Don McMahel, IU Southeast’s first music director, passes away at 82

14th January 2013

NEW ALBANY, IN (Jan. 14, 2013) – Don McMahel loved music, and he made it his lifelong commitment to share that love with his students. For more than 50 years, he shared his passion with students ranging from elementary school to college.

McMahel, 82, died Jan. 10, at his home after an illness. His legacy will live on in the hundreds of musicians he touched throughout his career.

A 2012 recipient of the IU Southeast Chancellor’s Medallion, McMahel was a respected educator throughout the region and was IU Southeast’s first music director.        

Don McMahel

Don McMahel

McMahel, a New Albany native, received a four-year scholarship to the Indiana University School of Music, where he received his Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees. While in college, he was principal clarinetist of the IU Symphonic Band and the Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the Opera Orchestra.

 He began working for the New Albany Floyd County School Corporation in 1959. Until his retirement in 1993, he taught music theory;, was an assistant director for the New Albany High School band; directed more than 30 high school musicals; taught at several elementary schools; organized annual music festivals for bands, orchestras, and choirs; and served as the fine arts assistant to the superintendent for 10 years.

McMahel became IU Southeast’s first music director in 1963. He taught music appreciation and served on the planning committee for the Paul W. Ogle Cultural and Community Center. In 1997, McMahel partnered with James Poteet, a former student of his to start the IU Southeast Concert Band. During his 50 years at IU Southeast, McMahel did extensive work with the IU Southeast music program. He was currently serving as the associate director for the University Orchestra.

McMahel performed professionally with the Louisville Orchestra, Corpus Christi Symphony, and the Kentucky Opera. He received the IU Southeast Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award for teaching in 1975 and the Lifetime Arts Achievement Award from the Arts Council of Southern Indiana in 2005.

“The University has lost a great man in Don McMahel,” said Chancellor Sandra R. Patterson-Randles. “His love and passion for music and for his students was absolutely undeniable.  Don’s legacy lies in his ability to share his music with the community and to inspire an appreciation for music in people of all ages.  He will be greatly missed by all of us at IU Southeast.”

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