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G. E. Griffith

Professor of voice, 1892-1895

(This series of Notable Faculty profiles was written in celebration Augustana's sesquicentennial in 2009.)

Griffith E Griffith was born on January 30, 1853, in Aberaman, Glamorganshire, South Wales. His mother was an excellent singer and provided Griffith with his first musical education. By the time he was 8 years old, Griffith was already singing in a boy's choir in his native town. Soon after, Griffith came to America with his family.

At the age of 10, he won a prize for singing at the Welsh Eisteddfod in Youngstown, Ohio. His talent as a vocalist was highly recognized. When he came to Rock Island as a young man, he began his long career sharing his talent as teacher.

Griffith worked in Davenport, Rock Island, and Moline schools and churches, both teaching and directing music and voice culture. For several years he was the supervisor of music at Rock Island public schools and he spent another five years as music supervisor at the Iowa Orphans Home in Davenport. During this time, Olof Olsson had organized the Handel Oratorio Society in 1881 and the Augustana Conservatory had been established in 1886. Both of these organizations held many opportunities for Augustana students and community members to be involved in music.

Professor Gustav Stolpe was directing both the Handel Oratorio Society and working with the Conservatory; however, in 1888 he resigned from the Society in order to focus on his work with the school. Griffith, the local choir director, was hired to direct the Oratorio Society. He became the permanent director in 1888 and served until 1895.

Griffith was hired by the Conservatory in 1892, after Stolpe had resigned. Not only was teaching at the College a new responsibility, but he was also left with planning the 1893 Jubilee. This Jubilee was a celebration of Sweden's rejection of the Counter Reformation in 1593. For this Jubilee, Griffith combined the Handel Oratorio Society and the Conservatory choirs. Together, under the leadership of Griffith, they performed Gade's "Zion", Cowen's "Songs of Thanksgiving", and a cantata written for the occasion by Stolpe called "Jubilee Cantata."

As a professor of voice and choral director, Griffith was known to have been a great conductor and teacher who cared about the advancement of his students. His rich baritone voice soothed the tumultuous years after the Conservatory was formed and had a great impact on the school's musical development. Under his direction of the Handel Oratorio Society, traditions such as the annual performance of the "Messiah" were continued. In 1895, he was succeeded in the Conservatory by A. D. Bodfors.