Stanley (Stan) Wold has been a choir director in the state of Minnesota for 38 years, the last 34 of which were at the University of Minnesota Duluth. His students enjoyed the benefit of his passion for languages (and diction!) and the world’s musical community. He retired in May, 2017, and he and his wife, Mona, plan to stay in Duluth and he will continue as the choir director of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and as the Artistic Director and conductor of Arrowhead Chorale. His students are celebrating him and the impact he made on their lives with a University Singers Alumni concert on June 25th, 2017 in Weber Hall at UMD at 3:00 PM. Stan’s Norwegian heritage may contribute to his self-effacing modesty. When conducting the interview for this article, the last question was, “What is your legacy?” Stan didn’t seem to know how to answer that. The students plan to use the phrase, “WE are your legacy” in the concert honoring him.
Student Reflections on Stan:
It is impossible to fully understand the musical mastermind of Dr. Stanley Wold. Often you will catch a glimpse of it through the twinkle in his eye while describing a cadence from a Bach Chorale, as he promises our eventual love for the atonality of an Eskil Hemberg masterpiece, or the pure joy on his face when we finally sing a suspension correctly. As my vocal coach, academic advisor, choral director, and supervisor, I had the privilege of working with him as often as six days a week. Day in and day out he encouraged me to do my best. To lead well, research fully, and attempt the seemingly impossible. Every day since graduation, I have felt truly blessed to have been educated and mentored by him. He taught me how to be an educator, a leader, a collaborator, a well-rounded musician, and so much more. As I now pursue a career in music education, I can only hope to instill a passion for music into the hearts of my students like he did for me.
Dr. Wold is an amazing choral educator and taught me many skills that I use in my teaching, but what I also remember of my time working with him is the vast variety of music that he found for us to perform. During my tenure at UMD the repertoire ranged from Bach Cantatas to a 20th Century “Alleluia” by Arvo Part, from African American spirituals to a concert of all Hungarian songs, and from Classic Western music to folk songs from around the world. I don’t remember repeating a song from one year to the next. I also greatly enjoyed his dry sense of humor, making the choir rehearsals enjoyable with jokes that new incoming students miss until they learn how to pick up on the cues. UMD has been lucky to have such a choral professional working with the many students for so many years.
BM, Vocal Music Ed and Instrumental Ed 1999
Dr. Wold has always been my champion. I came to UMD as a transfer in 1988, about the same time he joined the faculty. I was not a model student; I arrived with a 1.2 GPA from 2 false starts at other institutions. I lived on the reservation where education was not only a challenge but higher ed was seen by many as a threat to our community values and traditions. Driving into campus daily was literally culture shock. Dr. Wold supported me by recognizing my potential, allowing me space to find my way, offering guidance to be successful, and valuing diversity. These are the gifts he shares freely with all; over the years, I witnessed many flower under his tender care. While others were not always patient or supportive, I knew I could count on Dr. Wold to be in my corner. His consistent and fair mentorship provided the stability I needed so that I could complete my degrees. There were many days I thought I couldn’t face another challenge, but knowing I had Dr. Wold in my corner, I didn’t want to let him down. I don’t know if he knew that; I was too shy to tell him that. In any case, his support greatly contributed to me being able to finish my bachelor’s in vocal performance, and my Master’s thesis about American Indian music education. That is what has defined my career and now sustains my family. Since 2013, I have taught over 12,000 students in Minnesota about Ojibwe-Anishinaabe music and culture, I have been MPR’s Artist-in-Residence, and received Ordway’s Sally Award in Education. I don’t take sole credit for these achievements. There are many who have contributed to “my” success, but Dr. Wold has been a steady and strong voice of support. I can’t say enough but I will end with a deep expression of gratitude and respect. I wish him the best retirement; he deserves great and beautiful things.
1988-92; 1995, 2005
BA & MM, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College Faculty
Teaching career (45 years):
- New London-Spicer (MN): Junior-Senior High school 1972-74
- Madison (MN) Prairie Arts Center, private teaching studio 1975-77
- Clear Lake (IA) High School 1977-81
- Mt. St. Joseph University, Cincinnati (OH), adjunct, spring 1984
- UMD 1984-2017
- May 2017: Retired
Professional Honors and Involvement:
- ACDA Julius Hereford Doctoral Dissertation award 1987 Eskil Hemberg-Swedish Composer, Conductor, and Administrator; A Survey of His Works
- 2011 recipient of UMD’s Albert Tezla Teacher/Scholar Award
- 2013 Arrowhead Regional Arts Council’s Maddie Simons Arts Advocate Award
- High School: Boyd, Minnesota, graduated in 1968
- B.M. Degree: Concordia College, Moorhead, 1972
- M.M. Degree: University of California (Los Angeles), 1975
- D.M.A. Degree: College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, 1987
- International: studied and/or conducted in Hungary, Russia, Scandinavia, Venezuela, and South Africa.
