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Creating a legacy: Two-day musical retirement celebration set for Kathy Larson this weekend

A two-day retirement celebration for longtime Detroit Lakes Public Schools vocal music instructor — and muslcal theater director — Kathy Larson is planned for this coming weekend, Aug. 13-14. A Saturday evening cabaret and retirement reception will be held Aug. 13 at the Historic Holmes Theatre, with a mass choir concert to take place the next day, Sunday, Aug. 14 at Holy Rosary Catholic Church.

Music Man Broadway.jpg
Eric Hoplin, left, and Mark Potvin recreated the promotional photo they took for the 1995 production of "The Music Man" when they went to see the Broadway production earlier this year.
Contributed / Eric Hoplin
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DETROIT LAKES — For the first time in 34 years, Kathy Larson will not be teaching vocal music when classes at Detroit Lakes Public Schools start next month.

She also won't be directing the fall musical, something she had done for 28 straight years. In order to properly send her off into retirement — while honoring her musical legacy — some of Larson's former students and colleagues have been busy planning a two-day retirement celebration that will take place this coming weekend, Aug. 13-14.

"I had an inkling early on in the spring, before I came back for All City Choir (the choral music festival organized by Larson every year) that this was going to be her swan song," said Mark Potvin, a 1996 graduate of Detroit Lakes High School who was involved in both the fall musical and choir programs under Larson's direction.

Matt and Nancy McKenzie and their children Isaiah, Caleb, Thomas and Malia have all been a part of the high school choirs and fall musicals at Detroit Lakes High School during Kathy Larson's 34-year tenure with the district, and all six plan to sing as part of her two-day, musical retirement celebration this weekend.

Potvin was one of the guest conductors at this year's All City Choir Festival, along with three other DLHS alumni who had gone on to have careers in choral music.

So as soon as Larson made it official, about a month later, Potvin and another DLHS alum, Eric Hoplin (Class of 1997), began working on gathering as many of Larson's current and former students and colleagues together as possible, to plan a retirement celebration like no other.


A musical theater cabaret, titled "A Career in Revue: Celebrating Kathy Larson's Retirement," will take place on Saturday, Aug. 13 at the Historic Holmes Theatre, starting at 7 p.m.

Career in Revue.jpg
Contributed / Mark Potvin

More than 50 of Larson's former musical theater students — including some from her first musical, "Damn Yankees," to her last, "Newsies" — will be returning to Detroit Lakes to sing some of the signature songs they performed under Larson's guidance.

Hoplin and Potvin Music Man.jpg
Eric Hoplin, left, and Mark Potvin, right, in a promotional photo for the 1995 Detroit Lakes High School fall musical production of "The Music Man."
Contributed / Eric Hoplin

"I think it's quite extraordinary that you've got 50 people, from almost 30 years (of DLHS musicals), who live all over the country — people who are corporate CEOs and world class music conductors and busy moms — who all agreed to come, because we all love Kathy and she made such a big impact on our lives," said Hoplin.

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Eric Hoplin, left, and Kathy Larson in a 1994 photo from Larson's first fall musical production, "Damn Yankees."
Contributed / Eric Hoplin

"If she (Larson) had her druthers, every student from every show would be involved," said Potvin, but added that this wasn't practical because "the show would have lasted five hours."

Nonetheless, "every one of those 28 shows (that Larson directed) is represented," Hoplin added.

The show will be followed by a reception, so that people from all aspects of Larson's life, including colleagues, friends, relatives and former students, can come wish her well in her retirement, Potvin added.

Tickets for the cabaret show, which are $25 each, are being sold via the Holmes Theatre's website , with proceeds going to create an endowed scholarship, in Larson's name, through the Detroit Lakes Dollars for Scholars program.

Though the cabaret show and reception could have been a fitting enough retirement celebration for Larson, Potvin said, they wanted to honor the other side of her career — choral music — as well.


A choral music concert titled, "If Music Be the Food of Love, Sing On," is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14 at Holy Rosary Catholic Church. Admission to this event is a free will offering, Potvin noted, with the proceeds to once again benefit the scholarship fund.

Sing On.jpg
Contributed / Mark Potvin

As part of that concert, there will be a mass choir performance including "anyone that wants to come and participate," Hoplin said.

That concert will also include some reflections from people who have been directly impacted and influenced by Larson over the course of her career.

"Five folks will provide short reflections about Kathy's impact in five different areas: Lifetime singing; mentorship; her role as a colleague in the district; her role at the high school; and her role in community life," Potvin said, noting that she had also been involved in her church choir, community choir and numerous community theater productions over the years.

“The Career in Revue show on Saturday and the choir concert on Sunday are once in a lifetime events you won’t want to miss," said Hoplin. "There are 50 DLHS alums returning to Detroit Lakes from across the country, to perform the show-stopping numbers from all the musicals this community has loved, spanning the past three decades.

"We’re all coming home to honor and celebrate Kathy Larson, who made a profound impact on our lives. In addition, we want to ensure the strong legacy of music and theater that she championed for Detroit Lakes these past decades continues, and that’s why the funds raised during these events will endow the Kathy Larson Music Scholarship, which will support a graduate each year from DLHS through Dollars for Scholars.”

Potvin noted that those who are unable to participate in, or attend, this weekend's music performances can also directly contribute to Larson's scholarship fund via the Detroit Lakes Dollars for Scholars website, detroitlakes.dollarsforscholars.org (use the "Click to Donate" link, and follow the prompts to make a donation in Larson's name).

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at vgerdes@dlnewspapers.com.
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