Remembering Mickey Rowell

Earlier this month, the Emmanuel family lost one of their own when longtime professor of Music, Mickey Rowell passed away from double pneumonia and complications from COVID-19. Throughout his 17 years at Emmanuel, Mickey made a tremendous impact on the lives of his students and coworkers. Not only did he teach in the Music Department but he directed the Emmanuel Singers for several years and often sang with the Emmanuel Chorale and played in the jazz band.  He was a friend to all who knew him and will be truly missed. Today and moving forward we will stand in mourning beside his wife, Charlotte and children, Taylor, Michele (Denae), and Landon. 

Several of Mickey’s coworkers, former students, and friends were asked to share some of their favorite memories of him:

Mickey’s devotion to God, his family, his students, and his church were evident in every endeavor. When I first met him in 2004, I was struck with his keen intellect, genuine care and humility. That fall when our department performed a faculty recital, I was astounded with the rich quality of his baritone voice. Through the years, I saw the pride and excitement in his eyes as he trained singers, prospective teachers, music ministers and performers. He was highly creative in planning concerts for the groups he directed. I remember one concert where he created a “Prism” theme and arranged the groups around the audience in a prism format on the floor of Swails, rotating performances on each of the stages. Charlotte, Denae and Landon were always faithful to help and assist him as his dreams materialized! I will always remember the passion in his eyes when he spoke of the glory of God in rehearsals. He never complained openly about the challenges he faced but fought through with perseverance and found a way to laugh through the situation and move on ahead. I will miss him greatly and eagerly await the day when I will see his face illuminated with the radiance of God and will join him in the heavenly chorus!

-Deborah Herring

I miss Mickey Rowell…  I was on his hiring committee, and I worked with him for many years.  He was always so polite and nice – in fact, only did he call me “Leslie” about 5 years ago! I was always Dr. Boucher.  One day I told him that he would need to call me “Leslie.”  He stalled, and I called him “Master Rowell.” We both laughed, and after that, he called me “Leslie.”  

I remember when he taught and directed Chorale, Singers, and our Jazz Band, along with other small groups (Voices was one).  He also did brass and percussion techniques, instrumental ensembles of various sorts and sizes.  With those came music ministry, a church music degree, music education degree – we’ve been through it all together.  He was always faithful in his work with these groups.

I miss Mickey Rowell…we were hallmates, and shared many silly moments together, along with Walter after I became less mobile.  Now as I am still mobile with wheel power, I can go up and down halls where we walked to and from meetings, laughing about some silly puns and jokes that Mickey was a master at creating.  Always with a great sense of humor could Mickey face the not-so-funny moments in life.  His closeness to his Lord enabled him to do many things that most people were unable to do…..working constantly to try to make life better.

I miss Mickey Rowell….but my loss is now the Lord’s gain.  He has another awesome voice for the heavenly choir!  Also, I must say that his presence still rings in these halls.  Not a day goes by that my first thought upon first walking in is wondering how that aforementioned heavenly choir likes their new director?  If it’s music, you can be sure that Mickey is there, directing it!  

I miss Mickey Rowell…..

-Leslie Boucher

I have known Mickey Rowell for about 17 years, first as a student in his music ministry class at Emmanuel, and the last 12 years as a coworker and friend.  

Some of my favorite memories of Mickey involve him working with small ensembles in the music department.  His enthusiasm was contagious.  He always had the biggest dreams for things, whether it was a pep band to play at athletic events, an elite vocal ensemble, or a jazz ensemble.  I didn’t often get to participate in these groups, though he did rope me into playing the flute a few times over the years.  I remember seeing him put hours of preparation into not only the rehearsals, but also the performance ‘experience.’  He wanted it to look good, sound good, and feel good.  He would call in favors, bring in special guests, rearrange an entire auditorium, and do whatever it took to create the experience he envisioned,  The audience could always expect something spectacular when Mickey was heading up a concert!

