Stillwater Area High School has had a long tradition of choral excellence. Dr. Erik Christiansen began as director of choirs in 1988. Instrumental in Dr. Christiansen accepting the choral director position was the thoroughness of his interview process and the clear intent of the administration to build the choral program. Incidental but not insignificant was the fact that when Dr. Christiansen called the principal, (John Swenson) to follow-up, a recording of the St. Olaf choir was playing in the background. As the program grew in singers, it was clear that Dr. Christiansen needed a colleague. As a part of the hiring process he called Dr. Paul Brandvik at Bemidji State University and asked for a reference for Angela Mitchell. Dr. Brandvik’s words about Angela Mitchell were “She’s tough...hire her!” Together Christiansen and Mitchell have sought to maintain a vibrant choral program led by high quality, passionate teachers at all levels.
They maintain the philosophy that single gender curricular choirs in 7th through 10th grade allow for the most efficient and successful teaching of vocal technique. In fact, the core philosophy of the choral department at Stillwater Area High School is to make teaching strong vocal technique a constant. They also firmly believe that solfege based music reading is the most effective tool for teaching aural and reading skills in students. Finally, choosing the highest quality literature is what is best for students and creates concerts that engage both singer and audience. In addition to the training our singers receive during ensemble work, the vocal music department in partnership with Stillwater Community Education, contracts two to four private voice teachers each year. Participation in both private lessons and solo and ensemble contest ranges from 25 to 50% of singers.
Our overall philosophy is:
We don’t just recite music, we make it relatable, we make it human. We take great pride that students of all musical backgrounds and academic ability can contribute significantly to a high level product and learn something of what it is to be a real musician.
Ensembles and Recognitions
The Stillwater Choir (auditioned)
CIS The Stillwater Choir (College in the schools is a partnership with a college that results in college credit and a weighted grade for juniors and seniors. In our case the partner is Century College.) is a 68 voice mixed ensemble (grades 10- 12) that meets daily for 65 minutes. Repertoire includes the highest quality literature from Gregorian to contemporary composers and world music. The Stillwater Choir travels on a performance driven tour each spring. They have given concerts in 11 states and Manitoba. Under the direction of Dr. Christiansen they have sung over 60 full concerts outside the Stillwater area. The Stillwater Choir has been “choir in residence” or the featured choir for college workshops at 22 colleges and universities. Many of the leading directors of our time have worked with the choir. In addition to individual clinicians, they have participated in workshops with Chanticlear, The King Singers (both through Concordia College Choral Festival), the Minnesota Opera, and The Rose Ensemble in partnership with Minnesota Historical Society.
- 50 consecutive "superior" ratings at contest (27 under Dr. Christiansen)
- 3 ACDA Choral Arts Finale concerts
- 1 National Kodaly convention
- Awarded the top prize of Most Outstanding Choir at six Regional Music festivals (Chicago, Atlanta, Colorado Springs - twice, Seattle).
- Awarded "Best of Festival" against both vocal and instrumental groups (Seattle and Chicago)
- Featured choir at Dorian Festival
- Featured choir at St. Olaf Festival
- Featured choir at Concordia Festival
- Participant with the Minnesota Orchestra on their youth concert series.
Belle Chanter (auditioned)
Belle Chanter is the highest-level treble ensemble at Stillwater Area High School. The choir meets daily for 53 minutes and is made up of 10-12 grade women chosen by audition. Performing music that showcases the dramatic textures and timbres of a female ensemble is the paramount goal of Belle Chanter.
- 18 consecutive “superior” ratings in Category I at Large Group Contest (every year since inception)
- 2 ACDA Choral Arts Finale concerts
- Awarded Most Outstanding Choral Ensemble at two Heritage Music festivals.
