Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Hitting the high notes

Mike and Billie Rouse earn statewide honor

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ELY – Local musicians Michael and Billie Rouse were presented with the Advocate for Choral Excellence (ACE) Award from the American Choral Directors Association of Minnesota (ACDA-MN) earlier this month at their annual summer banquet at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

The ACE Award program, first established in 2008, is designed to celebrate the efforts of people across Minnesota who have done outstanding work for their communities, serving the choral art. Seven such advocates from all corners of the state were honored at the 2019 event.

“Mike and Billie have inspired singers throughout the region through their work,” said Bruce W. Becker, Executive Director ACDA of Minnesota. “As the choir director for the Ely School District, Mike works tirelessly to provide opportunities for his choir students, bringing them to invitational events at regional universities, inviting guest artists to music festivals, and leading them in concert, contest, and stage events. Of course, Mike’s personal story continues to inspire his students and the community alike, including our state’s choir directors.”

Mike Rouse reacted to the surprise of his nomination for the award and the honor of attending the banquet. “We were surrounded by the most amazing collection of high school and collegiate choral directors and the MMEA State Choir. Music was coming from everywhere and it was all just amazing, and then (the award presentation) happened,” he said.

“This (honor) belongs to every student singer, teacher, director and guest artist (Monroe Crossing and Carrie Newcomer). This belongs to the dedication of Crystal Poppler and Wells Fargo for their endless support. This belongs to Irene Hartfield for her accompanying,” he said.

“This award belongs to the talents of Dr. Matthew Faerber, Dr.Michael Smith, Dr. David Mennicke, Dr. Bret Amundson and of course, our beloved Dr. Matthew Olson. This belongs to the staff of UMD Alice Pierce, Rachel Inselman and Elias Mokole. This belongs to everyone who hosted our guests: Heide and Helmut Buettner and the Adventure Inn. This belongs to every business that has supported us in big ways and small - Zup’s, Ely Northland Market, Plum Bun Bakery, and The Front Porch to name only a few,” Rouse said.

He added, “This honor belongs to ARAC and The Gardner Humanities Trust. It belongs to some amazing volunteers like Muffin and Gail. It belongs to our photographer John. It belongs to the great coverage by The Timberjay and The Mesabi Daily News and Ely-TV, and the Echo. It belongs to Music Boosters and every guest that traveled far and near to hear their kids sing and further support the education and continuation of choral music. Thanks everyone (even if I didn’t list you individually). We have been blessed.”

A former student, Hanna (Morgan) Illies, who graduated from Northeast Range High School in 2012, said, “Mr. Rouse is an outstanding teacher. He provided opportunities for his students to grow through the power of song and the talent it takes to bring us together through the shared choir experience. I do not feel as though I have a great singing voice and didn’t even want to join the choir because I was a band kid, but thank goodness I did.”

She added, “One of the highlights of my senior year in 2012 was when the Northeast Range Choir went to state competitions in Duluth. Even though I can not remember the song from that day I will never forget the overwhelming feeling of joy and peace that surrounded me as we sang together filling the auditorium with a beautiful unified voice. A voice that would not have been shared on that stage without Mr. Rouse taking the time to work with us, mentor us, and train us as individuals to use the power of our voices to uplift the human spirit. He is an extremely talented man who has shared his enthusiasm for music all while making the individual student feel heard and valued.”

Todd Crego, a 2010 graduate of the former Tower High School, related this story about the Rouses. “When I moved to Tower from Indiana, I met Mike on the second day of school for choir class and Billie shortly thereafter. We bonded over the fact we were all from Indiana,” he said. “They were some of the first people in this area to help me feel welcome in the community. Because of Mike I became involved in the local theater in Ely beginning with 2009’s “The Music Man,” and I was the first student from Tower High School to be invited to the UWS Honor Choir. The Rouses helped instill a love of music for me that persists to this day.”

Former Ely School District Superintendent Alexis Leitgeb celebrated the “absolutely outstanding” choice in choosing the Rouses for the state honor. “I was the superintendent in Ely and was blessed with the opportunity to hire Mike Rouse, probably the best hire I ever made in my 20 plus years in education,” she said.

She related how the couple applied for and received a Perpich Center for Arts Education grant for a middle school music theater class program. “The amazing accomplishments of this class were beyond belief,” Leitgeb said. “Mike couldn’t audition who was in the class. He worked with who signed up, including special education children. Tears came to my eyes as I watched non-verbal children, severely autistic students, and behavior disordered children on stage. One student, severely autistic, was in choir and Mike and Billie saw his potential. He later took first place in solo in a state choir contest.”

She also noted that when the couple saw the need for new risers for the choral program, they immediately found a donor. “Their concert at December, The Nutcracker, was amazing. They put on a phenomenal production, with quality singing, and without more than the bare minimum in funding,” Leitgeb said. “They never ask for anything for themselves. They give everything they have to children and music.”

ACDA of Minnesota is a professional organization serving over 750 choral directors who lead choirs in academic institutions (K-university), communities, and houses of worship throughout the state.

