Artistic Director Wilbert O. Watkins began his association with the Lutheran Choir of Chicago for the 2007-2008 season, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience. Since starting his tenure, Dr. Watkins has enhanced the choir, bringing many new voices into the group, enriching the sound of this well-respected, premiere choral ensemble.
The Lutheran Choir of Chicago has performed in numerous venues in Chicagoland, offering a rich heritage of sacred music to listeners of all ages. The group has performed traditional pieces by classical composers such as Pergolesi, Bach and Mendelssohn, as well as more contemporary sacred choral literature by John Rutter and Paul Basler. Dr. Watkins is constantly looking to expand the reach of the choir - through finding new, interesting and challenging literature to stretch both the choir and the audience; and by presenting a message of peace and hope through sacred music to potential new audience members.
Dr. Watkins currently conducts the combined choirs and ensemble of the Sing to Live Community Chorus, serves as choral director at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Oak Park, and is involved in several volunteer community efforts.
His past Midwestern conducting experience has included the following: director of the mixed chorus Unison with the Windy City Performing Arts in Chicago, visiting assistant professor of music education at Northern Illinois University, adjunct faculty at De Paul University, music faculty at Benedictine University, Director of Choral Activities at Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, where he was the originator of a multicultural choral series; and director of the Dubuque Area Men's Chorus.
Watkins studied with Rodney Eichenberger and Andre Thomas at Florida State University, where he earned a Ph.D. in music education and conducting. His formal education has included theological seminary, and he has ministered to the congregations of several Christian denominations for over twenty years.
He has served as a clinician, adjudicator and guest conductor in the South and Midwest, in Puerto Rico and in the Orient. Watkins has also sung with the Oak Park Handel's Week ensemble, the Fort Worth Renaissance Consort, Schola Cantorum of Texas and the Ft. Worth and Dallas Opera choruses.
His other accolades include: serving as chorus master for Giovanni Bertolani's opera Matilde, performing in master class with Paul Plishka, and performing under the baton of Fiora Contino and the late Robert Shaw, with whom he also served as diction coach for his last performance of Brahm's Ein deutsches Requiem .
He has guest lectured in music literacy, vocal diction and music education and his professional memberships include the American Choral Directors Association, Chorus America, International Federation of Choral Music, Music Educators National Conference and the National Association of Teachers of Singing.