Director’s passion for music lives on

IUS Horizon

Don McMahel

Don McMahel, a part of the IU Southeast community for nearly 50 years, died at age 82 on Jan. 10.

McMahel was involved in many activities, such as teaching at various elementary schools throughout the New Albany and Floyd County areas, directing several musicals, teaching at IU Southeast and directing the Floyd County Symphony Orchestra.

McMahel was the first music director IU Southeast has ever had, and in 1974 he had a hand in helping design the Ogle Center.

Kathyrn Burger Johnson, adjunct lecturer of music, said that he was a very inspiring man with a very hard work ethic.

“Without Don McMahel, the music programs in the Floyd County and New Albany region would not be what they are today,” she said.

Burger Johnson explained how much of an inspiration McMahel was to a lot of people, including her.

“I first met Don when I was 6 years old,” Burger Johnson said. “My mother took me to one of his concerts to watch him direct. It was there and then that I felt inspired to become a music teacher.”

McMahel taught at nearly every level of education, from pre-school to college, and Burger Johnson said McMahel was able to relate to nearly every age.

“One minute he would be teaching third graders, and then an hour later he would be teaching music theory here on campus,” Burger Johnson said. “It was amazing to see that transition and see him work with every age so well.”

Burger Johnson said that music and teaching were McMahel’s passions and you could tell by being around him.

“When he was teaching it never looked like an effort,” Burger Johnson said. “I knew he had to be tired because we were colleagues, and I knew how heavily involved he was, but that was Don. He always gave a 100 percent, always.”

Burger Johnson said that he had a great impact on thousands of lives teaching countless students.

“Music was his strength,” Burger Johnson said. “But his students and colleges were his motivation and he loved what he did.”

Don McMahel, former IUS music director, directs his last concert at Warder Park in Jeffersonville for IU Southeast’s 70th anniversary concert last May. McMahel died at 82 on Jan. 10. He was a part of the IU Southeast community for 50 years.