Graduating music student balances diverse interests
By Audrey Webb
Craig Aamot’s story is a rather typical one – just that of another student-athlete on a full basketball and football scholarship who earned his undergraduate degree in choral conducting.
Okay, perhaps that’s not a typical path for most people, but it seems to be a pattern for men in the Aamot family. Both his father and his older brother are also former student-athletes who have enjoyed lengthy careers in choral conducting.
A Wisconsin native, Aamot earned his undergraduate degree at North Dakota State University, then taught music at the high school level for 12 years. Seven of those years were spent in Wisconsin at Appleton North High School, where he conducted more than 400 students in his choral music program. Aamot’s students performed extensively both in the U.S. and internationally, and won awards from the North Central Division of the American Choral Directors Association. While the success he’d already met was fulfilling, Aamot knew he wanted something more.
“I felt like I needed a geographical change and also I knew that I was ready to open up and grow as a teacher and as an artist,” he says.
After considering graduate programs in Colorado and California, Aamot chose Texas State University in part because of the opportunity to work with faculty member Craig Hella Johnson, founder of Conspirare.
“I’ve had one eye on what Craig has been doing with Conspirare for quite some time. He does unique things with programming, breaking down walls between musical styles and between performers and audience. It’s quite remarkable and has been inspiring me for a long time,” says Aamot. “I thought if could come here and be a student again and be close to what Craig is doing, it would be a great opportunity.”
The decision entailed some sacrifices, as is often the case for adult learners. Aamot left his possessions in storage and arrived in Texas with one small bit of trepidation. “I wasn’t a really enthusiastic student as an undergrad,” he admits. “Knowing that about myself, I was a little concerned about returning to school. But to sit down in a classroom with my computer and notebook and have someone teach me for a change was joyful,” Aamot laughs. “It was such a gift. To leave where I was and just land here and be so supported and surrounded by talented and willing people – whether they’re peers I’m studying with, students that I’m teaching, teachers that are teaching me – I could not have chosen better.”
Now that he’s graduating with a master’s in choral conducting, Aamot is ready to return to teaching, but not to Wisconsin. He’ll be joining the faculty of the Texas State School of Music in the spring 2013 term, continuing work he began as a graduate assistant with VocaLibre and the men’s choir. While choral conducting will continue to be his career focus, Aamot stays involved in one of the sports that helped pay his way through college in the first place. In summer 2013, just as he’s done for the past 20 years, Aamot will work for a football camp, training quarterbacks across the country.
“For me, the combination of art and sport is quite balancing,” he says. “I need them both.”