2004 she earned her Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts. Her undergraduate studies were completed at Minnesota State University Moorhead where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Vocal and Classroom Music (K-12) in the spring of 2007

Now teaching in Milaca, MN, she is the Director of Choirs for grades 7-12 since 2008.  She has spent her tenure there conducting the Concert Choir, Varsity Choir and 7th & 8th grade choirs, continuing to build a strong program in a greatly supportive music community.  In 2013, she received school-board approval to create an auditioned extra-curricular Chamber Choir. This group is actively involved performing for various venues throughout the community.  In addition to that, she was an advocate for the creation of sixth grade choir in her district, which began during the 2014 year with nearly every student in that grade opting to participate. She continues to be an educator of vocal health; something her students can easily vouch for.  She also stays busy teaching piano and voice lessons for a number of students in Milaca and the surrounding areas.

In 2013, she completed her Master’s Degree in Vocal Music Education at North Dakota State University.  She has been a section leader for a regional honor choir, Unum Vox, and is actively involved in the American Choral Directors Association and National Association for Music Education.  Through American Choral Director’s Association, she’s been given the opportunity to participate in Summer Dialogues, conventions, and is a co-chair for the 9-10 Women’s State Honor Choir.  Her time learning and being refreshed at the various ACDA conventions and activities have given her the chance to meet many incredible colleagues and learn from their humbling expertise.


David-Mennicke-(State-Award-Winner)David L. Mennicke is Professor of Music and Chair of the Concordia University, St. Paul Music Department, where he has been Director of Choral Studies since 1989.  He is also the Director of the Senior, Men’s and Youth Choirs at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, where he has worked since 1996.  Mennicke graduated summa cum laude from St. Olaf College in 1983.  After teaching 7-12 vocal music in Benson, MN, he earned masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Arizona where he studied with Kenneth Jennings, Helmuth Rilling, Robert Shaw, Maurice Skones, and Dale Warland.

Under Mennicke’s direction, the Concordia University, St. Paul Christus Chorus has sung at several state conferences of the Minnesota Music Educators Association and the American Choral Directors Association of Minnesota.  They have also performed for the national conferences of the North American Academy of Liturgy and the College Music Society. The Christus Chorus has received six invitations to perform with the Minnesota Orchestra since 1997, including performances of Schönberg’s Gurrelieder and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.  Since 2006, the choir has hosted (along with ACDA of Minnesota) the annual Choral Arts Finale, an auditioned, premier high school choral festival with a nationally renowned clinician and gala concert at Orchestra Hall.

Mennicke has been a clinician for over 250 festivals and guest choirs.  In 1992, ACDA of Minnesota named him “Outstanding Young Director of the Year”, and he received their first “Creative Programming Award” in 1996.  He conducted the 1999-2000 MN All-State Elementary Choir, the National Lutheran Choir in 1998, 2006 and 2011, and the Lutheran Summer Music Festival in 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2005, and the 2009-2010 MMEA All-State Men’s Choir.  He received ACDA of Minnesota’s World Symposium on Choral Music grant to attend the 2014 conference in Korea.  He recently completed a sabbatical residency at Dar al-Kalima University in Bethlehem, offering choral clinics in Jordan, Palestine, and Israel in the fall of 2014.

Mennicke has choral arrangements, services, music education materials, and articles published by Concordia Publishing House, Morningstar, ALCM, AGEHR, Lutheran Forum, Choir and Organ, Interval, and the Star of the North.  He has served ACDA in state and divisional leadership.  He is currently on the boards of the Minnesota College and University Council for Music,, the Minnesota Music Educators Association, and an advisory board member for the Minnesota Boychoir, the Guyana Lutheran Music Academy, and ComMUSICation.  A tenor soloist, he was a member of the Grammy Award-winning Oregon Bach Festival Chorus and is currently a professional singer in the Minnesota, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Beethoven Festival Chorales.


Larry-McCaghy-State-Award-Winner-2015Loren (Larry) McCaghy is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, where he sang under the direction of Caldwell Johnson. He graduated in 1963 with a BA in Comprehensive Music Education, certified to teach both vocal and instrumental music, K-12. As a student at Eau Claire he helped organize and then directed for two years the first jazz band on campus. He went on to the University of Minnesota to earn an MA in Musicology with a minor in Vocal Music Education. Further study in choral music has included advanced courses at the University of Minnesota and various workshops led by notable conductors including Paul Christiansen, Marcel Couraud, Robert DeCormiere, Kenneth Jennings, Phil Mattson, Doug McEwen, and John Rutter. Over the years the sharing of ideas and techniques that is the essence of ACDA-MN Summer Dialogue has been of immeasurable help in his teaching and conducting.

Mr. McCaghy taught in the Lakeville Public Schools for 34 years, beginning in 1965. His choirs at Lakeville High School consistently earned superior ratings in State-Region competition and earned top honors in competitive festivals in Florida, Wisconsin and Toronto. Members of his choirs participated in two European tours with performances in Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic. The “Now and Then Singers”, his Lakeville High School jazz choir, appeared numerous times on state convention programs of both MMEA and ACDA-MN and in March, 1994 was featured at the ACDA North Central Division Convention in Rapid City. Larry McCaghy was named “Minnesota Choir Director Of The Year” by ACDA in 1995. He has also been honored with a “Friend of Education Award” by Lakeville Public Schools and a special award as “Musical Ambassador” by the City of Lakeville.

Since retiring from Lakeville High School in 1999, Larry McCaghy has taught part-time at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault for two years, coached the extra-curricular Apple Valley High School Jazz Singers for five seasons including a festival at Carnegie Hall, directed “Harmonic Relief”, a community-based pop/show choir for five seasons, and is currently serving as vocal coach and pianist for “Shoop Jazz”, a Twin Cities semi-professional vocal jazz ensemble. In collaboration with Denis Allaire he taught for three summers a weeklong graduate course on vocal jazz education at the University of St. Thomas. He is also in his sixteenth year as composer/arranger and music director for Giant Step Children’s Theatre, affiliated with Lakeville Community Education, which produces two original musical plays a year involving children from second grade through high school.

During his professional career he served on various special committees for ACDA-MN, the Minnesota State High School League and the Minnesota Department of Education. He has been a frequent contest and All-State Choir audition adjudicator and has presented clinic sessions on vocal jazz at the Minnesota Summer Dialogue, the ACDA Student Symposium, the MMEA Collegiate Clinic and at Twin City area schools. His experience while managing the All-State Choir as MMEA Choral Vice-President in the early 1990s led him to strongly advocate for the multiple choir format in place today, which provides this wonderful musical opportunity for many more of our young singers. Other professional activities have included serving as R&S Chair for Vocal Jazz for ACDA-MN and he hosted the “Star Of The North Vocal Jazz Festival” at Lakeville for several years. He was Music Representative on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota State High School League from 1991 to 1995. He is most appreciative of the opportunity to work with the dedicated members of the F. Melius Endowment Fund Committee in furthering the mission of the endowment to “foster Minnesota’s reputation for choral excellence” by awarding scholarships to assist young choral musicians in their professional development. He served several years on the Investment Subcommittee and as chair of the Scholarship Subcommittee.

Larry McCaghy and his wife of 52 years, Faith, have served as volunteer music ministers at All Saints Catholic Church in Lakeville since 1966. They are the proud parents of seven adult children and are enjoying their nineteen grandchildren. He has been an active member of the Lakeville Lions Club for over 40 years and has been the recipient of a Melvin Jones Fellowship Award and two Helen Keller Awards for his service to his club and community.