America's Choral Ambassador

John Finley Williamson

by Joseph G. Beck



Book Details

Language : English
Publication Date : 2/6/2014

Format : Softcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 224
ISBN : 9781491825136
Format : Hardcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 224
ISBN : 9781491826218
Format : E-Book
Dimensions : N/A
Page Count : 224
ISBN : 9781491825129

About the Book

At the 2007 American Choral Directors Association Southwestern Convention, I presented an Interest Session lecture titled “John Finley Williamson’s influence on America’s choral singing.” The session was well attended and the question-and-answer period was spirited. The participants were most interested in the recordings, photographs and articles that I presented, and wished there had been more. Subsequently, I began enlarge my lecture into a PowerPoint presentation that included newly found newspaper articles and historical photographs of many of the foreign concerts tours by the Westminster Choir. These various new items are included in the present edition, plus an article by Mrs. Williamson about the first European tour. I also have included some background information about my personal experiences with Dr. Williamson when I was a student at the Westminster Choir College and as a participant in his legendary summer school workshops.



“All of art must come from the heart. This must be true because the quality that makes art endure is the spiritual value that must be in art. The art that comes most quickly from the heart and speaks most readily to the heart is the art of music – in particular the art of solo and choral singing.” J. F. Williamson, Lecture, Summer, 1959


The life and work of John Finley Williamson (1887 – 1964) is so complex and interesting that one volume could not possibly do him justice. He was the founder of the Westminster Choir and the college that bears its name, and was one of America’s choral pioneers in the early twentieth century.  His charismatic teaching of choral and vocal techniques helped revive singing in America’s churches and schools at a time when it was in decline. I knew John Finley Williamson for a mere ten years from the time I was a teenager until his untimely death, when I was twenty-eight.  During that time I think I was able to know him as well as any of his many students. 2014 marks fifty years since the passing of John Finley Williamson. This volume describes both pictorially and through his lectures his worldwide influence on the choral and vocal arts.

About the Author

Joseph G. Beck is a graduate of Westminster Choir College and was a student of John Finley Williamson. He earned a Master of Arts in Voice and Conducting from Kent State University and a Doctor of Education from St. Louis University. Dr. Beck is President of JGB Productions Inc., a film and video company. He has taught choral and vocal music at Kent State University, Mount Union College; Webster, St. Louis, and Maryville universities. Joseph Beck has performed extensively in St. Louis as a singer and conductor, including musical director of the St. Louis Repertory Theatre, guest conductor for the St. Louis Chamber Chorus and the Midwest Lyric Opera. He was the founder of the Madrigal Singers of St. Louis. In addition he has been a choral/vocal reviewer for the American Music Teacher Magazine and is a contributor to the Choral Journal. Currently Dr. Beck has a private voice studio.