Famed Choral Conductor Receives $200,000 'Great Teaching' Award

Jan. 11, 2006
News Photo 2881Dr. Anton Armstrong

Baylor University has named the conductor of the famed St. Olaf Choir as the recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, the single largest award given to an individual for great teaching. Dr. Anton Armstrong, the Harry R. and Thora H. Tosdal Professor of Music at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, will receive $200,000 plus $25,000 for his home department and will teach in residence at Baylor during the 2007 spring semester and first summer session.

"The committee reviewed 86 completed nominations that represented 68 colleges and universities and 46 disciplines," said Cherry Award selection committee chair Heidi J. Hornik, professor of art history. "Although the three finalists were all extremely strong, the committee selected Dr. Anton Armstrong by a large majority. We look forward to Dr. Armstrong teaching in residence during the spring and first summer session in 2007."

"It is with sincere humbleness and immense gratitude that I accept the 2006 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching at Baylor University," Armstrong said. "I feel most overwhelmed by the honor Baylor University has bestowed upon me, for this award does not simply affirm my vocation to serve others through my teaching. It also recognizes all the wonderful family, teachers, mentors, students and singers who have touched my life and nurtured this calling in me through the years. I will strive to bring the best of my gifts as a teacher, artist and man of faith to the Baylor University community while in residence during the Spring of 2007."

Armstrong received a bachelor's of music in vocal performance from St. Olaf College, a master's degree in choral music from the University of Illinois and a doctorate in choral conducting from Michigan State University.

After serving on the faculty at Calvin College, Armstrong returned to St. Olaf in 1990. As conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, he has toured throughout the United States and to Denmark, Norway, Australia, New Zealand and Central Europe. Together with the St. Olaf Orchestra, the choir also was heard live on a national broadcast of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" radio program. The choir has recorded 11 CDs during Armstrong's tenure as conductor.

In recent years he has guest conducted such noted ensembles as the Utah Symphony and Symphony Chorus, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He has collaborated in concert with Bobby McFerrin and Garrison Keillor and is active as a guest conductor and lecturer throughout North America, Europe, Scandinavia, Korea, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean.

Armstrong is widely recognized for his work with youth and children's choral music. He began his tenure as conductor of the Oregon Bach Festival Youth Choral Academy in June 1998. In the summer of 2001, he served as co-conductor of the World Youth Choir sponsored by the International Federation of Choral Music. He served for more than 20 years on the summer faculty of the American Boychoir School in Princeton, N.J., and was conductor of the St. Cecilia Youth Chorale, a 75-voice treble chorus based in Grand Rapids, Mich., from 1981 to 1990.

Robert Foster Cherry graduated from Baylor in 1929 and entered Baylor Law School in 1932, passing the state bar exam the following year. Before his death, he endowed the Cherry Chair for Distinguished Teaching and the Cherry Award for Great Teachers. The award program underwent significant changes with the 2004 award, including the elimination of the secondary award, the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teachers. The program now awards a single prize, The Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching. It is awarded every other year and features a prize of $200,000 for the winner as well as $25,000 for the winner's home department. During the off years, three finalists for the award will speak at Baylor and will receive $15,000 each, plus $10,000 to go to their home departments.

In addition to Armstrong, the other Cherry finalists were William Cook, Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at State University of New York at Geneseo, and Dr. Robert Brown, Institute Professor in the department of physics at Case Western Reserve.

For more information, contact Hornik at 710-4548.

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