Why music is everywhere at St. Olaf

It seems I'm surrounded by music here at St. Olaf.

Walking across campus, passersby are practicing their choral singing. When things get quiet, I can hear the soothing, almost eerie wind chimes from the center of the main yard.

And walk around enough throughout the week, chances are you'll run into some performance or recital.

Like this one today in Buntrock Commons:

It's by the St. Olaf Clarinet Choir -- just one of eight choirs, two orchestras and two bands, along with dozens of small ensembles in jazz, lyric opera, even Japanese taiko drumming.

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Campus spokesman David Gonnerman told me it stems in part from the Lutheran music tradition. Music got a huge boost back in 1903 with the hiring of F. Melius Christiansen to teach music and direct the college band.

Since then, the college has built a music scene that has produced groups with international recognition.

But it's not just about music majors. About a third of all Ole students are involved in music.

One of the members of the Clarinet Choir, senior Clara Jung (who's not studying music), told me:

"Music is really important here. A lot of people find that playing is great stress relief."

It's also a great draw for the school, she said:

"That's why I wanted to come here. I didn't know what I wanted to study. But I knew that here I could try out lots of different classes while still doing a lot with music. It's the same for many others. When I was a junior counselor for freshman, a lot of them told me it's the reason they came here."

Everyone will be hearing more of it the next few days as the college holds its famous St. Olaf Christmas Festival, which bills itself as the "one of the oldest musical celebrations of Christmas in the United States."