Brad Ellingboe radiates a rare and refreshing kind of professional exuberance. His passion for living and music is an inspiration to everyone who meets him. Fred Bock Publishing Group is very honored to have Brad as the publisher of National Music. Thanks to him, the National catalog has very diverse and beautiful selections that are useful for many different types of concerts and performances. Brad does an excellent job finding pieces that speak to people’s hearts, and we look forward to the many exciting adventures we will have with him in the future!

Professional Questions with Brad Ellingboe

  • Tell me about your job at National Music. Is it a good fit for you?

My tasks are twofold. I’m Senior Editor for National Music whose profile, especially going forward, is to publish European choral music, particularly of a more substantial level of difficulty. That being said, there are several series within National, edited by Gregory Gentry, Jefferson Johnson, Elena Sharkova and Michelle Jensen, all of whom operate extensively on a national level within the US. In the case of those series editors, I mainly help shepherd their choices into print. Being a former collegiate Director of Choral Activities myself, this is a good fit for me.

My second task is to cull through the more than 3,000 pieces from the Alliance Music catalog, recently acquired by the Fred Bock Publishing Group, and to find things to reintroduce to the public. Since the Alliance catalog is primarily either sacred— and I have a long history of writing and publishing sacred music— or arrangements and compositions from central Europe— which dovetails into the profile of National— this, too, is a good fit.

  • How did you end up as Senior Editor for National Music?

I became the Senior Editor for National upon the invitation of Stephen Bock and Allan Petker. I’ve known Allan for over 25 years – we were first introduced by Mel Olson (the guy who “discovered” John Rutter and brought him to America). Mel and I met in Albuquerque, and he invited me to come to teach at a festival on the shores of Lake Tahoe – a festival which Allan is in charge of today. I came to know Steve relatively recently – about four or five years ago. I had heard a lot about him and his father, Fred Bock, but I never had the pleasure of meeting Fred.  I’m quite fond of his arrangement of “Peace, Peace/Silent Night.”

I’ve been publishing choral music for 30 years, so Steve and Allan knew who I was before we met. I actually approached them with a different suggestion for my involvement after Fred Bock Publishing Group bought Hinshaw, and they got back to me with this suggestion, which was: What if I were to oversee the revival of National Music? The imprint was founded by William Hall and Robert Carl back in the 1970s and, when Fred Bock Music bought it, they began working to revive the brand.

  • How long have you been with the company?

Since 2017

  • What makes the National catalog so special?

Within the United States, our emphasis on European music – and especially the music of Central Europe – is quite uncommon. You can buy some of this repertoire in America, certainly, but there are not many American companies that are specializing in it.

  • Can you tell me about a piece within your imprint that you’re especially excited about?

Two pieces shortly to be published that I’m quite excited about are “Dios de Salve Maria” by Richard Burchard and “Exultate” by David Dickau. Both pieces are small masterpieces, written by two of the best choral composers working today.

I’m also happy to have my own first piece with Hinshaw Music (now a catalog within Fred Bock Publishing Group).  My arrangement of “Now the Green Blade Rises” will come out this fall.

I’ve been enjoying uncovering pieces from central Europe in the Alliance catalog. This repertoire has been mostly new to me and there are many fine pieces! In this regard, I’d especially lift up “Misto Klekani” by Antonin Dvorak

  • Are you involved in any other professional organizations?

I’ve edited the Music for the Church Year series for the Neil A. Kjos Music Company for over 20 years. I’m a Life Member of the ACDA (American Choral Director’s Association) and a member of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians. I’m Artistic Director of ABQ Coro Lux and I direct the Sanctuary Choir at the United Church of Santa Fe.

Educational Questions with Brad Ellingboe

  • What was your schooling like?

BA Music Theory and Composition from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. MM Choral Conducting from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. MM Vocal Performance, the Eastman School of Music. I did additional study at the University of Oslo – it wasn’t a degree program, but it was a specific study on the music of Norway. My study at the Vatican was similar – I got a certificate in the study of Gregorian Chant there. I also did additional study at the Aspen Music Festival and the Bach Aria Festival.

  • How did you decide on this as your major?

Kenneth Jennings was my role model in many ways. He held degrees in Piano, Composition, and Conducting. He was the third director of the St. Olaf Choir. He wrote music, and he was a wonderful conductor and teacher of a lot of prominent conductors, including René Clausen, Anton Armstrong, Craig Hella Johnson, and many others… we were all students of Ken in about the same ten-year period. He was my choir director – I greatly admired his musicianship and wanted to emulate him. He really inspired me to pursue a career in music.

  • Did you have any mentors that really inspired you?

Besides Dr. Jennings, my main role model was my voice teacher at Eastman, Jan DeGaetani. She was a mezzo-soprano with whom I studied for two years. I was very interested in modern music, and she was a great performer of that repertoire. She died too young.