Other memories involve his kindness towards everyone he met.  He rarely got frustrated with students, even if they failed to meet his expectations.  He was usually ready with an encouraging word whenever needed.  He also gave praise where it was due and was incredibly humble about his own successes, even perhaps to the point of downplaying his own role in things.  He always believed that anyone could succeed if they worked hard enough.  He also was so very proud of his family and their achievements.  He would talk about them to everyone who would listen, and it was always fun to see him just bursting with pride for them.  These are the things that I will always remember about Mickey Rowell.

-Elizabeth Chitwood 

Mickey was a wonderful music colleague and friend. I always enjoyed walking by or going in his office to talk about something and hearing the jazz or gospel music he had playing in the background while he worked. He was a versatile teacher of many music subjects and was always willing to assist where needed. What impressed me most about Mickey was his unselfishness and his care and concern for others, particularly our EC music students. He was always concerned about the students’ academic needs and their transition from college to work being successful. He worked hard to make sure the worship music and music education majors had as much practical experience leading worship or directing choirs in church or school settings as possible, so that they were prepared for the “real world” of being a worship leader or music educator. But most of all, Mickey was concerned about the spiritual well-being of our students, providing council when needed, and always reminding the students that what was most important was a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior. Mickey touched many lives at Emmanuel, and we are all better people for having known him.

-Dr. Emma K Pettyjohn

I first came to know Mr. Rowell as a student in the EC Singers, where he helped me discover what it meant to be a true worshiper! I have been in church all of my life, but it wasn’t until I joined Singers that I learned what it was to truly worship God in Spirit and in Truth! In addition, I admired how he encouraged us as worship leaders to be “watchful in worship” (or something to that matter), realizing that we were in services not only to sing songs, but to minister to the congregation that was there. That always spoke to me, and Mr. Rowell’s encouragement and Spirit-led devotion helped me grow in my faith so that I was able to confidently pray with others in the altar, something that I struggled with for a long time.

Not only did Mr. Rowell encourage us to be watchful and led by the Spirit in Singers, but he carried this into the classroom as well. In fact, it was my time in Singers that drove me to pursue a career in music (the emphasis on Music History was a result of a later Spirit-leading, but I digress). I was reminded in my devotion time this morning of how much he loved Colossians 3, where Paul encourages the faithful to sing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,” and encourages us to do whatever we do, “whether in word or deed” to the glory of God. That really spoke to me in my class time with Mr. Rowell and has become one of my favorite passages in Scripture. He always encouraged us as students to put our faith in God and trust Him for all that we needed, and to let the Holy Spirit lead us in every decision that we made. 

I admired Mr. Rowell’s talent and Spirit-leading in services as well as in the classroom, but I was also privileged to call him a friend! Both as a student and as an instructor at EC, we would often engage in long conversations about any number of things, and his care and concern for me and my family were so greatly appreciated! There were several occasions both as a student as an instructor when I would need a ride home (as my low vision prevents me from driving), and I could count on him to graciously make sure that I returned safely. I was also confident that if I came to him with a prayer need, he would intercede on my behalf and often check to ensure that the need had been met. I believe, too, that he had this same level of care and concern for all of his students and colleagues. He definitely had a servant’s heart and embodied in my mind the definition of a true man of God!

One last memory that I’ll share, if you don’t mind. Mr. Rowell asked us in his classes to share short devotions before each lecture, and I remember one that I shared for his course in Church Music Administration where we were asked to compose a prayer in the event that we were asked to pray in a time of need. The prayer that I composed was based on a song & recitation by the late Rev. Timothy Wright entitled “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus (The Katrina Song)”, and the song was a great blessing to Mr. Rowell! It blessed me after uncertainty from Hurricane Katrina (you might remember that I’m originally from the New Orleans area), and I was so happy to know that it was a blessing to someone else as well! It’s a song that I turn to in times of trouble, and now it’s one that will always remind me of Mr. Rowell as well! I’ll place the link below, if you’d like to listen.

