news

Johnson Named Principal Conductor of Choral, Instrumental Ensembles at First Lutheran

Augustana College today announced that Dr. James Johnson, professor of music and director of the Augustana Choir since 1992, has been named Principal Conductor of Choral and Instrumental Ensembles at First Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls. Since Dr. Johnson was granted a sabbatical leave for the coming academic year, plans were already in place for Dr. Weston Noble, professor emeritus of music at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, to serve as interim Choir director for the 2011 fall semester and 2012 January interim. A search for Johnson’s successor will begin in the fall.

“In his 19 years at Augustana, Dr. Johnson made significant contributions to the College and its Music Department. Most importantly though, his leadership impacted thousands of students whose spiritual growth he helped foster through song. Dr. Johnson’s own faith, and his love of sacred music, served as a powerful compass for student members of the Choir. Because of his graceful and passionate direction, Choir members understood the importance of sharing the words of the Gospel through song,” said Rob Oliver, president. “On behalf of Augustana, we thank him for sharing his God-given gifts with our faculty and staff, our students, and with countless communities across the globe who have had the pleasure of seeing and hearing his Choirs perform throughout the years. And, we wish him the best of luck in all his future endeavors.”

Dr. Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree from Luther College, a master’s degree in music from the University of Tennessee, and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.

During his tenure, the Augustana Choir toured internationally eight times at venues such as the Cathedrals of Notre Dame in Paris, St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Paul’s in London, St. Stephen’s in Vienna, St. Patrick’s in Dublin, Nidaros in Trondheim, Chartres outside of Paris, as well as performances throughout Tanzania. Dr. Johnson is the fourth conductor of the 90-year-old Augustana Choir, founded in 1921 by Dr. Carl Youngdahl.

“At Augustana, we’re committed to teaching our students about the importance of service. Here, now, it is my turn to accept a new opportunity to serve others through sermon in song. My deep and abiding affection for my students, my colleagues and this institution made this an extremely difficult decision to make, but my sense of call to work in the church has become too strong to ignore,” said Johnson.

Interim Choir Director Dr. Noble had a 57-year tenure as a conductor and teacher at Luther and received acclaim from across the country and the world as the conductor of the Luther College Nordic Choir from 1948 to 2005, the Luther College Concert Band from 1948 to 1973, and as guest director for more than 900 All-State bands, orchestras, choirs, and festivals across four continents.