Robert L. Larsen is Professor Emeritus of Music, having served as Chairman of the Department of Music for 33 years. He has been on the Simpson faculty since 1957 and teaches Piano, Music History, and Conducting. He founded the college’s Madrigal Singers and still assists in the ensemble’s direction. Dr. Larsen holds a Bachelor of Music in Piano from Simpson College, a Master of Music in Piano from the University of Michigan and the Doctor of Music with high distinction in the Coaching, Conducting, and Literature of Opera from Indiana University.
He has studied piano with Sven Lekberg (Simpson College), Joseph Brinkman, Eugene Bossart (University of Michigan), Rudolph Ganz and Walter Bricht (Indiana University), and he is well-known as a pianist and coach-accompanist throughout America. He was involved in the leadership training program in stage direction with Boris Goldovsky at Tanglewood in 1961 and has acted as a coach with Mr. Goldovsky’s workshop both there and at Oglebay Park, West Virginia. He has had additional study in vocal and chamber repertory at the University of Edinburgh and the Salzburg Mozarteum.
Conducting studies were with Wolfgang Vacano, Charles Webb, and Tibor Kozma at Indiana University. He has been active as a coach of professional singers throughout his career in Chicago and New York as well as on the Simpson campus. His students have been winners in major vocal competitions and sing in opera houses throughout the world.
As the Founder and Artistic Director of Des Moines Metro Opera since 1973, and for 37 years, he acted as both conductor and stage director for every production of the Company. He has appeared as conductor with the Mississippi Opera and the DiCapo Opera Theatre in New York, stage director with the Carmel Bach Festival in Carmel, California, and musical and stage director with the University of Arizona Opera Theatre. He also coached singers at Tanglewood and Oglebay Park, West Virginia; Chicago and New York.
In addition to his work as an educator, he compiled and edited the Opera Aria Anthology in seven volumes for G. Schirmer, as well as recordings of piano accompaniments of Mozart arias and Joseph Marx songs. He was selected as a recipient of the first Governor’s Award in Music, the 1999 Iowa Arts Award presented by the Iowa Arts Council for the State of Iowa, the Orpheus Award from Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia for “significant and lasting contributions to the cause of music in America,” Simpson College’s Award for Distinguished Research, and Lambda Chi Alpha’s Order of Achievement.