Central District ACE Award

Keith Cornell

By Joe Osowski

Photo: Nikki Lambrecht (district chair), Keith Cornell (recipient), Joe Osowski (nominator)

It is my privilege as one of the choral directors at St. Michael – Albertville High School to award STMA Activities Director Keith Cornell the 2023 Central District Advocate for Choral Excellence award. Keith became STMA’s Activities Director in 2017 after serving as a math teacher and football coach in the district since 2001. Since his installation in this position, he has served our students with a relentless tenacity to ensure that every student has access to resources, platforms, and opportunities to become the best versions of themselves. Keith is one of the hardest working people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. He attends every school event and is invested in each activity equally. His efforts have earned him the respect of his colleagues, the student body, and the families he serves. 

Keith has carried these skills into our choral program. He attends every performance, both on and off-site, has been instrumental (pun intended) in cultivating revenue opportunities to support our supplemental programming, and even chaperones our choir tours along with his wife Erin. 

Some of my favorite memories with Keith are watching our choral students explore a new community, seeing students become more comfortable and confident people through the safe spaces he helps create, or celebrating a great performance while watching 80 kids take over a hotel pool. This guy even helps with room checks. He is truly a servant leader.

Keith is part of the outstanding team that I have the pleasure of working with at STMA. These people demonstrate excellence everyday. We could be here all night talking about this incredible guy but I will close with a short story about Keith. 

Keith is originally from Swanville, Minnesota, a town of about 300 people 40 minutes north of Collegeville. His dad Allan “Corky” Cornell was the band and choir director there for 38 years and was one of the first “outstate” educators in Minnesota to be named to the MMEA Hall of Fame for his contributions to music education in Minnesota. Keith was an “A” student in school until he received a C- from his dad in choir. Keith asked his dad why he received this grade and his dad told him it’s because you are not a very good singer. After high school, Keith attended college at St. John’s University. At midnight mass here on campus, Keith was singing a hymn with his family when his dad leaned over and asked him what grade did I give you in choir. Keith said “A C-” and his dad responded with “Well, that was a gift.”

Keith, you are truly a gift to the STMA community. I’ve told you this before but I was really nervous to have you as our AD because I was worried that we would no longer be friends. I’m grateful for both relationships and honored that we can celebrate you tonight. I am looking forward to the next 25 years of working together.