Dr. John Ferguson, Music Advisor
"Excellence is our first priority. And we attempt to display a diverse cross-section in each program. It's a continual source of amazement that the same texts can evoke such different responses from composers and arrangers throughout the ages."
John Ferguson, better known to his students and colleagues as "Ferg," is an acclaimed organist, choral conductor, composer and teacher, recognized nationally for his talents as an improviser and leader of congregational song. Before his career at St. Olaf College, Ferguson obtained degrees from Oberlin College, Kent State University and the Eastman School of Music; held a faculty position at Kent State; and served as music director and organist at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. When he stepped onto campus at St. Olaf in 1983, Ferguson brought with him an enthusiasm for church music that has made a lasting impact on the students, faculty, and the greater community.
While at St. Olaf College, Ferguson was Professor of Organ and Church Music, conducted the St. Olaf Cantorei, and served as Cantor to the Student Congregation. During his tenure, the organ department at St. Olaf College defied national trends by growing in enrollment and quality.
Ferguson's work at St. Olaf College was the inspiration and catalyst for a career in composing and arranging. He has more than 100 titles in print, including many based upon existing hymn texts and tunes as well as newly commissioned texts. Along with colleague Anton Armstrong, Ferguson re-envisioned the St. Olaf Choral Series for Augsburg Fortress and worked to make it relevant to a wide variety of 21st-century choirs. Outside of the St. Olaf community he has designed and presented hymn festivals for national and regional conventions of the American Guild of Organists and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). He also presented such events abroad in Seoul, South Korea and in Europe at the National Cathedral of Norway. Although he is a Lutheran, his festivals are ecumenical experiences drawing upon the greatest treasures of Christian song from many centuries, traditions and styles.
Other career highlights include his composition of Who Is This for choir and viola, which won the 2005 Raabe Prize for excellence in sacred composition; his 2012 honoring with the F. Melius Christiansen Lifetime Achievement Award from the ACDA of Minnesota; and his 2013 Faithful Servant Award from the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, recognizing his "extraordinary contributions to the worship life of the church."
Although Ferguson officially retired in 2012, he continues to serve as Musical Advisor for Sing For Joy, providing guidance regarding musical selections and new recordings, and serving as ambassador of the program to audiences and congregations nationwide.