Roger Towler


Roger Towler’s musical history shows him wearing several musical hats: singer, teacher, conductor and composer. He directed choirs and bands in MN schools for nearly 40 years. As a semi-professional baritone, he sang many classic roles in oratorios and masses in addition to the song cycles: Winterreise, Songs of Travel, Dichterliebe and I Play Flute. For four decades he both conducted and sang music theater.  

Composing The River Runs Near was personal because in 1967 Towler directly interacted with The Way, co-founding The Way Singers, an integrated ensemble which sang throughout the Twin Cities. A special thank you goes to my lifelong friend, Rev. Rolland Robinson, for his ministry and dedication to the North Side Community during those troubled years. The inspiration for my poem and this music came from my personal experience and Rollie’s book, For a Moment We Had the Way.  

For Towler this has been a year of the song, creating “Whose Child Is This?” to honor his son plus his sonorous setting of “What Wondrous Love Is This!” Recent choral premieres include When Music Sounds, with orchestra and his “Minnesota, We Honor Thee” for SATB and TTBB, a favorite of school students.

He studied composition at the University of Minnesota with Paul Fetler and Judith Zaimont as well as Scott Miller at SCSU. His interesting compositions for voice and choir earned him the Composition Award from the Central MN Arts Board.

In 2017 he took The Cold Spring Maennerchor to sing Testament of Freedom for Presidents Day at Carnegie Hall. He with his wife, Sue, have co-authored several poems for his compositions.  They live on the Mississippi River in Sauk Rapids and are preparing to spoil their great-granddaughter.