  • Casey Coates

When reflecting back on my time at Emmanuel College, many people pop into my mind, as I was fortunate to make a lot of great connections and lasting relationships.  When it comes to professors, though many were great, Mr. Mickey Rowell stands out immediately. By the time Mr. Rowell arrived on campus I had already been there several years. I was a part of Emmanuel Singers and the Music Department, and I had been under three chorale directors and two Singers Directors. Though I loved singing and being in these groups, to say I was a little skeptical of this new person is surely an understatement. The first afternoon he was introduced I can clearly remember sitting in the back row, observing and trying to decide whether to be excited or to run for the hills. As part of his introduction, some parts of his resume and experience were shared all while he stood quietly by saying nothing. Once it was his turn to take over, Mr. Rowell made some sort of “Dad joke” and cracked up laughing – I couldn’t help but laugh with him.

What struck me immediately were not his accomplishments – which were great, as he was a man of great talent; not his resonant baritone voice that made it obvious he was a singer, and not even his sense of humor or his infectious laugh – it was his humility and enthusiasm. Though it may not seem like those two adjectives go together, anyone who met and had the pleasure of working with Mickey Rowell can confirm he was both humble (even if he need not be) and enthusiastic. He was excited to sing, to teach, to minister; even if it wasn’t always comfortable. Everything I saw him do, he did with fervor and dedication to the best of his ability.

As members of Singers, he demanded excellence in vocal practice and stressed the importance of taking care of our voices – something not always easy to convince people of in the moment. Beyond even that, he reminded us regularly that we were not just a group for music but a movement for ministry. Mr. Rowell’s work was ongoing – he was always invested in his students as people, and always working – even on bus tours he could be found on his laptop doing any number of things. His style may have been different than others both before and after him, but it was right for that time and built onto a foundation of greatness. After a semester where I found myself doing entirely too much and become somewhat disenfranchised, I told Mr. Rowell that I was dropping out of Singers and offered no explanation just that I needed some time. As an adult, that was both unprofessional and probably dramatic for no reason; but college kids are exactly that –  in need of growth and direction. He let me go and gave me some time to think but expressed his disappointment with my decision. Several days later, he spotted me in the parking lot and came over to talk with me. What I remember most about that conversation is that a professor took time out of his busy schedule to ask how I was doing and would not let me brush him off until he was satisfied I had both told the truth and aired my perspective. We spent several hours in that parking lot, with me leaning on my car at the time, and him telling me what he saw in me that I couldn’t wrap my mind around. There were tears and prayers, and definitely some appropriate fatherly advice. Even though I am from a musical family, I didn’t pursue music until right before college, so I had a lot of inadequacy issues and internally struggled to find my place. Mr. Rowell made sure that I walked away knowing exactly what God had placed within my life.  He gently asked at the end of our talk: “So, see you in practice?” It may seem like a small gesture, but that conversation reshaped my thoughts about my Christian walk as well as my commitment to music. 

Since graduating, I have been a counselor and educator for over a decade, and with each person I work with I make sure to follow his example of checking in – relationships always come first. I went on to be involved in and lead music ministry at multiple locations, and part of the vetting process is not only talent but a willingness to serve in humility. Any time I am given the opportunity to lead, I still use his memorable hand signals – especially his “hang loose” for the bridge. 

Though we did not keep in constant contact, I was fortunate to see Mr. Rowell long after I graduated during an Emmanuel Music Department event. Excited to see him, I thanked him for the huge contribution he had to my life. When I told him that, he honestly looked a little bit bewildered and thanked me saying he didn’t know what to say. That wasn’t just small talk, it was genuine humility and a bit of surprise. His humble, Christlike example will be remembered fondly along with his tenacity, his wit, his talent, and the embodiment of excellence. Mr. Mickey Rowell will be greatly missed, and I can only hope that he and his family are given the opportunity to see the expansive legacy he created, and the continuation as his students reach other students in the same manner. 