Meet Mike and Billie Rouse

ELY – Local musicians Michael and Billie Rouse were presented with the Advocate for Choral Excellence (ACE) Award from the American Choral Directors Association of Minnesota (ACDA-MN) earlier this month at their annual summer banquet at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

The ACE Award program, first established in 2008, is designed to celebrate the efforts of people across Minnesota who have done outstanding work for their communities, serving the choral art. Seven such advocates from all corners of the state were honored at the 2019 event.

“Mike and Billie have inspired singers throughout the region through their work,” said Bruce W. Becker, Executive Director ACDA of Minnesota. “As the choir director for the Ely School District, Mike works tirelessly to provide opportunities for his choir students, bringing them to invitational events at regional universities, inviting guest artists to music festivals, and leading them in concert, contest, and stage events. Of course, Mike’s personal story continues to inspire his students and the community alike, including our state’s choir directors.”

Mike Rouse reacted to the surprise of his nomination for the award and the honor of attending the banquet. “We were surrounded by the most amazing collection of high school and collegiate choral directors and the MMEA State Choir. Music was coming from everywhere and it was all just amazing, and then (the award presentation) happened,” he said.

“This (honor) belongs to every student singer, teacher, director and guest artist (Monroe Crossing and Carrie Newcomer). This belongs to the dedication of Crystal Poppler and Wells Fargo for their endless support. This belongs to Irene Hartfield for her accompanying,” he said.

“This award belongs to the talents of Dr. Matthew Faerber, Dr.Michael Smith, Dr. David Mennicke, Dr. Bret Amundson and of course, our beloved Dr. Matthew Olson. This belongs to the staff of UMD Alice Pierce, Rachel Inselman and Elias Mokole. This belongs to everyone who hosted our guests: Heide and Helmut Buettner and the Adventure Inn. This belongs to every business that has supported us in big ways and small - Zup’s, Ely Northland Market, Plum Bun Bakery, and The Front Porch to name only a few,” Rouse said.

He added, “This honor belongs to ARAC and The Gardner Humanities Trust. It belongs to some amazing volunteers like Muffin and Gail. It belongs to our photographer John. It belongs to the great coverage by The Timberjay and The Mesabi Daily News and Ely-TV, and the Echo. It belongs to Music Boosters and every guest that traveled far and near to hear their kids sing and further support the education and continuation of choral music. Thanks everyone (even if I didn’t list you individually). We have been blessed.”

A former student, Hanna (Morgan) Illies, who graduated from Northeast Range High School in 2012, said, “Mr. Rouse is an outstanding teacher. He provided opportunities for his students to grow through the power of song and the talent it takes to bring us together through the shared choir experience. I do not feel as though I have a great singing voice and didn’t even want to join the choir because I was a band kid, but thank goodness I did.”

She added, “One of the highlights of my senior year in 2012 was when the Northeast Range Choir went to state competitions in Duluth. Even though I can not remember the song from that day I will never forget the overwhelming feeling of joy and peace that surrounded me as we sang together filling the auditorium with a beautiful unified voice. A voice that would not have been shared on that stage without Mr. Rouse taking the time to work with us, mentor us, and train us as individuals to use the power of our voices to uplift the human spirit. He is an extremely talented man who has shared his enthusiasm for music all while making the individual student feel heard and valued.”

Todd Crego, a 2010 graduate of the former Tower High School, related this story about the Rouses. “When I moved to Tower from Indiana, I met Mike on the second day of school for choir class and Billie shortly thereafter. We bonded over the fact we were all from Indiana,” he said. “They were some of the first people in this area to help me feel welcome in the community. Because of Mike I became involved in the local theater in Ely beginning with 2009’s “The Music Man,” and I was the first student from Tower High School to be invited to the UWS Honor Choir. The Rouses helped instill a love of music for me that persists to this day.”

Former Ely School District Superintendent Alexis Leitgeb celebrated the “absolutely outstanding” choice in choosing the Rouses for the state honor. “I was the superintendent in Ely and was blessed with the opportunity to hire Mike Rouse, probably the best hire I ever made in my 20 plus years in education,” she said.

She related how the couple applied for and received a Perpich Center for Arts Education grant for a middle school music theater class program. “The amazing accomplishments of this class were beyond belief,” Leitgeb said. “Mike couldn’t audition who was in the class. He worked with who signed up, including special education children. Tears came to my eyes as I watched non-verbal children, severely autistic students, and behavior disordered children on stage. One student, severely autistic, was in choir and Mike and Billie saw his potential. He later took first place in solo in a state choir contest.”

She also noted that when the couple saw the need for new risers for the choral program, they immediately found a donor. “Their concert at December, The Nutcracker, was amazing. They put on a phenomenal production, with quality singing, and without more than the bare minimum in funding,” Leitgeb said. “They never ask for anything for themselves. They give everything they have to children and music.”

ACDA of Minnesota is a professional organization serving over 750 choral directors who lead choirs in academic institutions (K-university), communities, and houses of worship throughout the state.

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