“How could you not be inspired to work here? It’s legit!” Wondemagegnehu said. “I love how brilliant the students are, they are always interrogating structures, environments and questioning in ways that give me hope. I am inspired.”
Pulling up student projects, Tesfa Wondemagegnehu, visiting professor of music and conductor of Viking Chorus and Chapel Choir, beams with pride and admiration as music fills his office. It is not the traditional choral music one would expect as rap lyrics and an R&B groove flow out of the speakers. Wondemagegnehu’s passion for teaching and music shines through as he sings praises of the students he works with.
Announced by Conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, Anton Armstrong, at the end of the Choir’s homecoming concert last week, Wondemagegnehu accepted a tenure track assistant professor position.
Wondemagegnehu started singing in his church choir growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, but truly found his love for music while attending a performing arts high school. The accredited conductor attributes his drive and finding his passion about music to one of his teachers.
“Within weeks my life was changed. She was super rigid and strict and she was exactly what I needed,” Wondemagegnehu said. “She gave me the opportunity, and it was my time.”
Wondemagegnehu holds a Master of Music degree in choral conducting and vocal performance from Florida State University and a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performing from the University of Memphis. Merging the world of music and social justice, Wondemagegnehu uses music as a form of activism and peacemaking.
Within his two years on campus, Wondemagegnehu has become a campus favorite among both music and non-music students.
“The amount of love he shows for his students and fellow faculty is so unparalleled, and he has an essential and fundamental understanding of what music – and even life – is all about,” Tony May ’22 said.
“ I feel like with my
particular job with Chapel Choir and Viking and
music and social justice it’s
like, it’s a dream gig, it’s a dream gig for sure”
Throughout the next few years, Wondemagegnehu will take part in the tenure process, which totals six years.
With a tenure committee made up of students, alumni and faculty that changes every year, the committee reviews the pillars of tenure over the course of five years, with a decision made in the sixth year. The process consists of check-ins during their second and fourth year to ensure that the professor is on track to be approved for tenure.
“What they are looking for is the prospect of future work, you’re a good teacher, your scholarship is good and relevant, you’re productive in your teaching and scholarship and you’re committed to helping serve the institution,” said Chief Diversity Officer Bruce King.
After earning approval from the committee, as well as recommendations from the department, dean and provost, the Board of Regents and President David Anderson ’74 have the final say in granting tenure.
“We tend to hire people for success,” King said. “Our expectation when we hire people is they have the ability to be tenured at the college.”
“I feel like with my particular job with Chapel Choir and Viking and music and social justice, it’s like, it’s a dream gig, it’s a dream gig for sure,” Wondemagegnehu said.