Professor Emeritus Clifton Swanson began teaching at Cal Poly in 1967 with an emphasis on music appreciation and music history. However, he soon assumed responsibility for Cal Poly’s orchestra and became active as a conductor with the Cal Poly Chamber Orchestra and San Luis Obispo Symphony. In 1971 he co-founded the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival (now Festival Mozaic). He was elected Music Department chair in 1983, and served in that role almost continuously until his retirement in 2004.
Swanson has received numerous awards, including the university’s President’s Award for Contributions to the Arts of San Luis Obispo County, the Outstanding Liberal Arts Professor by College of Engineering Students (1994), and the College of Liberal Arts’ Outstanding Service Award for 2002-03. He served as director of Cal Poly’s London Study Program many times between 1986 and 2006.
Before coming to Cal Poly, Swanson graduated from Pomona College and earned his master’s degree in music literature from the University of Texas with additional study at UCLA. His attendance at the Aston Magna Academy focusing on the works of J.S. Bach in 1985 led to the “Mozart Akademie” as part of the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival which inspired the Cal Poly's Bach Week Akademie.
One of Swanson’s great pleasures has been his association with the inspiration, conception, design and support of the Performing Arts Center's Christopher Cohan Center on the Cal Poly campus. He participated in the original design committee, served for nine years on the board of directors of the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center, and served a term as president of the board.
Swanson is an active double bass player and never turns down an opportunity to play the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.