Ensemble Directors

Amundson151Steven Amundson
Professor of Music — Theory and Conducting
Conductor of the St. Olaf Orchestra

Steven Amundson joined the music faculty at St. Olaf College in the fall of 1981. Under Amundson’s direction, the St. Olaf Orchestra has become recognized as one the finest undergraduate orchestras in the United States. In addition to his duties as conductor of the St. Olaf Orchestra, he teaches courses in conducting, aural skills, and music theory.

Prior to his appointment at St. Olaf, Amundson held conducting posts at the University of Virginia and with the Tacoma Youth Symphony in Washington. He is the founding conductor of the Metropolitan Symphony in Minnesota and served as Music Director and Conductor of the Bloomington Symphony from 1984-1997. He has been both a resident conductor and guest conductor for the well-known Interlochen National Arts Camp and has served as guest conductor for many All-State Orchestra festivals throughout the United States. Amundson has guest conducted professional ensembles in Minnesota including the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra, the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra, the Fargo/Moorhead Symphony, and the renowned St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

A commissioned composer and arranger, Amundson is published by Lauren Keiser Music and the Neil A. Kjos Music Co. Tempo Music Resource distributes his self-published works. His orchestral compositions have received hundreds of performances by professional orchestras including the Atlanta, Cincinnati, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Oregon, Phoenix, San Diego, and Utah Symphonies in the United States, and internationally with orchestras including the Toronto Symphony in Canada and BBC Concert Orchestra in the United Kingdom.

Amundson did his studies in orchestral conducting at Luther College, Northwestern University, the University of Virginia, the Aspen Music School in Colorado, and the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. He has enjoyed the tutelage of notable conductors including Maurice Abravanel, Milan Horvat, and Erich Leinsdorf.

In the 1980 International Conducting Competition hosted by the Mozarteum and Austrian National Radio, Amundson placed first, earning the Hans Haring Prize. In 1992 the Minnesota Music Education Association named him “Minnesota Orchestra Educator of the Year.” In the fall of 1995 Amundson received the Carlo A. Sperati Award from Luther College in recognition of his meritorious achievement in the field of music.

AntonWebAnton Armstrong
Harry R. and Thora H. Tosdal Professor 
of Music — Voice and Conducting
Conductor of the St. Olaf Choir
Conductor of the Collegiate Chorale

Anton Armstrong is the Harry R. and Thora H. Tosdal Professor of Music at St. Olaf College and Conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, a position he assumed in 1990. He came to this position following ten years in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he served on the faculty of Calvin College and conducted the Campus Choir, the Calvin College Alumni Choir and the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus.A graduate of St. Olaf College, Anton Armstrong earned a Master of Music degree at the University of Illinois and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Michigan State University. He holds membership in several professional societies including the American Choral Directors Association, Choristers Guild, Chorus America, and the International Federation for Choral Music. He also serves as editor of a multicultural choral series for Earthsongs Publications and co-editor of the revised St. Olaf Choral Series for Augsburg Fortress Publishers.

Dr. Armstrong is widely recognized for his work in the area of youth and children’s choral music. He served for over twenty years on the summer faculty of the American Boychoir School, Princeton, New Jersey and held the position of Conductor of the St. Cecilia Youth Chorale, a 75 voice treble chorus based in Grand Rapids, from 1981-1990. He is the founding conductor of the Troubadours, 30-voice boys’ ensemble of the Northfield Youth Choirs since 1991. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Boychoir School, the Board of Chorus America and the Board of Choristers Guild. In June 1998, he began his tenure as founding conductor of the Oregon Bach Festival Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy.

Anton Armstrong has conducted the St. Olaf Choir in critically acclaimed solo concert performances at the 59th National Conference of the Music Educators National Conference in April 2004, the Sixth World Symposium on Choral Music in August 2002, and at the 1999 National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association in Chicago, Illinois. In February 2005, The St. Olaf Choir shared the stage with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in presenting the finale concert for the national conference of the American Choral Directors Association at the new Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, California.

