On the eve of the Oregon Bach Festival’s 2013 opening, choir conductor Anton Armstrong was awarded the Saltzman Award, the Festival’s highest honor.
Director of the Festival’s Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy (SFYCA) since its inception in 1998, Armstrong has directed nearly 900 young singers over the program’s sixteen years. His reputation as a teacher and mentor has enabled the academy to grow into a national program with participants from across Oregon and, in 2013, eleven other states.
“Education has always been the heartbeat of the Festival,” said Royce Saltzman, the Festival’s founding executive director and namesake of the award, who made the presentation to Armstrong before a crowd of 300 at the OBF’s June 27 fundraiser.
“From the start, a youth choir was a dream that (OBF artistic director) Helmuth Rilling and I shared. As to who would lead, Anton was at the top of my list. He is more than a conductor. He has mentored these young people in a way that has changed lives and molded them into outstanding citizens.”
“I am speechless,” said Armstrong, who was not informed of the award prior to his name being announced to the crowd. “Royce and Helmuth have been models of serving leaders. It has been a blessing to have been part of their great vision, to share music with young people in a meaningful way that touches their souls, so that they can reach out and touch the souls of others.”
The SFYCA is an intensive, twelve-day training and performance program that takes place within the timeframe of the Oregon Bach Festival. In addition to its own annual headline concert, the SFYCA, over its history, has appeared in main event Festival concerts conducted by Helmuth Rilling, Matthew Halls, and Maria Guinand, and has appeared with guest artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Thomas Quasthoff, Cuba’s Entrevoces Choir, and the professional choir Cantus. The SFYCA can be seen on the Festival’s Digital Bach website in one video segment of Rilling’s lecture-demonstration of Bach’s B Minor Mass.
Anton Armstrong is Tosdal Professor of Music at St. Olaf College, where he conducts the St. Olaf Choir. Known worldwide for his ability to inspire young singers, he has conducted and appeared before the American Choral Directors Association, International Federation of Choral Music, and the Music Educators National Conference. He was awarded Baylor University’s Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, was the first recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from the American Boychoir School, and has received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Michigan State University.
The Saltzman Award is presented only when merited to individuals who have shown exceptionally high levels of leadership and commitment to help the Oregon Bach Festival achieve its mission. It is the highest honor the Festival bestows.