- Delegate to International Federation for Choral Music symposia in Vancouver, Sydney, Rotterdam, Minneapolis, Kyoto, Copenhagen, Puerto Madryn (Argentina)
- Consistent membership in ACDA, MMEA, MENC, MEA, NEA since 1984; prior to that, 4 more years in MMEA, 4 years in IMEA (Iowa) membership. Membership in NATS 1986-2016. Repertoire and Standards Chair for Men’s Chorus, NE MN representative to State Board. On initial steering committee for (and several years’ conducting in) the MN ACDA Male Chorus and Treble Choir Projects at St. John’s University. Several years MN Chair for Youth & Student Activities; UMD Student Chapter of ACDA founded (1986) and implemented several years of the Student Conducting Symposium, which still continues in a varied format today.
- Active Adjudicator Wisconsin School Music Association and Minnesota State High School League
- Directed adult church choirs in these Lutheran congregations: Peace, New London, MN; Central, VanNuys, CA; Zion, Clear Lake, IA; Prince of Peace, Cincinnati, OH
- Gloria Dei Lutheran Church (Duluth) since ca.1986
- Founding conductor and artistic director of Arrowhead Chorale since 1989
- Chorusmaster for the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra 1991-1999
- Church Committees included pastoral search, organ search, post-fire rebuilding,
When did you first decide to become a choral director?
In high school I was in both band and choir. In the case of choir I was chiefly the accompanist, but in band I was a student assistant conductor. As such I had some good discussions with that teacher and fully expected to be a band director, but after a short while at Concordia I changed my focus to choral music and my principal instrument became piano rather than trumpet.
What are some memories of your first year as a choral director? Along with being a choral director, did you perform other duties?
It was 7-12. I had 2 sections of general music every day, and they rotated between 7th grade and 8th grade. I had the large concert choir every day, and I tried to start a 9th grade choir during the lunch hour because it wasn’t in the curriculum which I thought was an awful mistake to not be singing for a whole year because you lose students. They got to perform at least twice a year during a concert. I was expected to prepare the students for contest and to prepare the soloists and the chorus for musicals. I was essentially the music director, but it wasn’t called that.
The next job I had was high school level, teaching grades 9-12. There I had a smaller choir, 9-10th grade, and a Concert Choir of juniors and seniors. By the end of my 4th year there the numbers had flipped and my Concert Choir was up over 90. I was also expected to teach voice lessons every hour that I wasn’t teaching choir. I was partially responsible for that because I talked the principal into it. I also prepared the students for contest. I was always involved with the musical either as the music director for the production, or as the full production director of the musical each fall.
Who were the choirs and conductors that inspired you in those early years?
I have had the good fortune of studying with many outstanding teachers, many of whom I also consider mentors. The one who rises above the rest is Charles Hirt, founder and long-time head of the Choral and Church Music Department of the University of Southern California. His ability to use the English language to create the psychological environment in which good choral singing seemed to arise naturally was a profound experience for me. His linguistic abilities were astounding, his knowledge of repertoire and the requisite stylistic parameters lifted the national awareness of ACDA, and his concern for the individual student was genuine.
Who are the choirs and conductors that continue to inspire you today?
Helmuth Rilling, Frieder Bernius, Maria Ginaund from Venezuela, Robert Shaw, Eric Erickson, Rick Bjella, and Brad Holmes (Millikin University).
I was always impressed with the New Zealand Youth Choir. They just have something special. They always had good repertoire, but they were also very well trained and good at everything they did. I recently heard the National New Zealand High School Choir when I was in South Africa. They were extremely good for a High School ensemble, very expressive and very communicative with their audience.
I have particularly admired the choirs directed by Rick Bjella at regional and national conferences (Lawrence University and Texas Tech). The repertoire is always top-notch, but moreover the pieces are thoughtfully organized within the concert framework to produce a cohesive unit.
