Music Teacher Feature: Jon Larson

by Luke Taylor, Minnesota Public Radio
October 22, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Classical MPR's new series, the Music Teacher Feature, highlights the lives and work of music teachers throughout Minnesota.

Jon Larson
Director of High School Orchestras
Moorhead High School
Moorhead, Minn.

Who or what inspired you to become a music teacher?

My mother was a high school choir director (at Minnetonka High School). She was an excellent soprano soloist and pianist. She taught me piano from age four on, she encouraged me to play the violin, and she provided a myriad of opportunities to sing and play music. It is because of her influence and encouragement that I continued in music.

What would you say is your primary instrument?

Violin and voice are my primary instruments. Piano is a close secondary instrument.

Where did you go to college?

I have a BA from Bethel College in St. Paul and a Masters degree in Music Education from the University of Minnesota.

What are the orchestras you direct?

I conduct the high school orchestras, which include a Concert Orchestra, full Symphony Orchestra and a Chamber Orchestra.

In what ways do you try to encourage your students to appreciate and participate in music?

It is my goal to provide the highest musical training for my students and to expose them through performance to a wide variety of music and performers. Our orchestras tour every year performing exchange concerts with other high school orchestras, attending professional and university-level concerts, working with top orchestral clinicians, and participating in music contests and festivals.

What's one of the most memorable moments you've had in the classroom (or had while teaching music)?

My most memorable moments are when my students perform with their hearts and make such beautiful music that they are overcome with emotion.

Do you have a story of an experience where music education made a difference in a student's life?

A last-chair trumpet player in my Symphony Orchestra enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school. He was just a fair musician at best and had enrolled in high school orchestra because his friends were in it. At Army Basic Training, there was a call for anyone who had played an instrument in high school to attend a meeting. He went to the meeting and found himself assigned to a music detail. The Army provided him with an instrument, lessons, daily required practice time and rehearsals. He became a trumpeter with an Army Jazz Ensemble that toured the West Coast performing almost 200 gigs a year. On leave, he came back to school to thank me for keeping him in the orchestra. He told me to continue encouraging the kids in orchestra to stay with music, especially those who may not excel on their instrument. For him, his instrument became his profession in the Army.

Do you participate in music outside the classroom?

I play violin with the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra, substitute in the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony, and I am very involved with the music program at Bethel Free Church in Fargo, N.D.

If you were to host an on-air program at Classical MPR, what would be the first piece you'd play? Brahms Violin Concerto, Itzhak Perlman performing

What is it about that piece that makes it special to you?

I received a recording of Itzhak Perlman performing the Brahms Violin Concerto as a gift when we were expecting our first child. It was on a cassette, and I would put it on continuous play when our baby would take naps. It came to the point that we would run this recording all night. This continued through all our children. I can recall getting up in the middle of the night to check on our kids and the second movement had just begun. What a wonderful moment. All of my kids have gone on in music to teach and perform.

Listen to Classical MPR in Fargo-Moorhead on KCCM 91.1 FM


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