Anton Armstrong has been the conductor of the St. Olaf Choir for 33 years, which makes him the longest tenured conductor in the ensemble’s storied 111-year history. He is the Tosdal Professor of Music at St. Olaf College and became the fourth conductor of the St. Olaf Choir in 1990 after 10 years in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he served on the faculty of Calvin University and led the Calvin Alumni Choir, the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, and the St. Cecilia Youth Chorale. Armstrong is a graduate of St. Olaf College and earned advanced degrees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (MM ’80) and Michigan State University (DMA). He is the editor of a multicultural choral series for Earthsongs Publications and coeditor with John Ferguson of the revised St. Olaf Choral Series for Augsburg Fortress Publishers. In June 1998, he began his tenure as founding conductor of the Oregon Bach Festival Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy. Armstrong currently serves as chair of the National Board of Chorus America.
Armstrong has frequently conducted ensembles and has appeared before regional, national, and international gatherings of the American Choral Directors Association, International Federation of Choral Music, National Association for Music Education, Choristers Guild, American Guild of Organists, Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, Organization of American Kodaly Educators, and Orff-Schulwerk Association. In recent years, he has guest conducted such noted ensembles as the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, the Utah Symphony and Symphony Chorus, Utah Voices and the Salt Lake City Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Westminster Choir, the American Boychoir, the Houston Chamber Choir, the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati, and the Phoenix Chorale. He has also collaborated in concert with Bobby McFerrin and Garrison Keillor.
In March 2017, the St. Olaf Christmas Festival was featured by invitation in two major performances at the National Conference of the American Choral Directors Association at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. This festival is one of the oldest musical celebrations of Christmas in the United States, begun in 1912 by F. Melius Christiansen, founder of the St. Olaf College Music Department. Since 1990, Anton Armstrong has served as artistic director of the St. Olaf Christmas Festival, which features nearly 600 student musicians who are members of five St. Olaf choral ensembles and the St. Olaf Orchestra.
In January 2006, Baylor University selected Anton Armstrong from a field of 118 distinguished nominees to receive the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching. He spent February–June 2007 in residency at Baylor University as a visiting professor. In March 2007, Armstrong was the first recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from the American Boychoir School, and in October 2009 he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Michigan State University. In June 2013, Armstrong received the Saltzman Award from the Oregon Bach Festival. The festival’s highest honor, the Saltzman Award is bestowed on individuals who have provided exceptional levels of leadership to the organization. In the fall of 2014, the St. Olaf Choir and Armstrong received a Regional Emmy for the PBS television program Christmas in Norway with the St. Olaf Choir. In 2021, Anton Armstrong was named an honorary life member of the National Collegiate Choral Organization. Honorary life members are recognized as members of the choral profession who have devoted their life to the enhancement and artistic growth of the choral art. The award recognizes those leaders in the choral profession who have mentored young conductors, inspired singers, supported music educators in the arts, and shared their talents and gifts in the United States and abroad.