How did you go about selecting your repertoire? From what sources did you seek ideas?
Even at the college level you have to be pragmatic; you don’t have an unlimited budget, so I included what had already been purchased. But sometimes there were those pieces from ACDA or IFCM that cried “must do” and I started to incorporate them into a satisfactory whole. Another thing that is a little different now than when I started to teach: choir concerts in those days were mostly a recital of unrelated pieces. Based on what I saw in Minneapolis, ACDA presently prefers theme concerts. But sometimes if you want your theme to be obviously working for the whole concert you may include pieces that you otherwise might not have done. So there is a strength and weakness in both, and you just have to make some choices. A similar dichotomy appears in the consideration of sacred/secular repertoire: one masterpiece of sacred origin may need to be balanced by several pieces of secular. I believe the director involved has to think about a whole season to adequately balance the concerns.
I am of the opinion that we have grown enamored with music of recent composers (who obviously have a gift, and whose work we should represent), but increasingly seem to ignore pieces that should be canons of our educational process and expression. They say the Renaissance was the Golden Era for choral music. With certain choirs being the exception, what I heard in Minneapolis this year at ACDA was not very representative. When I studied with Charles Hirt he discussed the catholicity of styles and promoted it to a whole generation.
Listen to University Singers “Tota Pulchra Es”
In those early years, what was the typical balance of sacred and secular music on a concert?
I suppose there was an over balance of sacred repertoire in my early years, but I think it may have been a result of the culture in Minnesota. I learned upon completing graduate work in different parts of the country–intending to teach young people about being a well-balanced member of society–that it is imperative to mix secular repertoire with sacred. I believe this has happened in a very natural way over recent years. I hope that the real overlying quality measurement is really about timelessness of the art itself.
On a personal note, I’d mention a particular instance where I led my high school to perform one or two pieces that (I now say in retrospect) weren’t worth the time it took to prepare them. But it was a sacred piece that I sang in my undergraduate and I liked it personally. Now I realize the place for that was in an appropriate church service, but not in public high school.
What is the place of multicultural music in programming today?
As for multicultural music, people who were fortunate enough to be able to attend the IFCM symposia every 3rd year became aware of a different viewpoint on how different repertoire from around the world fit in. Anecdotally, I’d mention my experience on an exchange trip to Hungary. During the month I was there, I could watch only one channel on TV. It was very interesting to see what world news looked like from the Hungarian perspective. During that time, there was coverage on the Oklahoma City bombing. I could only imagine how that must have taken hours of local television in the United States, and it probably only got 10 minutes in Hungary based on all of the other things going on in the world. Similarly, for choral music, there are so many wonderful things going on in other cultures that are adequately reflected in choral music as a genre but we tend to ignore it. The question is again one of balance and how we as a profession can maintain balance. I believe ACDA has improved immensely in this regard.
Listen to Brotan de las Flores (Chamber Singers)
Name six pieces of repertoire that you would recommend to the conductor of today?
- Misericordias Domini, Jung-Sun Park; SATB div. Korean ChorusCenter (email@example.com)
- Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, Eric Whitacre; SSATB; Walton 08501444
- Agnus Dei; Samuel Barber; SATB div: G. Schirmer 50313910
- Richte mich, Gott, Johannes Brahms; SATB div; CPDL
- When David Heard; Norman Dinerstein; SATB div; Boosey & Hawkes, 48003871
- Johannespassion; J. S. Bach (as a result of conducting it for the first time in 2011)
University Singers, Arrowhead Chorale, Lake Superior Youth Chorus
Johannespassion by JS Bach
As you listen to choirs of today, how have the components of choral music performance evolved?
Based on what I heard at 2017 National ACDA in Minneapolis, I think that more choirs now are trained by people who obviously understand the voice, and who value the text/music relationship and are more concerned about direct communication with the audience than it used to be. I think more choirs now reflect good singing. I think that in the early days there were choirs who sang in tune and who did many things well, but may not have emphasized proper tone production. I think it’s a definite plus that it is more of a focus now. I also think that choirs nowadays have instructors whose standards include concerns about communication directly with the audience. It seems to me that many conductors are now successful at encouraging individuals to develop their own connection with the text (or at least as they understand it), and then try to share it with the audience through the music.
How has the preparation of choral music directors changed?
