News Releases

Mines Music Director James Feiszli named U.S. Professor of the Year
Release Date Thursday, November 14, 2013
Dr. James Feiszli named 2013 U.S. Professor of the Year for the state of South Dakota by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.  Find more photos below and on Flickr.

RAPID CITY, S.D. (Nov. 14, 2013) – James Feiszli, Director of Music at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, has been named 2013 U.S. Professor of the Year for the state of South Dakota by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

The prestigious award recognizes undergraduate instructors throughout the country who excel in teaching and positively influencing the lives and careers of students.

Five of the 13 professors who have received the U.S. Professor of the Year honor for South Dakota have come from the School of Mines, more than from any other college or university within the state. Highly selective, the award was begun in 1981. This year a state Professor of the Year was recognized in 36 states. Feiszli was among a pool of more than 350 top professors in the United States considered.

He will accept his award at a luncheon today in Washington, D.C. The public is invited to celebrate Feiszli’s honor with the university during receptions following the annual holiday performances at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Those concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 7 and 8.

“The panel was very impressed by Professor Feiszli’s work building a music program at a school of engineering and technology. At a place where he knew he would not be teaching music majors, he has developed a model music program. Even more important, however, is his work on understanding the connections between music learning and engineering/science learning. That he has been able to demonstrate the advantages of learning both disciplines simultaneously is at the heart of his success as a scholar/teacher,” judges wrote in awarding Feiszli the honor.

In 1983 Feiszli accepted the daunting task of establishing a music program at a science and engineering university that doesn’t offer a music degree. He has established a permanent home for the music department (moving out of its long-term “temporary” home in the athletic building); has produced moving and well-attended community concerts; and has brought home many awards from national and international choral competitions. He was recognized for his achievements with the 2011 Presidential Award for Outstanding Professor.

“I have always believed that my work was of significant value to the music discipline because I was influencing those who would be in a position to impact society outside the confines of the music world. My students become major players in the fabric of our society. It is crucial that they acquire and retain an appreciation for the importance of music. I am honored at the recognition the Carnegie Foundation has given to one who has followed ‘the road not taken.’ It is an acknowledgement that excellence in education is not simply a matter of narrow focus but also of the broader impact of one’s work,” said Feiszli, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Mount Union College, his master’s degree from University of Akron and his doctorate from Arizona State University.

The nomination and consideration process is intensive. CASE assembled two preliminary panels of judges to select finalists. The Carnegie Foundation then convened the third and final panel, which selected four national winners. CASE and Carnegie select state winners from top entries resulting from the judging process.

The university nominated Feiszli, and materials considered for the award included letters of support from campus colleagues, counterparts from professional organizations and affiliations, community leaders and students.

“For 30 years Dr. Feiszli has developed the habit of excellence in hundreds of engineers and scientists through music. He is relentlessly demanding and his students love him for it. At a school that doesn’t even have music majors, our student choirs inspire awe and attract capacity crowds because of Jim Feiszli. This honor is richly deserved and we are very fortunate that Dr. Feiszli chose the students at Mines for his life’s work,” said Mines President Heather Wilson.

Former student Jessica Hartman, now a Delta Airlines sourcing manager based in Atlanta, says Feiszli’s mentorship changed her life. “As an undergraduate woman at an engineering school my focus should have been solely on chemistry, fluid dynamics, and heat transfer. … He challenged me to become not just a better vocalist but a better version of myself. The opportunities that set me up for success in the real world can be traced directly back to my time studying under Dr. Feiszli. How to persevere. How to communicate without words.”

CASE and the Carnegie Foundation have been partners in offering the U.S. Professors of the Year awards program since 1981. Additional support for the program is received from Phi Beta Kappa, which sponsors an evening congressional reception, the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education and other higher education associations.
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center that supports needed transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of this evidence, and structured opportunities to build knowledge.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in London, Singapore and Mexico City, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education is a professional association serving educational institutions and the advancement professionals at all levels who work in alumni relations, communications, fundraising, marketing and other areas.

