Kiezen Li Qian arrived at Cal State Fullerton with no singing experience, yet showed up to audition for the Titan Men’s Chorus last semester. He was greeted by Christopher Peterson, who checked his vocal range and put him at ease. During his time under the educator’s tutelage, the graduate student in biology has grown to admire Peterson’s “pedagogy, from basic music reading and musicianship to cultivating a positive attitude of cooperation.
“Dr. Peterson facilitates a positive learning environment where everyone is included despite a broad range of ability, experience, class and culture. … [He] demonstrates integrity by being generous with his time, responding remarkably well to feedback and practicing humility even in a position of authority,” explained Qian.
In bestowing the university’s Carol Barnes Excellence in Teaching award to the music professor May 2, CSUF President Fram Virjee described his excitement when the 60-member Concert Choir walked into his office to perform during his first weeks on campus.
“We were profoundly moved by the students’ performance but also by the leadership of the professor and conductor that we’re honoring today,” said Virjee. “That was one of the handful of moments at the beginning of my presidency when I said, I want to do this for a long time.”
“It’s such a wonderful thing to work for an institution that values teaching,” said Peterson upon receiving the award. “Here, I feel like I do what I love to do. I maintain a full-time load and don’t want to give up any of my classes. I love my students.”
Peterson teaches courses in choral music education for undergraduate music education majors, teaching credential candidates, and for graduate music students in the master’s degree programs in choral conducting and music education.
“Our students respond very favorably and enthusiastically to his teaching, and they greatly appreciate the wonderful pedagogical model he gives them, as well as his great personal integrity,” stated Dale Merrill, dean of the College of the Arts. “He brings honor and acclaim to our university.”
He is nationally recognized as one of America’s foremost choral education pedagogues and is beloved by both students and colleagues, stated Robert Istad, professor of music and director of choral studies. Students and alumni, he added, often mention how the educator has inspired their career longevity and success.
“Because of Dr. Peterson’s stellar reputation in our community, our choral area has consistently maintained a 100% placement rate of employment for all students that complete CSUF’s choral music education degree and credential program,” Istad explained.
Music professor John Koegel, who nominated Peterson, referred to him as a “tireless advocate for the importance of music and the arts in making a significant difference in the lives of our students.
“He collaborates extensively with public school music teachers throughout California in fostering excellence in musical performance, through his participation with workshops and clinics, master classes, honor choirs and choral adjudication,” he added. “He regularly visits and teaches many young choral ensemble members in California’s public schools, encouraging diverse groups of budding musicians from various socio-economic levels and racial and ethnic heritages to embrace music as a career choice and pathway through life.”
Peterson leads the Concert Choir and Men’s Chorus, is active as a choral singer and is a leading member of and clinician of/for the international Barbershop Harmony Society. He holds leadership positions with the American Choral Directors Association and National Association for Music Educators and serves on several organizational boards and committees. He is in high demand as a guest conductor and coach, conducting choral concerts throughout the country and regularly presenting choral music master classes.
He holds a doctorate in music education and choral conducting from Florida State University’s School of Music, a master of music in choral conducting from the University of Maine and a B.S. in music education from the University of Southern Maine. Peterson arrived on campus in 2007 after teaching at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and Valdosta State University in Georgia.
The Carol Barnes Excellence in Teaching award is named after the professor emeritus of elementary and bilingual education.