Kenneth Jennings was born in 1925, was in WWII, and was raised in Connecticut, so he was, in many ways, a formal kind of “Yankee.” But Jan was a very warm-hearted performer. They were both top people in their fields, but with Jan I found more of a warm-hearted model for being a teacher. I think you need both kinds of models in your life.

  • How did your time in school prepare you for this job?

My schooling was quite a while ago. It prepared me for the jobs I held (30 years at the University of New Mexico, editing for Kjos Music, etc.) which prepared me for my tasks now at the Fred Bock Publishing Group.

Personal Questions with Brad Ellingboe

  • Where are you from? What do you like about living there?

I’m “from” Lakeville, Minnesota, though I have lived more than half my life in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I moved to Albuquerque in 1985 to begin work at the University of New Mexico and stayed on since my retirement from that position. New Mexico has a lovely climate, it’s also not crowded, yet filled with artists of all types.

  • Do you have any other day jobs besides your position here?

I sang professionally for at least 25 years, and in the course of that, I realized I actually prefer conducting and composing. I still sing, but conducting really allows me to keep going as I get older, in a way that singing wouldn’t really allow.

When I retired from the University, I started a group called Coro Lux – it’s just finishing up its fourth year, and made up of a lot of the people that sang with me at the University. One of our emphases is that we strive “to do good as we do well.” Most of our performances are hooked in some way to help benefit some charity or to accomplish something larger in the community.

In addition, I lead the Sanctuary Choir at the United Church of Santa Fe, and I’m in my fourth year of that.

  • What was your first introduction to choral music?

I did not begin singing in choirs until I was a senior in high school. I played in band and was an athlete – I found singing pretty easy, so I didn’t give it much value. I then went to St. Olaf College, intending to be a business major and to play football, which I enjoyed. I hurt my knee in the summer before my freshman year and so tried out for the choir. I made it into the highest choir a freshman can be in at St. Olaf and loved it, gradually evolving into a music major.

My “non-musical” background in many ways helped me recruit people for the music department – because I came from somewhere else, and I can see someone else’s point of view.

  • In your opinion, how does choral music differ from other kinds of popular music?

I’m not sure I would categorize choral music as “popular” music, so that’s a difference right there. Most pop music is about “me” and “I.” It’s about the desires of an individual. I like pop music— generally speaking— but as a man in my 60s, I’m not as interested in “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” as I might have been when the Beatles first came out with it. 😉 Most pop music is about a fairly narrow band of human experience— mainly about romantic love for young people. Since choral music by definition requires multiple people, its subject matter tends to be broader. It tends to be about “us” or about grand themes. I find this more engaging. It takes us outside of our own narrow concerns.

  • What is your personal take on more contemporary styles of choral and church music that are becoming popular today?

Well, I’ve given this a lot of thought. I think the direction of modern choral music that I see in schools, universities, and colleges is really inspiring. The whole acapella movement and even the fact that they’re showing this kind of thing on TV is good for the thing that we love the most.

Conversely, I think there’s a kind of contemporary church music based on pop music with which I disagree in a fundamental way. The pop music models upon which it’s constructed follow the same “I” and “me” emphasis that pop music does. It’s more about one person coming up to a microphone and saying, “here’s how I feel about God” – and I really think that when we come together, we should be singing about how WE collectively feel about God. I don’t necessarily disagree with the genre – though there is more chaff than wheat. But when the songs talk only about an individual (whether it be written in 2019… 1919… 1819) – that’s fine to listen to at home or in your car, but when we all come together, the music we sing together should be about community.

  • What is the purpose of choral music today? What does it mean to you?

I think to choral music today is about making connections. People are in some ways more connected today than ever, via the internet, but not connected viscerally as they were even a few years ago. People crave coming together. Studies have shown that, when practicing music in a group setting for an hour, our hearts start to beat in rhythm, our breath starts to come in rhythm, and endorphins are released. I think we are in danger of everyone having their own personal soundtrack to their life piped in through earbuds – and this is music which has been highly edited and so is “perfect” in a way live performances can never be. The same thing is happening in media and advertising. Things are airbrushed perfection in magazines, and it’s not real. It’s not human. It seems plasticky… and I think music can be plasticky as well. Making music together – warts and all – is one of the most human things we can possibly do.

When you come together to make music, you might be sitting next to someone who is quite different than you – there might be 30 years age difference, there might be political differences…

really knowing those people and breaking down those barriers gets you to venture outside of your comfort zone and have a more diverse perspective in life. Singing is an intensely human thing, involving language (which instruments don’t have) and with the instruments being our own body. Singing in a community provides something which, in my opinion, no other thing on earth can provide and which we all need.