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Carl Schalk is Distinguished Professor of Church Music Emeritus at Concordia University Chicago, where he taught from 1965 until 1994. He also served as assistant director of music from 1968 until 1997 at Grace Lutheran Church, in River Forest, Illinois, in a lively and fruitful partnership with Paul Bouman.

Schalk was born on September 26, 1929 in Des Plaines, Illinois. He received his undergraduate education at Concordia Teachers College, River Forest, Illinois, attaining a Bachelor in Science degree in education  in 1952. He holds advanced degrees from the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester, New York (Master of Music in 1958) and from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri (Master of Arts in Religion, 1965). He has remained an avid reader of theology throughout his professional life. Schalk counts among his most influential teachers Victor Hildner and Walter E. Buszin, and among composers who have had a significant influence on his choral writing are Randall Thompson, Healey Willan, Virgil Thomson, and Peter Mennin.

Dr. Schalk has received honorary degrees from Concordia University Nebraska in Seward (LL.D.); and Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota (L.H.D.); and Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri (Doctor of Letters). He was named a Fellow of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada in 1992 and an Honorary Life Member of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians in 1995. He was elected Distinguished Professor of Music at Concordia University in 1993 by his faculty colleagues. In 1999 he received the prestigious Wittenberg Award from The Luther Institute, Washington D. C., and in 2002 received the Distinguished Composer Award from the American Guild of Organists. He recently served as lead consultant for “Celebrating the Musical Heritage of the Lutheran Church,” an interactive CD-ROM with five audio CDs distributed to Lutheran churches and schools in 2002 by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

Schalk began his professional career as teacher and director of music at Zion Lutheran Church in Wausau, Wisconsin (1952-58), and as director of music for the radio broadcasts of the International Lutheran Hour (1958-1965). He taught at Concordia University Chicago from 1965 until his retirement in 1994. His assignments included organ instructor, chapel choir director, and church music classes. From 1966 until 1980 he served as the founding editor for Church Music magazine, which was based at the university and published by CPH.  He also instituted the Lectures in Church Music, an annual fall conference which continues to this day. The university also added a master’s degree in church music under Schalk’s initiative and careful guidance. To date the program has produced some 140 graduates who continue to serve the Church.

Throughout his career Schalk’s counsel has been sought by numerous groups. He served as a member of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship, Hymn Music Committee, which prepared the Lutheran Book of Worshippublished in 1978. He served on the Music Editorial Advisory Committee of Concordia Publishing House from 1964 until 2003 (editing a number of important series) and has served on various boards and committees of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, and Lutheran Summer Music.

Carl Schalk has written much music for the church—anthems, concertatos, and liturgical music for choirs, preludes for organists, and various pieces for instrumental ensembles. His many compositions are published by Augsburg Fortress, Concordia Publishing House, MorningStar Music Publishers, GIA, Hope Publishing Company, and Selah Music Publishers and are widely used in many denominations. His original hymn tunes and carols exceed 100 in number, many of which can be found in over thirty denominational hymnals in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia. GIA has published a Schalk hymnary with supplement, a tribute to his unique gift as a hymn tune composer. His collaborations with Jaroslav Vajda and Herbert Brokering (both now sainted) have enjoyed wide acceptance and acclaim.

Four CDs of Schalk’s choral music have been recorded. They are Sing Ye Choirs Exultant: The James Chorale Sings Music of Carl Schalk Christ Be Our Seed: The Choral Tradition of Carl F. Schalk sung by the American Repertory Singers; Hymns of Grace recorded by the choirs of Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, Illinois and Shine Like Stars recorded by the Kapelle of Concordia University, River Forest, Illinois.

Dr. Schalk has also produced a significant and enduring legacy in his writings. His numerous articles and reviews have appeared in The Christian Century, Church History, Concordia Theological Monthly, CrossAccent, Pastoral Music, Currents in Theology and Mission, Journal of Religion, Lutheran Education, Notes, and The Hymn. His books include the newly revised and expanded Key Words in Church Music (Concordia, 2004), Music in Early Lutheranism: Shaping the Tradition (1524-1672) (Concordia, 2001), the award-winning God’s Song in a New LandLutheran Hymnals in America (Concordia, 1995), Source Documents in American Lutheran Hymnody(Concordia, 1996), and First Person Singular: Reflections on Worship, Liturgy, and Children (MorningStar, 1998).

As Nancy Raabe’s recent biography—Carl F. Schalk—A Life in Song (Concordia 2013)—reminds us, Schalk’s life and career have been marked by his unwavering commitment to the worship life of Lutherans everywhere and to those things which matter most—a solid Biblical theology and the centrality of congregational song in the life of the Church

These “occasional perspectives” will serve well all those who aspire to a life of significant service in the Church.

  1. Perspectives on Church Music #1 - Regaining our Blance (April 2014)

  2. Perspectives on Church Music #2 - The Beauty of Simplicity (April 2014)

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Carl Schalk

Carl Schalk

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