Dr. Joseph Herl receives Doctor of Letters, honoris causa from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
Concordia University, Nebraska professor of music Dr. Joseph Herl was recently honored for his research and writing in the area of hymnology and was awarded a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa in May 2022 from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
Herl is recognized as a world-class scholar in his field and has served with distinction at Concordia University Nebraska as a professor of music for more than two decades, receiving the Outstanding Teacher Award from Concordia Nebraska students and faculty in 2018. His research and writing in the area of hymnology have distinguished him as a world-class scholar in his field. His volume, Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism and his contributions to the Hymn Tune Index under Nicholas Temperley are widely read and cited by scholars and peers.
“Concordia Seminary awards the Doctor of Letters Degree to recognize those who demonstrate excellence in the literary articulation of the Christian faith. Dr. Herl’s research and writing in the area of hymnology have distinguished him as a world-class scholar in his field,” said Rev. Dr. David J. Peter, professor of practical theology and dean of faculty at Concordia Seminary. “His publications have served the Church’s song in worship, and his companion resource to the Lutheran Service Book is of distinctive benefit to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Concordia Seminary honors him for these important literary contributions.”
Herl served as lead editor of Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns, which represents a monumental contribution to the field of hymn commentaries and contains the scholarly contributions of a number of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis faculty. Herl has been a commissioned minister of the LCMS since 2001 and he has served his church with distinction as a member of the hymnody committee for the Lutheran Service Book project and as music director and organist at various LCMS congregations.
“Dr. Herl has made very significant contributions to our understanding of and appreciation for the church’s hymnody, especially the history and development our hymns. It was a privilege to honor him, and a joy to see him honored,” added Dr. Thomas J. Egger, president of Concordia Seminary.
Herl has served at Concordia Nebraska since 2000. He earned a B.A. in music from Concordia College New York, Bronxville, where he was awarded the college’s prizes in music and classics. He subsequently received a master’s degree in organ performance from North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) and a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he assisted his adviser, Nicholas Temperley, in producing The Hymn Tune Index: A Census of English-Language Hymn Tunes in Printed Sources from 1535–1820 (Oxford University Press).
During his time at the University of Illinois, Herl studied in Germany on a Fulbright dissertation research grant. He is the author of Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism: Choir, Congregation, and Three Centuries of Conflict (Oxford University Press), which was awarded the 2005 Roland H. Bainton Prize in art and music history from the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference. While working on the book, Herl also was involved in the preparation of Lutheran Service Book (Concordia Publishing House), the most recent hymnal of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. With Peter C. Reske and Dr. Jon D. Vieker, Herl edited the two-volume Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns (CPH), which tells the story behind every hymn in the hymnal.
Herl’s current research interests include Gregorian chants sung by early Lutherans, the historical roots of the contemporary worship movement and the role of children in the Lutheran service. He is especially interested in promoting church music that instills the Word of God in the hearts of children and adults so they never forget it or lose it.
Additionally, Herl is a composer of music for choir, organ and piano. His music has been published by Concordia Publishing House, Oxford University Press and MorningStar Music Publishers. His hymn tunes have appeared in several North American and European hymnals. Lutheran Service Book contains three of his original tunes, one hymn translation, a liturgical setting and 22 hymn settings.
Herl serves Redeemer Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Neb., as organist, and he holds the associateship and choir master certifications of the American Guild of Organists. In 2018 he received the annual “Outstanding Teaching Award” from Concordia University, and in 2020 he was appointed research professor in the School of Music at the University of Illinois, succeeding Nicholas Temperley as director of the Hymn Tune Index, a position he holds concurrently with his full-time service at Concordia University.
Herl lives in Seward with his wife, Jenny, who teaches chemistry at Concordia University, and their daughters, Anna and Mary.