2008 Swan Award Winner: Charlene Archibeque


CharleneArchibequeThe 2008 Howard Swan Award honoree, Charlene Archibeque, is a Professor Emeritus from San Jose State University who recently retired after directing the Choral Music program there for 35 years. Her retirement celebration was a wonderful testimony to her years of influence upon singers and choral conductors as hundreds of her former students joined together to perform for her one last time for an audience of a thousand. In addition to San Jose State, she taught for thirteen years in San Diego at all levels of public school music and taught the first experimental program in team-teaching at the junior high level.

While at San Jose State, she built a strong choral studies program. Conducting the Concert Choir and Choraliers in hundreds of concerts during her tenure, her choirs performed at 25 regional, divisional, state, and national Conventions for ACDA and MENC. The Choraliers recorded seven professional compact discs; and if you don’t have them, you should get them as they are wonderful resources of literature and beautiful singing.

They took their music around the world on tour on 16 different occasions. Under her direction, they were named as winners of seven of the most prestigious competitions in Europe including: Choir of the World at the Wales Eisteddfod; the famed Grand Prix in Tallin, Estonia; and the Spittal competition in Austria. In addition to her collegiate ensembles, she has conducted All-State Choirs in 43 of the 50 states and six provinces of Canada, as well as MENC and ACDA divisional honor choirs.

More than 80 conductors have completed their masters degrees in choral conducting under her supervision, many of whom you have seen at ACDA conventions directing their own ensembles and carrying on the legacy of their fine training.

Those of us who were not able to work with her at San Jose State were given the opportunity through the many workshops that she gave around the United States, including the 34 summer workshops she hosted at her home university, which was where I had the privilege of working with her.

She has served as headliner, panelist, presenter, speaker, and clinician at conferences around the world, including ACDA national and divisional conventions, the World Choral Symposium in Rotterdam, Holland, the National Australian Choral Symposium in Melbourne, the International Music Workshops in Lausanne, Switzerland, the USAREU in Berchtesgaden, Germany, and the National Federation of Music Societies in York, England, where she was the first woman and first American to present She has received numerous awards for her work as an educator and conductor.

As a person who was told in my undergraduate conducting class that I would never be a professional conductor because it was a man’s profession, I am one of a generation of female conductors who can look to her and those who followed her and thank them. She was the first female professor to conduct and build a program at the university level—a program that was unparalleled in quality for many years.

In describing her, former students have spoken of her inspiration, of her unending desire to educate herself and be a life-long learner; they describe her as a “trailblazer,” not only for women in conducting, but for the model of what a conductor can be She taught her students how to run an efficient rehearsal and never settle for “good enough.” One told me she said, “the one thing that separates a really good educator who is good at their craft and a not-so-good educator who is good at their craft is the love for their students.” After speaking with her former students, it was this quality that was ever-present in her teaching; she always has had a REAL LOVE for her students.