AspaasBwweb2011 copyChristopher Aspaas
Assistant Professor of Music — Voice and Choral Conducting
Conductor of Chapel Choir and Viking Chorus
Christopher Aspaas received his Ph.D. in Choral Music Education at The Florida State University in Tallahassee, his M.M. in Choral Conducting from Michigan State University in East Lansing, his B.M. in Voice Performance from St. Olaf. Christopher has served on the faculties of Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington and Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts.At St. Olaf, Aspaas conducts the Viking Chorus, a 90-voice ensemble of first-year student men, and also leads the Saint Olaf Chapel Choir, a 100-voice ensemble specializing in the performance of oratorio and larger multi-movement works. In 2009, Aspaas led the Chapel Choir and St. Olaf Orchestra in a performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s monumental oratorio, Elijah, and recently conducted the Brahm’s Requiem in April 2011. In addition to conducting, he leads coursework in choral literature, choral conducting, and private applied voice.

In 2008, Aspaas was appointed as the Music Director and Conductor for Magnum Chorum, a Twin Cities choral ensemble who is “Transforming Audiences through Artistry and Spirit.”His travels as a guest conductor, clinician, and adjudicator have taken Christopher to Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and twice to the Sultanate of Oman. He has conducted All-State Choruses in Kentucky, South Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin, and recently led the 2009 Anacrusis Boys’ Honor Choir in Minnesota.

Aspaas is also active as a tenor soloist, performing Bach cantatas with Helmuth Rilling and the Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra, the Evangelist roles in the John and Matthew Passions of Bach with the Bach Collegium of Fort Wayne, Ind., and other solo roles with the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra and the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic in Russia. Most recently, Aspaas traveled to San Luis Obispo, California for a performance of Franz Josef Haydn’s Theresienmesse and Johann Michael Haydn’s Requiem with the Cuesta Master Chorale and Orchestra.

BobbJames E. Bobb
Assistant Professor of Organ and Church Music
Minister of Music to the Student Congregation
Conductor of the St. Olaf Cantorei

James E. Bobb joins the St Olaf faculty with more than 20 years’ experience directing church music in Lutheran and United Church of Christ congregations. Bobb holds performer’s certificates and M.M. degrees and in organ and harpsichord performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music where his teachers included Russell Saunders and David Craighead in organ and Arthur Haas in harpsichord. His undergraduate work was at Capital University where his teachers were Janet Linker in organ and Frank Hussey in piano.

As the Minister of Music at First Congregational Church, Columbus, Ohio from 2009-2012, Bobb presided over a three-manual 1972 Rudolph von Becherath organ of 73 ranks, a four-manual 1931 W. W. Kimball organ of 66 ranks, four parish ensembles and two concert series. He also taught organ and organ literature at Capital University in Columbus. For fifteen years prior to that, Bobb served the Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word in Rochester New York.  There he led parish ensembles of all ages, conducted the St. John Passion and other works by Bach, Buxtehude, Schütz, Gabrieli, Purcell, and Telemann, and led the choir on a tour of Sweden. Also in Rochester, he was director of the Rochester Bach Festival, an instructor in Sacred Music at the Eastman School of Music, Adjunct Professor of organ at Nazareth College, and a chapter dean of the American Guild of Organists.

At the harpsichord, Bobb has performed Bach’s Goldberg Variations in Manhattan, Boston, Rochester, and Baltimore. He has appeared as organ and harpsichord soloist, conductor, and continuo player with The Publick Musick and the Rochester Bach Festival. With The Publick Musick, he had appeared in New York, Indiana, Maine, and Germany, and has recorded music of Telemann and Vivaldi. Bobb has also enjoyed leading hymn festivals in Ohio, New York, Georgia, and Oklahoma.

elhardrectangleJulie Elhard
Visiting Instructor in Music — Viola da Gamba
Co-Director of Collegium Musicum
Julie Elhard, viola da gamba, performs regularly as a soloist and chamber musician. Ms. Elhard has won an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and a Jerome Foundation grant. She received a Performing Artist Certificate in viola da gamba from the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague, The Netherlands. She has taught at workshops across North America and is publishing a new method for teaching children and adult beginners the viola da gamba.