- Minnesota ACDA Fall Convention performance (2007)
- MMEA Mid-Winter Clinic performance (2010)
- North Central Division ACDA convention (2012)
Belle Chanter Having Fun at a Retreat
Varsity Men's Choir (non auditioned)
Varsity Men is a non-auditioned choir for young men. The Varsity Men perform music suitable for emerging male voices and work to improve musicianship throughout the year. The Varsity Men compete at Category 3 during solo and ensemble contest and are often awarded “superior” ratings. In addition to local concerts they regularly perform at men's choir festivals.
Varsity Women’s Choir (non auditioned)
Varsity Women’s is a non-auditioned choir for young women. The Varsity Women perform music suitable for emerging female voices and work to improve musicianship throughout the year. The Varsity Women compete at Category 2 during solo and ensemble contest and have been awarded “superior” ratings every year since 2001.
Vagabonds (co-curricular, auditioned)
The Vagabonds rehearse for two hours once a week on Monday evenings. The vagabonds perform holiday music in the first semester and chamber music during second semester. They are a community favorite because they carol in district schools and throughout the community in December. They also perform one set on the choir's tour concert program in April.
- 27 consecutive "superior" ratings at solo/ensemble contest with several “best of site” awards.
- Awarded top Chamber Choir category at all regional festivals in which they participated.
Select Women is a co-curricular choir chosen by audition from female singers in grades 10-12. The choir meets twice a week for a half hour after school to rehearse and prepares some of the most challenging literature written for treble ensembles.
- 17 consectutive “superior” ratings at Solo and Ensemble Contest.
- 4 Best of Site awards.
- North Central Division ACDA Convention performance (2008)
Dr. Erik Christiansen
Music Dept. Chair. Director or CIS The Stillwater Choir, and Vagabonds. Previous director of Varsity Men's Choir, and CIS Music Theory instructor. Attended Pacific Lutheran University (two years with Maurice Skonas) BM from Concordia College (three years with Paul J. Christiansen). MM from Southeastern Louisiana University (two years with Ralph Roberts). DMA. Arizona St. University (four years with Doug McEwen). 12 Paul Christiansen Choral Schools (also with Dick and Kay Hoffland.) Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau High School, Wisconsin 1974-5, Princeton, MN High School 1975-6, Southeastern Louisiana University (directed University Choral and taught voice TA) 1976-8. Capital University, Columbus, Ohio (choir, voice, and conducting)1978-80. Concordia College (Moorhead) choir and voice 1985-1988. Stillwater Area High School (dept. chair, choir, voice, music theory) 1988- present.
Angela Mitchell has served as a choral director at both Stillwater Area High School and Stillwater Junior High in Stillwater, MN since 1997 and is the director of the women’s choir at the University of St. Thomas. During the 2015-2016 school year, she will direct Belle Chanter, Varsity Women and Varsity Men’s choirs at Stillwater Area High School. Her teaching has included extensive work with both boys and girls changing voices at all levels of vocal development. Angela has been a mentor to numerous student teachers throughout her career and is active as a guest clinician for women’s choir festivals throughout Minnesota. Angela holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education with a piano performance emphasis from Bemidji State University, MN. (Dr. Paul Brandvik) and a Masters of Arts with a choral conducting emphasis from University of St. Thomas, MN. (Dr. Angela Broeker) In addition to her teaching duties, Angela is currently the R&S chair for Women’s choirs in the state of Minnesota and an active member of ACDA, NAfME, and the Voice Care Network.
PICK 6: Erik Christiansen
- O Crux: Knut Nystedt
- Te Lucis Ante Terminum: Aaron McDermid
- Across the Fields: Eric Barnum
- Tristis es anima mea: Francis Poulenc
- Tu pauperum refugium: Josquin des Prez
- Any Paul J. Christiansen Gregorian Chant arrangement.
PICK 6: Angela Mitchell
- Mass No. 6: Gyorgy Orban
- Tota Pulchra Es: Maurice Durufle
- Ave Maria: Cesar Alejandro Carillo
- Miserere: Eva Ugalde
- Ich Wollt Meine Lieb: Felix Mendelssohn
- Kaipaava: Jussi Chydenhuis