At the closing ceremony of the ACDA-MN Virtual State Conference, our organization had the opportunity to honor the exemplary work of three choral leaders. This was the first time in our history that three women were selected for these coveted awards. Here follows a summary of their amazing career stories:
Outstanding Young Choral Director
Stillwater High School
Katelyn Larson is a choir director at Stillwater Area High School and a private voice instructor in the Twin Cities. Her teaching experience includes work at the middle school, high school, and collegiate level. In Stillwater, Ms. Larson directs the advanced and developing treble choirs, teaches an extracurricular 9th-10th grade chamber ensemble, and serves as the vocal director for the Spring musical. She also teaches undergraduate coursework in vocal pedagogy at the University of St. Thomas and enjoys mentoring student teachers whenever possible. Ms. Larson frequently serves as an MSHSL contest judge and voice clinician at conferences, retreats, and festivals throughout the Midwest. Choirs under her direction have been selected to perform at the MN ACDA fall conference and the St. Olaf Choral Festival.
Prior to teaching in Stillwater, Ms. Larson taught at St. Francis High School and Middle School where she directed 7th-12th grade choirs, taught general music, and directed the SATB preparatory show choir, Prima Voce. Ms. Larson is a former associate editor of the American Choral Directors’ “Star of the North” online magazine and remains an active member of ACDA and MMEA, often serving as a section coach for the MN All-State Choirs. In 2018-19, she was the interim adult choir director at Colonial Church in Edina. Ms. Larson received her Bachelor of Music degree from St. Olaf College in 2011 and her Master of Arts degree in music education from the University of St. Thomas in 2018.
Minnesota Choral Director of the Year
Wayzata High School
Rebecca Hagestuen Wyffels has directed choral ensembles and taught Advanced Placement Music Theory at Wayzata High School, since 1986. Prior to that, Rebecca taught vocal music, grades 4-12, in Park Rapids, MN. Rebecca earned a B.A. from St. Olaf College and an M.M.E. from the University of Northern Colorado.
ACDA of Minnesota (ACDA-MN) honored Rebecca with the Outstanding Young Conductor Award in 1989. She has presented at ACDA-MN and MMEA conferences and also was a section leader for the MMEA All-State Choirs from 1990-98. Rebecca served as an education consultant to the Dale Warland Singers and also on the board of directors for ACDA-MN, MMEA, and MSHSL Region VIAA. She was a member of the 50th Anniversary Taskforce for ACDA-MN, and Rebecca also served on the planning committee for the 1998 North Central ACDA regional conference which was held in Minneapolis.
In 2013, Rebecca and her St. Olaf classmates were instrumental in organizing a fundraising campaign to create the Alice T. Larsen Memorial Scholarship, in honor of her mentor who was the conductor of St. Olaf College’s Manitou Singers. Alice was one of the first women to become a full professor at St. Olaf College and the first woman to conduct the MMEA All-State Choir. The memorial scholarship is awarded annually to an ACDA-MN woman choral conductor who wishes to pursue a graduate degree in choral conducting or music education.
The Wayzata High School Choir program, team-led by Jeff Dahl and Rebecca Wyffels, is a thriving program of 7 curricular and 3 co-curricular choral ensembles. Wayzata Concert Choir has performed at ACDA State and Regional Conferences, MMEA Conferences, the Minnesota Choral Arts Finale hosted by Concordia University/ACDA-MN, Luther College’s Dorian Invitational Choir Festival, the Choral Festival at Concordia College-Moorhead and St. Olaf College Choral Day.
The Wayzata HS Concert Choir was one of two high school choirs invited to perform in a unique collaboration between the Minnesota Orchestra and Minnesota Opera in 2001. Other collaborations include a performance in 2011 as one of two high school choirs on Magnum Chorum’s 20th Anniversary Concert and performances with Minnesota Youth Symphonies at Orchestra Hall. The Concert Choir has also enjoyed sharing concerts with choirs from Drake University, Iowa State University, and Wartburg College, and has recorded several pieces for Santa Barbara Music Publishing.
Wayzata HS choir students have worked in residence with Conspirare, where the singers experienced transformational artistry in clinics under the direction of Craig Hella Johnson. In 2018, Conspirare performed the Minnesota premiere of “Considering Matthew Shepard” at Wayzata HS.
