Ken J. Nafziger, professor emeritus of music at Eastern Mennonite University and artistic director and conductor of the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival, has been named a Fellow of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. The honor was conferred at the organization’s annual conference July 17 in Dallas, Texas.
This award, the highest honor given by the organization, was conferred because of Nafziger’s work as a conductor, educator, hymnal editor and practitioner of church music, according to a press release.
In addition to a long teaching and conducting career, Nafziger has been active animating congregational singing and song leadership through workshops, writing, and hymn editing. He was music editor of Hymnal: A Worship Book (1992), editor of its accompaniment handbook and assistant to the editor of its two supplements, Sing the Journey (2005) and Sing the Story (2007). These Mennonite collections are well-known for their accessibility and celebration of music from around the world. He co-authored Singing, a Mennonite Voice with Marlene Kropf (Herald Press, 2001).
Speaking of his friend and colleague, hymnwriter Adam Tice said that his support for recent Mennonite hymnal projects “has meant the world to us.”
“Ken’s contributions as an educator, editor and scholar have been wide-reaching ecumenically, as well as transformational within the Mennonite Church,” said Benjamin Bergey, music editor of the upcoming Mennonite hymnal and music professor at EMU. “More than that, Ken’s heart for congregational song has brought so many people closer to God, and he has been one of my most important and influential mentors.”
At EMU, Nafziger led the Chamber Singers and taught courses in conducting, world music, worship and music, and interdisciplinary humanities studies. In 2015, he earned the Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award, “for outstanding accomplishments and sustained contributions in the arts, improving the cultural vitality of the Shenandoah Valley.” The award was given by the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, the Valley Arts Council, and the College of Visual and Performing Arts at James Madison University.
He is artistic director and conductor of Winchester Musica Viva, a chamber choir in Winchester, Virginia.
Founded in 1922, The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada is an ecumenical organization of people who are passionate about hymns and congregational song. We recognize the importance of the people’s song in worship and want to assure its vitality in the future.
The Hymn Society community, open to all, is made up of scholars, church musicians, poets, composers, choir directors, choir members, clergy, worship planners, song leaders, music publishers, music educators, and people who love to sing. We believe that the holy act of singing together shapes faith, heals brokenness, transforms lives, and renews peace. Our mission, therefore, is to encourage, promote, and enliven congregational song.