DaveLive2011BWDavid Hagedorn
Artist in Residence — Percussion and World Music
Director of Jazz Ensembles
David Hagedorn is an Artist in Residence in the Music Department at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where he teaches percussion, jazz studies, and world music. St. Olaf Jazz I received an award for best undergraduate large jazz band in the Downbeat magazine 2011 student music awards.

He received a DMA in Percussion Performance from the Eastman School of Music,where his principal teacher was John Beck.  He also holds a MM in Percussion Performance from the New England Conservatory where he studied with Vic Firth, of the Boston Symphony, and a BS in Music Education from the University of Minnesota, where he studied with Marv Dahlgren and Paula Culp, of the Minnesota Orchestra. He attended the Banff Jazz Workshop in 1981 and 1990, studying with vibist Karl Berger, drummers Ed Blackwell, Abraham Adzenyah, and Marvin “Smitty “Smith.

His latest release, Horizon, with pianist Dan Cavanagh, was released in December of 2010. Hagedorn also has an album, Solid/Liquid on the artegra label in SACD format released in October of 2003. He is featured on Songs from the Lonely Avenue by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, and also with pipa artist Gao Hong on Quiet Forest, Flowing Stream. Other albums with local artists include Subduction the Phil Hey Quartet, live at the Artists Quarter, Where’s When with Pete Whitman’s X-tet, the Out to Lunch Quintet, live at the Artists Quarter, and many recordings with the vocal group Cantus.  He recorded two albums with the George Russell Living Time Orchestra on Blue Note Recordings: the African Game, nominated for a “best big band” Grammy in 1986, and So What.

Tours with George Russell, included concerts at Kool Jazz Festivals in Saratoga Springs, New York and San Diego, California and club appearances at Sweet Basil in New York City and at the African American Cultural Center in Philadelphia. He played vibes and marimba on Twin Cities jazz singer Debbie Duncan’s album, It Must be Christmas on Igmod Recordings. In 1984, he received an honorable mention award from Down Beat magazine for a performance with alto saxophonist Nelson Rangell.Hagedorn has performed in academic setttings with: David Berkman, Anthony Braxton, Armen Donelian, Gil Evans, Urbie Green, Happy Apple, Thad Jones, Vince Mendoza, Tiger Okoshi, Julian Priester,  Rufus Reid, Clark Terry, Steve Turre, and Kenny Wheeler. He has also performed with Anthony Cox, Bobby Shew, and Roy Hargrove.

He has appeared on the Prairie Home Companion and Good Evening, shows on Minnesota Public Radio, and also at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Jazzfest.Hagedorn regularly performs in the Twin Cities with groups such as Source Code with Eric Gravatt  (drummer formerly with Weather Report), the Out to Lunch Quintet, the Phil Hey Quartet, Low Blows, Pete Whitman’s X-tet, and JazzMn.

Hodelweb11Martin Hodel
Associate Professor of Music — Trumpet
Conductor of the St. Olaf Philharmonia
Streaming Concert Archive
Martin Hodel has performed as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player in the US and around the world.  During the 2005-06 season he played full time in the trumpet section of the Minnesota Orchestra, with whom he has recorded and plays extra.  As Principal and Solo Trumpet with the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Hodel toured the U.S. and Japan, and he has toured coast to coast in America with the Dallas Brass.  He has also shared the stage with jazz artists Joe Henderson, Maria Schneider, Slide Hampton, Claudio Roditi, David Murray, and Jimmy Heath, and has toured Germany with organist Bradley Lehman as part of the Hodel-Lehman Duo.  A CD by the Duo, In Thee is Gladness, recorded in Emden, Germany has been released on Larips Records. Hodel appears as a soloist on seven other compact discs, has performed live on the nationally-broadcast radio program, A Prairie Home Companion, on Minnesota Public Radio, on public television, and on national broadcasts of the radio programs Sing for Joy and PipeDreams.

Since 1997 he has been the trumpet professor at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.  Hodel holds a doctorate in trumpet performance and a performer’s certificate from the Eastman School of Music, a master of music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a bachelor’s degree in music education from Goshen College.  His teachers have included Charles Geyer, Barbara Butler, Allen Vizzutti, James Ketch, Raymond Mase, Craig Heitger, David Hickman and Anthony Plog.  On a recent sabbatical, Hodel studied Baroque (natural, valveless) trumpet and 18th-century trumpet literature in Europe with Dr. Edward H. Tarr, the leading expert on early trumpets and trumpet literature.

