Dr. Larsen named Outstanding
By Robert Green
A Snow College music professor who hopes his students understand that he is here for them, and not the other way around, has just been named Utah’s Outstanding Music Educator of the Year at the Utah Music Educators Association conference in February.
Dr. Vance Larsen, Chairman of the Horne School of Music and educator for 31 years, enjoys working with young people and watching them grow and accomplish their educational goals.
“Music students arrive at Snow College with varying degrees of preparation,” he said. “But it is particularly rewarding when a student who arrived less prepared outpaces his or her colleagues through dedicated, hard work.”
During his tenure, Larsen has found that teaching is much like parenting. He adheres to the wisdom of his mentor Dr. Max Dalby, who said that in order to be successful music educators, “we need to teach our students to be musically independent to the point we were no longer necessary.”
In this respect, Larsen said, “I hope that I inspire native curiosity in my students, so that they continue to learn once they leave the institution.”
Larsen is getting to the point he may consider retiring in a few years to travel, write, pursue his hobbies and enjoy his grandchildren.
He suspects, however, that he will always be teaching. “I have a few years left before I retire,” he said, “but wouldn’t mind teaching a class here and there after I ‘turn over my keys.’”
Along the way, teaching has given Larsen a lot of satisfaction: A music student who attended Snow College a dozen years ago just recently came to Larsen’s office to thank him for helping him stay in school during his second year. “I remembered how hard he had worked to perfect an exposed part in a concert band piece we performed at the College Band Director’s National Association Conference in Reno, Nev. in 2008,” Larsen said. “His seeking me out to thank me for helping him all these years later is an example of how rewarding education can be as a career.”
Larsen is particularly proud of his accomplishment to create Snow College’s unique and innovative Bachelor of Music with Emphasis in Commercial Music degree. This program requires all of the music faculty at Snow College to surf the crest of wave of the rapidly changing music industry, he said.
Snow College is a unique place, he said, because the faculty is all working together to accomplish the same goals instead of being at odds with each other.
To avoid burnout after 31 years, Larsen said he has found it necessary to continually reinvent himself as a teacher. He has done this by designing and teaching new courses. He has been so busy in fact, that he really hasn’t had time to “burn out.”
Larsen has served as both Director of the Horne School of Music and Dean of the Fine Arts Division at Snow. During his tenure in these leadership positions, the music program at the college has seen significant growth in enrollment and quality
Dr. Larsen has been instrumental in the introduction of contemporary music study into the music history curriculum at Snow, having written courses on jazz and popular music, rock music history and the history of rap and hip hop.
He has also worked to integrate contemporary music into the performance curriculum, using pop and rock music groups as a lab experience for advanced performance students.
Dr. Larsen also has considerable experience in the public schools, where he taught for five years and was named UMEA “Rookie of the Year.”
He has had a distinguished career as a field artillery officer in the Army National Guard and has served as a Firing Battery Commander and Battalion Executive Officer. His military career culminated with an assignment as a Field Artillery Battalion Commander, where he presided over two successful active duty deployments. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after 27 years of service.
Larsen holds degrees from Snow College, Utah State University, Brigham Young University and a PhD from the University of Utah.
Larsen is proud of building the very best music program at Snow College that he possibly could. “I’ve set a high bar for Snow students,” he said, “but always provided the support they need to accomplish their goals.”