Jan Gilbertson

2008 F. Melius Christiansen Lifetime Achievement Award
Jan Gilbertson

Jan Gilbertson’s life has been filled with music, both as a vocation and an avocation. As a piano major at Concordia, choir was not her main focus. However, working with Paul Christiansen and the Concordia Choir as a singer and accompanist changed that, and choral music became a strong and major force in her life. After graduating with a bachelor of arts degree, summa cum laude, she continued music studies at the University of Minnesota in music education and music performance in voice, organ, piano and conducting.

After teaching vocal music grades 3-12 for two years in Henning, Minnesota, Jan decided to focus on elementary music, which she taught for 3 years in South Washington County Schools. The choir aspect of the position, although limited, was her favorite part. So when the opportunity came to work at Zion Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, as organist and choir director. She also began her 27 year career at Park High School as Choral Director and was Department Chair for several of those years. The choir program flourished. Jan and her husband, Bruce, co-directed and staged a musical every year. This became a powerful recruiting tool for the choirs, and a way to develop and enhance the students' skills.

Currently, Jan holds the position of Choral Director and Music Coordinator at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, now an 8,000-member congregation. She began this position in 1987 while still teaching at Park High School. It has grown into a full-time position, with hundreds of singers, an orchestra and an excellent music series. St. Andrew's Choir has performed at two ACDA Fall Conventions. She also led and directed three St. Andrew's Choir trips to Slovakia.

Maintaining her own skills as a performer has been important. Jan sang with Minnesota Chorale under Robert Berglund and Kathy Romey and was soprano section leader in its first year. She sang under Larry Fleming at University Lutheran Church of Hope, and eventually became the Choir Director and Assistant Organist for 11 years.

On many occasions Jan has served as guest conductor/clinician at choral festivals, adjudicator at music contests, piano accompanist at music contests and concerts, ACDA and MMEA presenter and committee member. She was conductor of the MMEA All-State Women’s Choir in 1998. She enjoyed supervision of many choral student teachers while at Park High School and for six years served as an adjunct faculty member in Music Education for St. Olaf College, working with choral music student teachers. A wonderful new aspect in the last ten years has been the opportunity to share music in Slovakia, a country held in communism for more than 40 years. In addition to the choir performances, Jan led workshops for church musicians in Slovakia.