Sig100dpiBWSigrid Johnson
Artist in Residence — Voice
Conductor of the Manitou Singers
Johnson received a B.M. in vocal performance from St. Cloud State University and an M.M. in voice performance from the University of Michigan. She is the conductor of the Manitou Singers.  Before her appointment at St. Olaf, she was on the music faculties of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter and at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Ms. Johnson is also the Associate Conductor of the Ensemble Singers and Chorus for Philip Brunelle’s VocalEssence, formerly known as the Plymouth Music Series of Minnesota.

Ms. Johnson maintains an active schedule as a guest conductor and clinician at choral festivals and all-state music festivals across the country and has conducted choral workshops in Australia.  She is a member of the American Choral Director’s Association (ACDA), Music Educator’s National Conference (MENC), the International Federation for Choral Music and Chorus America.

In January through March 1999, Ms. Johnson conducted the National Lutheran Choir of Minneapolis.  Ms. Johnson has served as Conductor of the Dale Warland Symphonic Chorus and the Associate Conductor of the Dale Warland Singers.  She has prepared symphonic choruses for Neemi Jarvi, Sir Neville Mariner, David Zinman, Stanislaw Skrowaczewsky, Gerard Swartz, Edo de Waart, and Leonard Slatkin among others.

In August 2002, she was one of the featured lecturers for the Sixth World Symposium on Choral Music.  In October 2004, Mrs. Johnson was a featured lecturer and clinician at the Australian National Choral Directors National Conference in Adelaide.  In 2006 she was a member of the esteemed jury for the Bela Bartok International Choral Competition in Debrecen, Hungary and in 2008 she will be a lecturer on choral sound for the Eighth World Symposium on Choral Music in Copenhagen.

John Lace
Interim Director of the St. Olaf Band (Spring 2015)
Mr. Lace received a BA in Music Education from St. Olaf College and Master’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Minnesota. Since moving to Anoka, John has been active as a clinician as well as judging large group and solo and ensemble contests in the area. Lace has also been active in the Lake Wobegone Brass Band, the Minnesota Music Listening Contest Board (chair for 2 years), the Northern Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Symphonic Winds, a faculty rock group called Staff Infection, and Zion Lutheran Church as a choir member, council member, and volunteer with the youth program. In addition, Lace plays trumpet and sings for weddings in the area. Professional memberships include ASBDA, MMEA, MBDA, NAfME, and MEA.

Instructor in Music — Oboe and Music Education
Director of Collegium Musicum
Dana Maeda, graduated from St. Olaf College with a BM degree in Oboe Performance, Vocal Education and Instrumental Education. She then earned a MA in Education from St. Mary’s University. Her primary oboe teachers include Julie Madura and Rhadames Angelucci. In addition to 25 years as a private instructor, she has previously served on the faculty of Bethel University and Crown College.

Dana spent 14 years in the public and private schools teaching band, choir, and classroom music. Her experiences have included instruction at the high school, middle school and elementary levels.  The final 9 years were devoted to elementary classroom music instruction with an emphasis on early childhood development.

Dana currently performs with the Rochester Orchestra and is a founding member of WindWorks Woodwind Quintet. She is active as a free-lance performer in the Twin City area. Some of the ensembles she has performed with include the Bach Society of Minnesota, Minnesota Sinfonia, Minneapolis Pops Orchestra, Arius, Minnetonka Choral Society, Dolce Wind Quintet, and Moody Blues. Dana frequently assumes the coaching/clinician role. These opportunities have included St. Olaf Band Day guest lecturer and soloist, high school master classes on the art of chamber music, judging regional solo/ensemble competitions, and coach for the Minnesota All-State Orchestra woodwind section. In addition to working with the St. Olaf oboe studio, she also coaches chamber ensembles and teaches woodwind methods.