-Andrea Boucher-Goodine 

What I remember most about Mr. Rowell is that he loved, and he cared. He cared about the ministry of EC Singers more than our talent. He cared about our walk with the Lord more than our names or where we came from. He taught us to go to battle with prayer and praise. He cared about how we viewed ourselves and others, and he encouraged us. He was always rooting for the “underdog” because he saw us through the eyes of our Father. Mr. Rowell changed my life and the lives of so many others because he cared.

-Jason Bonds (student 2002-06)

Mr. Rowell deeply influenced my life and ministry. My time at Emmanuel would have not been the same without the ministry of Singers and Mickey Rowel. He was an incredible man who loved God, his family and students. I was honored to be a youth pastor to his children. His passing feels like the passing of a close family member. He was truly family to many of us. Praying for Charlotte, Denae and Landon and the EC community.

-Sergio Castro 

Mr. Rowell was not just my Singers director, he taught me (and many others) what ministry truly is. He taught us to stay in His presence in worship, not to push forward due to time limits or agendas.  He served us, he pushed us deeper into worship and our personal relationships with Christ, he helped us grow as leaders, he listened to us for hours on end so that we felt understood.  Some of us (including me) would never sit in one of his classes, but our experience in Singers under his mentorship prepared us for life beyond graduation.

There are so many memories that are special to me, even more now in my adulthood.  Simple things he taught me, like how he had to walk me through buying a new tire for the equipment trailer somewhere on the way back from Texas (after the old one exploded), or how to make traveler’s checks turn into real money, or how be responsible for a group of young people far away from the EC bubble, served as stepping stones in my path to leadership.

He knew us all, and I believe the Lord told him what each of us needed.  I remember individuals in our group having a hard time being who they needed to be, but when others counted them out, Mr. Rowell supported and encouraged them to the place of fulfilling their potential.  He knew who needed a little more time to get themselves together, who needed a parent figure, and who just needed to be listened to.

Mr. Rowell was one of the most influential people in my young adult life and I have carried the things he taught me throughout these years post-college. I even remember going back to EC after I had been out of school for a few years and what should have been a stop by and say “hey” became a few hours of counseling.  Who knows what he was really supposed to be doing at that time…lol.  It’s a little sad to realize that when I stop by EC to visit, there’ll be no stopping to see if Mr. Rowell is in his office. However, it fills my heart with joy to know that he is finally with His Lord, the One whose love he has shared with so many people. 

I hope he knew just how much he meant to us. I pray for his family and I worship with my whole heart, just like he taught us to.

– Malorie Freeman

Mr. Rowell was one of the few professors that I had a personal relationship with while at EC. Being under his direction while with EC Singers was not only a great time but also a learning season for myself. Mr. Rowell had a way of bringing out the best in someone. He stretched my musical talents on the drums and vocally with his song selections each year. I spent many times in his office chatting about college football and soaking up his wisdom and guidance for everyday situations. Mr. Rowell’s door was always open and he always had one of his very bad jokes to tell. 

When on the road and in churches, he was the epitome of a director and a leader and poured everything he had into Singers. One story that will always stick with me is when Conquest led worship for Accelerant and Eddie James was the worship leader for the night sessions. On the ride up to Gatlinburg, we joked that it would be awesome if Eddie James needed to use any of our equipment. When we got to the hotel after our first set, I got a call from Mr. Rowell that Eddie needed to use our drums (which I played). I said, “You think you’re funny, don’t you?” to which he replied, “No, he really needs to use the drums and we have to get back to the center now!” Needless to say, we were all piling in the vans as fast as we could. 

In hearing of his passing, I was met with disbelief that the person responsible for the musician and vocalist I am today was gone. Mr. Rowell, I will miss you and although we have not kept in touch as I wished we could have, your wisdom, knowledge, and love for your “kids” will always carry on in each student you taught and mentored.

– Cameron Gunn