Society of Peabody Alumni
Citation for the Peabody Distinguished Alumni Award
May 21, 2006
Norman Scribner, you have traveled a long way since you enrolled at the Peabody Institute in 1953. While at Peabody, you studied composition with Walter Spencer Huffman, and organ with Richard Ross, George Markey, and Paul Callaway. You also took a full complement of liberal arts courses at Johns Hopkins, including philosophy, and literature.
To help pay your living expenses, you picked up various organist and choir director jobs at local churches. You also founded and directed the highly successful Baltimore Choral Society. This group disbanded when you left for your stint of army duty, but was resurrected later by one of the participants, Theodore Morrison, to become the Choral Arts Society of Baltimore.
You received your certificate in organ in 1956 and your bachelor’s degree in 1961.
Following two years of army duty, you were offered a job assisting Paul Callaway and Richard Wayne Dirksen at the Washington Cathedral. To help make ends meet, you conducted the American University Choral and there you met your wife, Shirley, a skilled singer and pianist.
In 1963 you were asked to assemble a chorus for the National Symphony Orchestra’s annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. You combined five outstanding local church choirs for the occasion, winning thunderous applause at Constitution Hall, and a request that your ensemble repeat the performance annually.
When Messiah time rolled around again in 1965, you opted to try a broader recruitment approach and announced open auditions. You selected 120 voices and the Choral Arts Society of Washington was born.
Since then you have been in constant demand for visiting orchestras, spectaculars on the Mall, holiday festivals, the Kennedy Center Honors, Martin Luther King, Jr. memorials, television specials and movie premieres. In addition you have built a considerable reputation as a composer. It is no wonder that, in 1984, Washington magazine acknowledged your contributions to the life of the capital by naming you “Washingtonian of the Year.”
It is for your extraordinary musical accomplishments that The Peabody Chapter of The Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association confers upon you the honor of the Distinguished Alumni Award.