Speaking principally from the perspective of an undergraduate institution, it seems to me that there are ever increasing pressures from state boards of education, curricular guidelines coming from many different entities, etc. which force teachers of teachers to make compromises in what they feel the students should be getting in contradistinction with what those outside pressures are pushing. It has in part to do with public schools focusing on all kinds of things regarding health concerns for the students, and what does the teacher do to help the students in that regard. Focus is also on all kinds of benchmarks that seem to apply in a sort of natural way to what we call the 3 Rs, but perhaps in the arts don’t apply so helpfully.
What were some of the special performance events (festivals, conventions, tours) that your choirs participated in?
University Singers and Chamber Singers completed the first concert tour by an American University choir of Kenya and Tanzania. (1997)
Particularly memorable was performing at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany. I have always loved the music of JS Bach, so it felt almost like a pilgrimage to visit the location of Bach’s longest tenure. We were able to perform a concert in the church. While we were warming up, I made sure the basses in the back row were very aware that if they ever were going to sing their part of the motet well, this would be the time–since Bach was buried right behind them!
How did you first become involved with ACDA?
It was interesting in my case because when I taught two years in MN (‘72-’74) the thing to belong to and the most active obvious choice was MMEA. We went to everything that they had. There were some opportunities to go to ACDA events (a brand new organization, at least to us) but they just weren’t emphasized by the profession. NOT YET. Following 15 months in Los Angeles, and 2 years of private teaching and church work I secured a teaching position in Clear Lake, Iowa. In Iowa it was just the opposite. The only thing that people cared about for the equivalent of MMEA was for implementing All-States. But other than that ICDA was just everything. They had a huge summer program and any choral director who was anything would attend. Of course, Iowa was a smaller state and it was like a large family. They were much closer than anything I had experienced in MN, and they were really connected with the national ACDA. When I moved back to MN in 1984, I certainly made sure I was still a member of ACDA and we started a student chapter of ACDA at UMD. When I was in Iowa, I was Repertoire and Standards Chair for North Central for Male chorus, and I was part of some small planning committees for Iowa events, and the first steering committee for the first TTBB/SSAA Festival at St. John’s.
Looking back, what has been the value and impact of ACDA upon your professional career?
Professionally it has been the backbone. And I say that from an academic point of view and a musical point of view.
What were some of the most memorable performances you witnessed at an ACDA event?
I remember the first time I went to a national conference was at Kansas City. A small group of us drove there from Iowa. I was so impressed because Helmuth Rilling was there, doing his thing. Robert Shaw was there, doing his thing. Marcel Couraud from France was there, doing his thing. And the German television was putting everything together for a documentary. Wow! I had never seen anything like that! It was helpful and I learned a ton! I had already completed my Master’s at that point so it wasn’t like I was starting from scratch.
I still remember when Shaw did the Missa Solemnis at one of the later conventions. It was memorable because Shaw is Shaw, and he was conducting a compilation of four University choirs, including the chamber choir of College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. I was already thinking about going there, so that helped cement that plan. As far as I’m concerned Shaw’s genius was unmatched. My teacher at CCM had been a protégé of his and during my time there I was lucky enough to participate in a choral tour with Shaw in Italy, southern France and Switzerland, all the while marveling at his abilities and the insights he shared freely.
Volunteerism at all levels has been vital to the growth of ACDA-MN, how relevant is it for our future?
Super important. It has been vital to the growth of ACDA. When you see that people are running regularly for state, regional, and national offices, that’s very important. But even so, the numbers of people who are still crucial to the implementation of all the levels of activity–well, we couldn’t do it without them!
What advice or words of wisdom would you give the emerging choral director of today?
- See if you can refrain from choosing a ‘god’ to follow. There are many strong individuals with all kinds of musical ability, but listen to more than one.
- When you are a teacher, it’s not just about the music that turns you on, but the responsibility to put all variations of it in front of your students.
- Continue to excel in the use of technology.
- You do not have the right to leave the profession until you’ve tried it for 3 years, because only then do you have the perspective on which to make that decision. I remember an event in the first year of my teaching that if I hadn’t been married I think I would have walked out the school and never come back.
- If you are an undergraduate, yes, you really do need to continue to study the piano. Not only does it help with classroom management but it helps with score prep. If you had to struggle to play through all those parts, you have processed those parts in a different way that sitting and staring at the parts and listening to a recording.
- You really do as a student and young professional NEED to attend conferences. They will never be any cheaper than the current one, and you can start to meet people and put together your networking.