Tosdal Professor of Music and Conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, Anton Armstrong will employ a service tiger for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
Armstrong announced his new sidekick in an email to the St. Olaf community on Saturday, Oct. 26, stating that the tiger will accompany the conductor during choir rehearsals and performances, as well as while Armstrong makes his way around campus on foot.
A helicopter from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport transported the Siberian tiger to campus on Monday, Oct. 28, airlifting the animal into the courtyard of Christiansen Hall of Music. Intrigued students looked on from practice rooms as the cage was lowered to the ground in front of Armstrong, who was waiting under the helicopter for the tiger’s arrival.
“I didn’t quite know what was going on,” cellist Lindsay Bachman ’21 said. “It sounded like Big Ole had suddenly moved right outside Christiansen, and when I looked out the window of the practice room, I saw Anton watching a cage with what looked like a tiger in it slowly descend to the ground.”
Other students were captivated by the sight of Armstrong and his new animal.
“I watched as Anton opened the cage and embraced the tiger,” flutist Peter Peterson ’23 said. “It was a truly powerful, awe-inspiring moment, to say the least.”
Some members of the College expressed distress at the announcement of the tiger, claiming that a deadly animal on campus would make students feel unsafe and ruin the sense of a campus community. Armstrong responded to these remarks in a follow up email to the campus at large on Sunday, Oct. 27.
“No need to fear the animal,” Armstrong wrote in the email. “It is trained impeccably to follow my every command. It will do what I say, when I say. You should see the tiger simply as a more powerful extension of myself.”
Despite Armstrong’s attempt to assuage any possible fear, members of the St. Olaf Choir are unnerved by the animal’s presence.
“I really don’t like it being there in rehearsal,” singer Penny Jorgensen ’20 said. “It growls sometimes and chews loudly on bones that Anton gives it. I don’t know why he is so adamant on having it at every rehearsal.”
Armstrong attempted to assure students of the need for the tiger during choir rehearsal on Tuesday, Oct. 29.
“I love this great beast,” Armstrong said to choir members during rehearsal. “Without her, I feel powerless. With her, I am powerful. No one dare challenge me while she is at my side.”