Ruth Matthews, a Marquette organist and longtime accompanist of the Marquette Choral Society, and Paul Cowen, retired choral and instrumental music teacher from Gladstone High School, were the recipients of the 1991 U. P. Choral Leadership Award.
Ruth Matthews was a faculty member of the Department of Music at Northern Michigan University for 26 years prior to her retirement. She taught organ, piano, harpsichord and music theory. An accomplished keyboard player, she has served as a church organist for over 40 years in Connecticut, New York and Hawaii, as well as Marquette. She was the organist for 17 years at First United Methodist Church in Marquette, and for 21 years, she has been the organist at Messiah Lutheran of Marquette.
Ruth Matthews earned a B.A. in music from the University of Connecticut and an M.A. from the Eastman School of Music. Her work with choral music has been as a rehearsal accompanist and concert keyboard artist. She has accompanied church choirs throughout her years as an organist. In addition, she has been the primary rehearsal accompanist for the Marquette Choral Society throughout most of its 20 year history.
Ruth Matthews has contributed greatly to the musical development of the Marquette Choral Society. The accompanist is surely one of the most critical, but often overlooked, positions in any choral organization. When she excels as Mrs. Matthews does, she becomes at once transparent in and integral to the rehearsal process. The conductor's intentions and ideas are directly transmitted through her playing and leadership. There are few who are equal to Ruth Matthews in this demanding role.
Mrs. Matthews' outstanding musicianship and her dedication to the Choral Society have frequently found expression as well in her role as a concert artist on the piano, harpsichord, and organ.
Paul Cowen taught both choral and instrumental music at Gladstone High School from 1949 until his retirement in 1985. In addition, he directed the choir at Memorial United Methodist Church in Gladstone for 36 years, and currently directs a bell choir there. He has been active in community choral music in Delta County, including many years of involvement with barber shop singing. In 1987, he was instrumental in reestablishing a barber shop group, "The Remnants," for the Gladstone centennial celebration, and has led the group until recently. A native of Gladstone, he earned a bachelor's degree from the MacPhail School of Music in Minneapolis, and a master's degree from Northern Michigan University.
As a teacher, Paul Cowen was always available to his students, no matter when, if they needed help on a solo and ensemble festival piece, a church solo, or just because they wanted contact. He encouraged them to participate musically in everything they could, and made them feel they had a responsibility for music in the city and county. Many of his former students trace their life-long involvement with or enjoyment of music to their choir or band experiences with him.
Paul Cowen encouraged broad participation in both the band and choral programs. Many students were drawn to the Gladstone High School music program because of him. Through his work, many families with no prior experience with music became involved - through their children - into the musical life of the community.