Jill Mahr on 2009 June 30Jill Mahr
Instructor in Music — flute
Conductor of the Handbell Choirs

Ms. Mahr holds a B.M. degree in flute performance and music education with a jazz minor from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. She earned a Master of Music degree in Flute Performance at Northwestern University, where she studied with Walfrid Kujala of the Chicago Symphony. In addition to flute instruction, Ms. Mahr directs the St. Olaf Handbell Choir, the St. Olaf Chapel Ringers, and oversees the direction of the student-led Manitou Handbell Choir. Previously she was director of the King’s Ringers at Mount of Olives Baptist Church in Duluth, MN. She is an active member of AGEHR (American Guild of English Handbell Ringers) and is currently their Area VII secretary. Ms. Mahr is principal flute in the Mankato Symphony Orchestra, flute instructor at Minnesota State University in Mankato, Carleton College and has a private flute studio in her home.

Mahrbw2011webTimothy Mahr
Professor of Music — Composition and Conducting
Conductor of the St. Olaf Band
Timothy Mahr holds a B.M. degree in composition and a B.A. degree in music education from St. Olaf College and a master’s degree in trombone performance and a D.M.A. in instrumental conducting from the University of Iowa. An internationally acclaimed composer, Dr. Mahr received the 1991 Ostwald Award in the ABA Band Composition Contest for his composition The Soaring Hawk. He was elected to the American Bandmasters Association in 1993. Formerly director of bands at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and founding conductor of the Twin Ports Wind Ensemble, Dr. Mahr is the principal conductor of the Minnesota Symphonic Winds and is active as a clinician and guest conductor nationally and internationally. Recent commissions have come from the United States Air Force Band, the Music Educators National Conference, and the American Bandmasters Association. Twenty-five of his works have been published, with many released on compact disc recordings and included on state contest lists. Dr. Mahr is a past-president of the North Central Division of the College Band Directors National Association (1999-2001), has served on the Board of Directors of the National Band Association (1996-98) and was a founding board member of the Minnesota Band Directors Association.

niemistoWeb11Paul Niemisto
Associate Professor of Music — Low Brass
Conductor of Norseman Band
Niemisto earned B.M. and M.M. degrees from the University of Michigan School of Music. He is conductor of the Norseman Band here at St. Olaf College. He has been a member of the Scandinavian Symphony Orchestra of Detroit, Toledo Symphony, Flint (Mich.) Symphony, Las Palmas Opera Festival Orchestra (Spain), and Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (Canada). Niemisto studied trombone with Edward Kleinhammer of the Chicago Symphony and tuba with Abe Torchinsky. In recent years, he has been a clinician and soloist at festivals in Canada and Scandinavia, and he founded American Poijat, a Finnish brass band.

smithrobertRobert C. Smith
Associate Professor of Music — Voice and Solo Vocal Liturature
Director of Early Music Singers
Robert C. Smith, baritone, Associate Professor of Music. B.M., St. Olaf, M.M., Yale University, D.M.A., University of Texas. Major teachers have included Phyllis Curtin, Donald Hoiness, Barbara Honn, Mary Kaye Schmidt, and Darlene Wiley with additional study in Milan, Italy with Rita Patané.
Prior to his current position at St. Olaf, Dr. Smith served on the faculties of the University of New Mexico, the Berkshire Choral Festival and the University of Vermont.Smith has been featured at the Aspen Festival, Madeira Bach Festival (Portugal), Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Covent Garden Festival (London), Prague Spring Festival (Czech Republic), Foire Saint Germain (Paris), and Festival Van Vlaanderen (Belgium). Dr. Smith has been a featured soloist with VocalEssence, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Santa Fe Symphony, Música Antigua de Albuquerque, and the Madeira Bach Festival in Portugal. Recent performances have included appearances at the Library of Congress, the 1999 and 2002 World Symposia on Choral Music, and radio broadcasts on Belgium Radio, Radio France, NPR, and the BBC.In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Dr. Smith annually sings more than 60 concerts, appearing in the last few months under British conductors Simon Carrington and Jonathon Willcocks, John Kennedy (Spoleto Festival USA), and Donald Nally (Lyric Opera of Chicago), among others.