Dr. Sylvia Munsen has been awarded the Medal of St. Olav by His Majesty King Harald V of Norway. Instituted in 1939 by King Haakon VII, the Medal is conferred as "a reward for services in advancing knowledge of Norway abroad and for strengthening the bonds between expatriate Norwegians and their descendants and their country of residence." Being awarded this medal is the highest recognition that Norway can give to a foreigner/civilian. The Medal was presented to Munsen by Gary L. Gandrud, Honorary Counsel General for the Kingdom of Norway in a ceremony in Minneapolis on Saturday, April 27, 2013, attended by friends and family members. Asbjørn Skår and Stein Elling Schille, from the Kvinnherad District in Norway, nominated Munsen for the award and presented comments at the ceremony regarding their nomination and the work she has done in Kvinnherad.
Proud to be 100 percent Norwegian-American, Munsen was born in the Norwegian immigrant community of Story City, Iowa, and was raised eating traditional Norwegian foods and singing Norwegian carols and folks songs with her Grandma Anna (Jacobson). She attended St. Olaf College, in Northfield, Minnesota, founded by Norwegian-Americans. While at St. Olaf, she sang in the St. Olaf Choir and attended the University of Oslo International Summer School studying Norwegian language, music, and literature. From 1995 to 2011, she was an Associate Professor of Music and Chair of Music Education at Iowa State University and the Founder and Conductor of the Ames Children’s Choirs (ACC) program. In 2011 Munsen was appointed the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair for Elementary Arts Education at Utah State University. In addition, she is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Cache Children’s Choir program.
Munsen was given this prestigious award for her work with the Norway International Student Teaching Program she created in the Kvinnherad District in 2001, her work with children’s choirs singing Norwegian music, her presentations on Norwegian folk arts, and her publications, including a cookbook, Cooking the Norwegian Way, an article, "Kids in the Kitchen" (Viking magazine, February 2007), and a choral arrangement of the Norwegian carol, "Jeg er saa glad" ("I am so glad each Christmas Eve") published by Kjos Publishing Company. Her work with the Norway International Student Teaching Program has made Norway more than an ancestral home; it is a place where she exchanges ideas with contemporary colleagues. The program, which has included 72 student teachers since 2002, is now collaborating with student teachers from both Iowa State and Utah State Universities. The ACC Concert Choir, conducted by Munsen, toured Norway in 2010 performing in prestigious venues in Bergen, Stavanger, and Rosendal and collaborating with three children’s choirs in Bergen and Sandnes.
Munsen continues to coordinate the International Student Teaching Program in Norway, traveling to Rosendal each fall and spring to supervise student teachers. She will meet His Majesty King Harald V on her next trip to Norway in November.