Alumni from the Wayzata High School Choir program continue to sing in professional and volunteer choral ensembles including, Conspirare, Magnum Chorum, Minnesota Opera, Minnesota Chorale, The Singers-Minnesota Choral Artists and VocalEssence.
Blessed to grow up in a musical household, Rebecca sang in a church choir conducted by her mom and often heard her dad singing in their home. Rebecca lives in Plymouth with her husband, Curt, and they are parents of two adult children.
F. Melius Christiansen Lifetime Achievement Award
Minnesota Valley Women’s Chorale
Judy Sagen retired from School District 196 of Rosemount, Apple Valley, and Eagan Minnesota in the spring of 2011, after teaching choral music in the district for 37 years. She began her career at Valley Middle School, and later taught choirs at Rosemount High School, Eagan High School, and Eastview High School. She received her undergraduate degrees in Music Education and Piano Performance from Drake University, and her Master’s Degree from the University of Minnesota.
While teaching in District 196, Judy’s Concert Choirs and Women’s Choirs were featured performers at both the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) state and regional conferences, and the Minnesota Music Education Association (MMEA). Her choirs have toured Europe, the British Isles, and the Czech Republic, and have performed with world-renowned Chanticleer in a festival concert in the Twin Cities. Under her leadership, her groups have also performed the Mozart Vesperae Solennes de Confessore with the New York City Chamber Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, and participated in The North Star Choral Festival in New York City. One of the highlights was when her choir was selected as one of five high school choirs that performed the Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein with the MN Orchestra under the baton of Eiji Oue.
She has served as MN-ACDA President, R&S Chair for Women’s Choirs, Metro-East Chair, and has been a presenter at many state conventions. She also held the position of MMEA’s Vocal Vice-President and was in charge of All State Choirs. In the summer of 2002, she worked as co-head coordinator of all volunteers for the World Choral Symposium.
Judy is actively involved as a clinician and adjudicator around the tri-state area. She is recognized in Who’s Who of American Teachers, and Who’s Who of American Women, and was the recipient of The Christopher Randall Award given to an outstanding teacher in District 196. She was named the 2003-04 Minnesota Choral Director of the Year by the MN American Choral Director’s Association, and the 2009 MN Music Educator of the Year by the Minnesota Music Education Association. In the spring of 2011, Judy received the District 196 Outstanding Service Award recognizing her 37 years of excellence in teaching. In February of 2013 she was selected to conduct the Minnesota ACDA State 9-10 Honor Choir, and in April of 2013, she was the recipient of the South Suburban Service Award for her dedication and service to the South Suburban Conference. Judy was the 2017 recipient of Rosemount High School’s Legacy Award.
Since retirement, Judy continues to keep herself busy! Upon retirement, worked part time in Music Education at the University of Minnesota during the 2011-12 school year serving as an Instructional Artist in Residence, and continues to work with choral groups, assisting with musical productions. During the spring of 2013, she was the interim conductor of the choral group, Singers in Accord where she prepared the choir in authentic Hebraic Choral Music for guest conductor, Dr. Joshua Jacobson from Boston for their spring concerts at the Jewish Community Center in Minneapolis. She also was the guest conductor for the St. Paul Public High School Honor Choir Concert held at the Ordway Theater.
In its 10th season, Judy originated and continues to serve as Artistic Director of the Minnesota Valley Women’s Chorale, a 100 member women’s community choir south of the river. The MVWC was selected by invitation as one of five community choirs to perform in A Christmas Portrait with Mack Wilberg, conductor of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the ACDA-MN State Conference in 2017. Judy also worked as an adjunct professor at The University of St. Thomas in St. Paul where she served as the sabbatical replacement for Director, Dr. Angela Broeker.
Judy has worked as a teaching artist through the Hennepin Theatre Trust and the Minneapolis Jewish Community Center, where she has served as music director for a musical theatre workshop for adults with developmental disabilities. A special opportunity for Judy was being asked to conduct the Director’s Chorus at the Summer ACDA Conference at St. Olaf College in August of 2018.
Judy is married to Michael Atherton and they have two grown children.