Tesfa Wondemagegnehu is the new choral director on campus. Replacing Mark Stover, Wondemagegnehu directs Chapel Choir and Viking Chorus. However, Wondemagegnehu is most excited to get back into teaching.
“I just love teaching. I love to interact with students that are really excited about learning and that’s what I’ve found here at St. Olaf,” Wondemagegnehu said.
Along with directing the two choirs, Wondemagegnehu teaches a voice studio and will be teaching a Music and Social Justice class over interim. Wondemagegnehu is especially excited about the Music and Social Justice class becasuse of his interest in discussing equity through music. Wondemagegnehu guest-lectured for the same course last year under Mark Stover, so he is excited to come back and teach it again this year. “When I think of my story, I have been privileged to be able to be a part of musical organizations that have had a profound effect on my life,” Wondemagegnehu said.
Music has always been a part of Wondemagegnehu’s life.
“I’ve always been involved in music,” Wondemagegnehu said. “I became serious in high school. My high school choir director really had a huge impact on my life and just after that short amount of time that I had with her, I was hard core. I was like music, music, music, and more music.”
From then on, music has played a role in Wondemagegnehu’s life. After college, he started as a high school choir teacher in Orlando where he worked for five years before moving to Minnesota. Once in Minnesota, Wondemagegnehu became the Assistant Artistic Director of a professional choir in the Twin Cities while also working as the Manager of the Choral Initiative for Minnesota Public Radio.
After being away from teaching for so long, Wondemagegnehu began to miss interacting with students.
“Getting to interact with the students this week really showed me – confirmed for me – what I already believed and that I missed teaching,” Wondemagegnehu said. “I missed being around students, being in that magical environment where learning is taking place.”
When the opportunity arose to teach at St. Olaf, Wondemagegnehu said, “Uh yeah! Sign me up. That would be incredible!”
In the St. Olaf music community, Wondemagegnehu has already found his place.
“My role is to join this already extraordinary choral team and staple of amazing vocal educators,” Wondemagegnehu said. “We got a pretty rockstar team here. Just being able to learn and grow with my colleagues, that’s exciting.”
Wondemagegnehu cannot wait to be back in the classroom.
“I hate to sound hocus-pocusy, but it really does become a magical experience when you see the light bulbs going off. I just love being around that energy,” Wondemagegnehu said.
Wondemagegnehu eagerly anticipates St. Olaf’s famous Christmas Festival. Having previously watched it from his couch, Wondemagegnehu was shocked the first time he saw the performance live in 2013. While part of that shock was learning that Christmas Festival occurs in a gymnasium, most of the shock came from the power of the performance.
“I really want to highlight all of the amazing work that my colleagues have been doing here. As an outsider who has celebrated St. Olaf through Minnesota Public Radio, I’m really humbled to be around such extraordinary educators and excited to get the chance to learn from them and do my things as well. This is a special thing for me.” – Tesfa Wondemagegnehu
“Obviously it’s very well prepared,” Wondemagegnehu said. “It’s polished; it’s emotional. It’s just a powerful experience and to experience it live versus sitting on my couch, that was game changing.” Wondemagegnehu will now be able to take an active role in the Christmas Festival right from the podium.
Lastly, Wondemagegnehu is thankful to be working alongside his St. Olaf colleagues.
“I really want to highlight all of the amazing work that my colleagues have been doing here,” he said. “As an outsider who has celebrated St. Olaf through Minnesota Public Radio, I’m really humbled to be around such extraordinary educators and excited to get the chance to learn from them and do my thing as well. This is a special thing for me.”