View photos of Dr. Feiszli and student musicians below and at our Flickr set:

About SDSM&T
Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,640 students from 45 states and 37 countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The average starting salary for graduates is $62,400 with a 98 percent placement rate. Find us online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at

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Additional excerpts from supporters of Dr. Feiszli’s nomination

“In 1993, Jim fused his love for choral music with his passion for technology and created ‘ChoraList,’ an email distribution list for choral music that united choral directors around the globe. This innovation was not unlike other developments in technology in the early days of the Internet, but his continued development resulted in ChoralNet, a tool that has profoundly changed our field. It continues to have a significant impact on the interactions of choral musicians today and grows in significance every year. ChoralNet has evolved into the online center of choral music and a forum for conductors and composers as well as a news resource. The remarkable thing about ChoralNet is that Jim created it, for the most part, by sheer force of will. I still find it extraordinary that Feiszli founded and managed an instrument that had an international impact from his home and office in Rapid City, South Dakota. His achievement was probably unnoticed by most of the other professors with whom he worked but it continues to impact people like me on a daily basis.

“I call him one of the true historic figures in choral music for the U.S.A. In my opinion, he has done more to impact the world of choral music than anyone else in this century.”

Philip L. Copeland, Chair
Technology Committee Chair of American Choral Directors Association
Samford University

“Good teachers plant seeds of lifetime curiosity, of appreciation of aesthetics, appreciation of differences in others’ interests. Good teachers possess themselves the passion for learning and stretching the capacity to learn. Always it was evident that Dr. James Feiszli was an incredible teacher with the ability to stimulate students. His commitment to excellence is his mantra and that mantra is noted not only by students and faculty, but by a community who understands the value of this man.”

Judith Reedy Duhamel
Rapid City

“The rehearsals were more than simply practicing the music. Dr. Feiszli added context, discussing the historical and cultural contexts in which the composers of each piece wrote. He explained the politics of the time, the social environments, and the personal lives of the artists. In every case, he tied the information back to our performance of the piece, challenging us to understand the composer’s intention and express that understanding through the music.

“It did not take long for me to realize that Dr. Feiszli was not just teaching us musical performance. He was offering us an education in Western culture and history, of religion and politics, of social context, and how it all must inform our choices about our interpretations and performance.

“I, for one, have learned more from Dr. Feiszli about leadership, team building, the rewards of setting and achieving high personal expectations, and the importance of curiosity, context, and communication than I did from any other professor. I learned the world was a bigger and more amazing place than I had previously thought.”

Robert C. Fallbeck, MBA
Former student
Marketing & Communications Manager
CPP Wind Engineering
Fort Collins, Colorado

“To get a grasp on how significant Dr. Feiszli has been to the atmosphere and environment at SDSM&T, one would have to look no further than the fact that he, a Director of Music, has been nominated by a science and engineering based school. He has made the arts a significant part of the culture at the school. His drive, enthusiasm and vision for the propulsion and perpetuation of the arts on campus and in the community have been unparalleled. He has made SDSM&T a better place, and its students and alumni more well-rounded overall.”

Corey T. Jacobs
Former student
Mechanical Engineer
Raven Industries

“As a member of the South Dakota Board of Regents for eighteen years, I was able to observe how the development of the music program benefits his students. “This music program greatly enriches the students’ personal development in a curriculum heavily weighted in engineering, math, and science.  The entire community also is the beneficiary of the music program as the annual 'standing room only' SDSM&T Christmas Concert has become the event that marks the beginning of the holiday season.”
Patricia O. LeBrun, President
Lebrun Investment Management, Inc.
Rapid City

“Some in Dr. Feiszli’s field may see him as being less accomplished because he teaches at a university without a music major. His current and former students would vigorously disagree with those people. He has impacted students in a way others can only imagine. Each student focuses on a course because it will be our profession. At SDSM&T, music is studied because people love what they learn and recognize the opportunity they have to work with someone as talented as Dr. Feiszli. The engineering curriculum is difficult, and I don’t know a student who looks for extra work, but I know many who are as committed to Dr. Feiszli and the music program as they are to their major course work.”

Tamera J. Nelson
Former student
CEO, Fuelade Corporation, Rapid City
President, Adventures in Manufacturing, Chicago

“I can only imagine it a rare event to have a music professor selected, but then very few of my music colleagues can claim to have changed the face of choral music.  I believe Dr. Feiszli can make that claim and did affect a sea-change.”

Dr. Gary A. Weidenaar, President
Northwestern Division, American Choral Directors Association
Central Washington University