Making a difference: Rene Clausen

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(MOORHEAD) Valley News Live There's a time during the Thanksgiving holiday, when kicking back and relaxing feels pretty good. After all, all of work went into it.
This is a story about a local composer and conductor, arranger and educator, who is getting ready to kick back after an accomplished career.
Right now, work is underway for the annual Concordia College Christmas concert. Director Rene Clausen and hundreds of student singers and a symphony orchestra will present a beautiful collection of Christmas music. This years Christmas concert will take on extra special meaning. It will be Clausen's last. When I asked him about it, Rene Clausen said that his first thought is just make sure its damn good. He followed that up with a chuckle.
Clausen is retiring at the end of this academic year. He's stepping down after 34 years as professor of music and conductor of the Concordia Choir. Clausen says "It's finally starting to sink in, that okay, that was the last homecoming or I have done my last set of auditions."
Clausen's leadership over the years has left a lasting mark on so many. Amber Kavie is a Concordia senior: She says, "I have studied with people that have been underneath him, when he first started doing clinicals or what not. The experience that they had and the experience, I had are so similar, which shows you how he's never changed in the best way possible." Daniel Kaupa is a Concordia senior. He says, "He is a large figure in the choral world, but he doesn't seem like it when you are talking to him, in person, he's very gentle and kind and just a very nice and easy going person."
During this years homecoming, 452 former choir members returned to Concordia to sing once again under his direction. Clausen says, "When I sit down and read a text or a letter, or a note, a thank you note, that says, "you don't know what change you made for me in my life, when I was in choir and I just want to 20 years hence, thanks you for that,' its a feeling of warmth and satisfaction, unlike no other."
Hanging on the wall in his Concordia office and easy to see when he plays the grand piano, is a reminder of what Clausen calls his favorite composition. In 2003, he, along with the Concordia Choir, Orchestra and a few faculty singers traveled to New York City to perform a piece he was commissioned to write... about 9-11 called Memorial. Their final performance in a large church before citizens of New York City. Clausen says, "The rawness of 9-11 was still there. I think any of us, who were there performing will never forget that performance." And when it ended, Clausen says there was a wonderful different kind of applause, one that providing a cleansing of the NY spirit.
Rene Clausen says he's had an amazing ride at Concordia College and he's looking forward to reinventing himself in retirement. For now, however, he and the choir have work to do. Clausen says, "It's amazing when I get to Christmas concert, I'm really not thinking about that at all, it all washes over you in the moment of the music making and the sweep of the concert."
This years Concordia College Christmas concerts will be held December 6th though the 8th. If you would like to go, you can order tickets click here.