John Mogen—Lifetime Achievement Award

Born into a musical family in Waubay, South Dakota, John Mogen started piano lessons from his Grandma Helen Mogen on his sixth birthday. She was an inspirational teacher, and John wanted to meet her expectations. He would practice from six until seven five mornings a week. The Mogen family would sing together often, and Mom and Dad would teach them how to sing parts.

John started playing clarinet on his fourth grade Christmas present, and within a few weeks he made the high school band. He started teaching piano lesson as an eighth grader, with Grandma Mogen giving pedagogical advice. As a high schooler, Mogen was smitten with listening to the rock and roll bands playing at the nearby Blue Dog Inn. After hearing Myron Lee sing “Young Love,” Mogen said to himself, “I’d like to do that sometime.” That sometime came during college at the University of South Dakota, when he played piano with the Jazz Unlimited Band and the Sinfonians Dance Band.

It was while teaching elementary vocal music in Parkston, South Dakota, that rock and roll played a bigger part in his life. He and Bob Carlson, Dan Hills, and Joel Wudel formed Spur of the Moment. That put the bug to play music full-time in his head. John joined the Upson Downs, a Las Vegas-style show band, in late 1975. That group included Terry Klein, Rusty Davis, Kevin King, and Gary Swanson. They toured the Midwest, playing nightclubs and bars. Mogen decided that eating restaurant food and staying in motels wasn’t the greatest life, so he returned to teaching music in Lennox, South Dakota, in the fall 1977.

The Faded Blue band hired him almost immediately (including Steve Thomas, Harlan Nielsen, Cleve Carlson, Don Harris, and Bob Bego), and that lasted until the fall 1978.

Halloween night of that year saw the genesis of Mogen’s Heroes, playing in beautiful downtown Chancellor, South Dakota. John soon hired guitar player Tom Steever and drummer Scott Klaverkamp. KELO-TV news anchor Doug Lund joined on drums in May 1987. Guitarist Dennis Gale replaced Steever in early 1998. Bill Hoffman joined as the rhythm-keeper in late 2002. This threesome is still going strong today, having been inducted into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association Hall of Fame in 2018.

Mogen taught vocal music in South Dakota for 34 years (including 22 years at Patrick Henry Middle School in Sioux Falls) and has taught hundreds of piano students. He loves composing piano pieces for them to play. His radio jingles have won several Addy awards. He has been sought after as a clinician and as an adjudicator. His choral compositions have been performed by the University of Sioux Falls Concert Choir, Sioux Falls Master Singers, and Madison Master Singers. He has been honored to play piano for two U.S. Presidents. Leading worship at several churches has been an important part of his musical and spiritual life.

Mogen and his wife, Sue, are parents to four, and grandparents to five of the most beautiful children.



2022Lifetime Achievement Award