Minnesota's Biggest Summer Marching Band Competition


Music brings lifetime of inspiration

"The primary and highest function of art is to deliver a message to the soul of man."
- Ethelwyn Avery

These words of poet Ethelwyn Avery inspired Les Dehlin throughout his 35-year career teaching the art of music to young people of Minnesota.
Les grew up near Graceville, Minn., and attributes his early interest in music to his parents. His mother, Julia, sang alto and played several instruments including the piano, organ and guitar, and Les says she was the first to spark his interest in music. After his mother's death when Les was fourteen, his father, J.C., and others encouraged him to continue studying music. But it wasn't until several years later that Les decided to make music his career.
Les grew up on a farm and was involved for 12 years with the local 4-H Club. His 4-H advisor, the county extension agent, became a friend and mentor to Les. At age 14, Les attended the West Central School of Agriculture (now the University of Minnesota, Morris) and began a path toward becoming a county extension agent. His initial plans, however, took a new direction when a friend convinced him to join the school choir. It was in that choir where he met director Blossom Sorby Anderson, who helped Les discover his professional calling: music.
Les went on to Concordia College in Moorhead, where he sang in the Concordia Choir under the direction of well-known choral conductor Paul J. Christiansen. Les sang in the chapel choir for three years, played string bass in the Fargo-Moorhead Civic Orchestra, was a member of Moorhead's Ambassador Vocal Group and joined the Delta Rho fraternity. Les also played a major role in "The Mikado," which was the first all-student production ever staged at the college. It was also at Concordia that Les met his wife, Ellen Ann. They were married a year after graduation.
After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from Concordia in 1952, Les moved to Brooten, Minn., where he directed the choir, band, the local drum and bugle corps and two church choirs. In 1955, the Dehlins relocated to Staples. For 10 years, Les taught vocal music in grades K-12 and assisted with the marching band and summer instrumental lessons.
In 1965, Murrae Freng, a friend of Les' and the Alexandria choir director at the time, accepted a position with the Minnesota State High School League, leaving his teaching position open. That spring, Les was selected as the new Alexandria choral director for grades 9-12.
In 1966, Les received his Master of Music Education degree from the MacPhail School of Music in Minneapolis.
Over the years, Les has been involved in a number of local music activities. He served as choir director at First Lutheran Church, gave adult guitar lessons through the community education program, and was the first director of Alexandria's Barbershop Chorus (now known as the Vikingland Chordsmen.) He now serves as director of the Alexandria Area Community Chorus.
Les devoted 22 years of his life to teaching in Alexandria. Even after his retirement in 1987, he still finds ways to "deliver a message to the soul of man." His life has been inspired by music, but most importantly, he has shared that inspiration with others.
Photo courtesy of Vernon Studio

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