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Randal Allan Swiggum
1959 –   Class of 2014  Performing Arts
Randal Allan Swiggum was born in 1959 in Madison, Wisconsin.  One of the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame’s youngest inductees, he graduated from Mount Horeb High School in Wisconsin in 1978.  His extraordinary career as conductor and music educator spans three decades.  His nominators, previous inductee Robert Hanson and Daniel and Karen Maki, described Randal as “an unusually dedicated, imaginative, and creative musician and teacher…He doesn’t simply teach, he lives arts education every minute and has dedicated his life and talents to inspire learning at every level.”  Included with the nomination were numerous student testimonials.

From his first position as a public school music teacher (1984), Maestro Swiggum has gone on to achieve national and international recognition as teacher, conductor, and clinician in such venues as Carnegie Hall and Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, with appearances in Europe, Asia, South America, as well as throughout the United States.

Although Randal has had affiliations with many distinguished artistic organizations, including The Florida Orchestra, Boise Philharmonic, Madison Children’s Choir, and Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, a significant aspect of his career began in 1998 when he was appointed conductor of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra (EYSO), a vibrant organization that has grown to more than 350 students in five orchestras, brass choir, percussion ensemble, and Chamber Music Institute.  The latter encompasses over 25 chamber ensembles each year, including the Maud Powell String Quartet and Sterling Brass Quintet. The EYSO has been featured on National Public Radio’s “From the Top” and on WFMT-FM in Chicago.

When one sits with their eyes closed in the audience at an EYSO concert in the auditorium at Elgin Community College, it’s easy to imagine being surrounded by the rich and inspiring sounds of a prominent orchestra like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The EYSO music fills the house!
 
In 2005, Randal joined the Elgin Symphony Orchestra’s staff as Education Conductor, creating and conducting its Family Series and young people’s concerts.  With their engaging scripts, use of humor and visual technology, and a comprehensive Teacher Guide, concerts like Beethoven Superhero, Through Sound-Colored Glasses, What’s So Scary About a Rubber Shark?, and 2014’s Symphony Safari: What Nature Tells Us About the Orchestra have been acclaimed by teachers, parents, and students alike.

As guest conductor, Randal has appeared with orchestras and choirs across the U.S. and in Seoul, Korea; Singapore; Hong Kong; Budapest; Prague; and throughout Europe.  His choirs appeared in Italy under the sponsorship of UNESCO and with the Icelandic National Symphony in Reykjavik.  He recently conducted the Scottish National Youth Symphony in Glasgow and the Georgia All-State Orchestra.  This past season, he conducted the Fauré Requiem with the Milwaukee Symphony.

Randal’s education includes a B.M. in Music Education and an M.M. in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Wisconsin. He is currently completely a Ph.D. in Musicology, with minors in Conducting and Philosophy. His training has included voice, violin, piano, and conducting studies with some of the finest masters in those fields.

As an author, Randal has written on music education in nationally circulated books and periodicals.  He wrote Strategies for Teaching High School Chorus (1999), and co-authored Shaping Sound Musicians: Comprehensive Musicianship in Band, Choir and Orchestra (2003) and Making Sense: Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum (1992).  He served as music critic for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and is the author of numerous articles on teaching and music pedagogy.

As a leader in the Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance (CMP) initiative, Randal is a frequent presenter and keynote speaker at education conferences.  In 2014, for example, he returned to Carnegie Hall, leading a teacher workshop on CMP and quality music selection.

Several years ago, Randal was “introduced” to Elliot Eisner, a professor of education at Stanford University, when he spotted a wonderful poster by Eisner on the wall of an elementary school classroom.  Entitled “Ten Things the Arts Teach,” the poster offered insights on the importance of arts in our lives.  Upon closer reading, Eisner became one of Randal’s “heroes.”

During his acceptance speech at the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame induction banquet on May 1, 2014, Randal said, “I believe the arts change people,” and he shared “three lessons the arts have taught” him while working in Elgin. First, “without risk there is no growth.”  Growing up in a small rural town, Randal explained how he had never attended an orchestral concert.
The arts were the window to the world for me, the place where possibilities were endless – not possibilities for recognition or lots of money or status – but possibilities for understanding the world as it is, and the world as it might be.

Being around artists helped Randal takes risks and not assume that things are always the way they must be.

Second on his list of values learned from the arts was the importance of working with others who also have vision and imagination.  
Whether working collaboratively or alone in a painter’s studio, we are all a mosaic made up of all those who have worked alongside us, mentored us, challenged us, even criticized us…Each of you has helped
shape this small town boy of modest abilities into someone who believed he could make a difference.


Third and last on Randal’s list was the realization that gratitude and joy are more important than success.  He concluded by saying his work gave him “a meaningful, rewarding, ‘giving life profound meaning and purpose’ kind of joy.”

There is no question that Randal Swiggum has had and will continue to have a significant impact on youth studying music. According to Hanson and the Makis, “His unique multi-disciplinary approach to programming and education has provided an unmatched rich cultural experience for students from many different social and educational backgrounds and levels.” His work in the Fox Valley has definitely broadened and enriched the lives of hundreds of children, teens, and adults.
To “second” his nominators, Randal Allan Swiggum “fulfills the very highest ideals of arts education.”
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 Conductor of Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra since 1998