Eklund to be presented with NFHS Section IV Outstanding Music Educator award

Peter Eklund
Peter Eklund

Glenn Korff School of Music Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Peter A. Eklund will be presented the National Federation of High Schools United States Section IV (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin) Outstanding Music Educator award at this year’s Iowa All-State Music Festival after being nominated by the Iowa High School Music Association.

“I have two basic feelings,” Eklund said. “1) When I conduct (here or away as a guest conductor), I explain that I’m not a 'comedian' nor a 'motivational speaker.' I’m just a conductor who can invite some pretty fine sounds out of an ensemble, often without words, just through the tip of the baton. The 'comedy' is gone when I’m gone, and the 'motivational words' are gone also when I’m gone. I want to train students to be reliable, trustworthy, self-sufficient, curious, show initiative, be overachievers, independent, and seekers of all-things-true (and as fully employed as they want to be).

“I want to be the Sherpa-teacher (here’s how to read the map, here’s where basecamp is, here’s how to be safe, here’s how to be a team player and inspire those around you with your consistent work-ethic… ‘You wanna bring all that baggage? You gotta carry it.’). I don’t want to be the ‘guru’ where students need to keep returning to the trough to be refreshed. I want to teach students to refresh themselves—it’s the ‘way’ to not burn out, it’s how the lumberjack keeps his/her own ax sharp. I want to teach self-esteem through skill (skills that last), not via a funny conductor or a feel-good conductor that disappears after the conductor is not around. This regional honor is because of all of the 1,000s of students who stood on stage and successfully made the transition from the printed page to ‘sound art.’”

And second, Eklund added that performers and conductors are blessed to stand in the bright lights and see the appreciation of the audience via audible validation and ovations.

“Many people that are not on stage don’t get this validation; they do hard work behind the scene that creates successes on stage: the parents, the stage designers, the people who move equipment, the publicists, the financial experts, the staff, the voice teachers, the people who teach the academic classes that enrich the student-experience, and many more people. I wish there were more rewards/awards for those people. Apparently, this award puts me in the small final round for the national music educator award.”

Eklund grew up in Iowa and was introduced to high-level music at a young age there. Eklund’s grandfather was a local dilettante and pharmacist who enjoyed music at its best, and his grandfather formed a local entertainment series, and on his own nickel, flew off to New York and met with agents and managers.

“He would speak to the tour managers of the likes of Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, and many other touring world class ensembles,” Eklund said. “The morning after the performances in the massive barn of a high school auditorium, and before they boarded the tour bus, he’d take me to breakfast with ‘The Count’ and Stan Kenton and all, because they were all notified of the amazing chili and sweet rolls at Irene’s Café in my hometown.”

Eklund annually conducts instrumental and choral ensembles in no fewer than eight European countries and throughout North America. One of the most active and versatile international conductors today, Eklund possesses a unique ability to work effectively with musicians at all levels of performing capability and experience. His concertizing/clinician schedule averages 60 national and international concerts annually and includes a wide array of scholarly, professional, orchestral, collegiate, liturgical, festival, all-star, and youth/student ensembles throughout North America and Europe. Trained as a classical pianist and organist in the finest traditions of Western historical music, he now is also a strong advocate for ethnic and world music spanning all genres.

His academic choirs have performed on numerous American Choral Directors Association regional and national conventions where their frequency of performance set unprecedented national records (over 30 MENC—now NAfME—and ACDA regional and national invitations). Eklund has conducted his choirs in many of the world's greatest performance venues including, Carnegie Hall (numerous times), Washington DC's Kennedy Center primary Concert Hall, the National Cathedral and Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (both numerous times), Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis (on four occasions), St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Christ Church in Oxford, St. Paul's Cathedral in London, Westminster Abbey, Mozart's Salzburg Cathedral (where he conducts yearly), Paris's Notre Dame (also conducting yearly), St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, St. John the Divine and Alice Tully Hall in NYC, the abbey church of St. Hildegard von Bingen, Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and in other famous major cathedrals in Prague, Milan, Bordeaux, Monaco, Munich, New York, Chicago, London, Coventry, Canterbury, Chartres, Reims, Rouen, Metz, Regensburg, Strasbourg, Paris, Rome, Florence, and Verona plus abbeys, major churches, and performance halls in Cambridge (UK), Stratford on Avon (UK), Mt St. Michel (Normandy, France), Lucerne (Switzerland), and Bratislava (Slovakia).

Eklund studied conducting and score-study with American Ditson Conductor's Award winner and International Mahler Medal-winner James A. Dixon, American Choral Directors Association past-president (and University of Nebraska–Lincoln Distinguished Alumnus) William Hatcher, and nationally-recognized scholar/conductor/author/pedagogue/administrator Don V Moses, all at the University of Iowa. Current and recent engagements include(d) conducting All-State choirs in Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, Indiana, South Dakota, Georgia, Missouri, and Alabama, master classes and adjudicating/clinic work in Hawaii, California, Florida, Virginia, New York, Iowa, Arizona, Missouri, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas, Texas, Wyoming, Kentucky, Illinois, New York, Wisconsin, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Washington D.C., North Carolina, Mississippi, and Chicago, collaborating with NETV on a state-wide collegiate choral broadcast (nominated for regional Emmy), conducting a regional ACDA honor choir, and directing a summer youth honor choir trip to ten countries.

“All of my degrees and my post-doctoral certificate are from Iowa,” Eklund said. “I taught in the public schools in Iowa for 18 years and 14 choral ensembles I taught at my last institution must have made an impact. The late-great Robert Shaw (the most influential choral mind in America’s history) heard one of my choirs perform Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center at the National ACDA conference and asked Weston Nobel (one of the country’s most influential collegiate conductors) if there was a better high school choral program; Weston said 'no.' Shaw heard another one of my choirs at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis right before Shaw conducted his last Britten 'War Requiem.' Shaw confirmed the earlier statement to Weston.

“Since leaving Iowa—a state with a nationally renowned history and national prominence—to come to Nebraska, the state music association believes it is evident that UNL-trained choral conductors and teachers are increasingly influential in that State from elementary through the top college choral positions.”

--Brian Reetz, Glenn Korff School of Music