The Catholic University of America

May 16, 2008

Commencement Choir Gives Thanks at Baccalaureate Mass

Students of Many Disciplines Take Part

Leo Nestor, Justine Bayard Ward Professor of Music, conducts a practice of the Commencement Choir in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Catholic University freshmen begin their studies at the school with a Mass celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. In the same way, students will celebrate the completion of their studies with a Baccalaureate Mass on Friday, May 16, at the National Shrine.

To enhance the atmosphere of celebration and thanksgiving at the Mass, the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music's Institute of Sacred Music and Office of Campus Ministry initiated Commencement Choir in 2005. The choir is composed of music school students from almost every major and students representing the spectrum of disciplines of the entire university.

Leo Nestor, Justine Bayard Ward Professor of Music, will be conducting the choir and chamber orchestra along with Kevin O'Brien, doctoral candidate for sacred music. "At CUA, if we believe that the Lord's Table is source and summit of the Christian life, then for our students to offer this gift in thanksgiving at the conclusion of their years of study is the most personal giving back to the Lord that is possible," Nestor says.

"Each year the number of our graduates and their friends in the choir increases," he says. "This is the most exciting year of the four. There are undergraduates, graduates, nurses, architects, philosophers, politicians, psychologists and a development staff member joining the 'music kids.' It simply doesn't get any better than this."

"You start and end your time at CUA with a Mass, and, as a musician, I think music is a very important part of liturgy," says A.J. Marini, a graduating violin major from Rochester, N.Y. "It means so much to be able to contribute to the liturgy in which your classmates share. I'm graduating and this is what I want to do with my life. I want to go out doing what I love."

Marini will serve at the Mass as a violinist in part of a string quintet. The music school students will also be featured as organists, cantors and assistant conductor. Contributing to the Mass will also be members of Washington Symphonic Brass with School of Music faculty members Richard Miller, guitar, and Robert Grogan, organist.

The Commencement Choir, compsed of students from many disciplines at CUA, practices during the week before the Baccalaureate Mass.
Megan French, a graduating music education major from Levittown, Pa., joined the choir last year. "I had a lot of friends graduating and I think it's great that we can give them a gift and send them forth," she says.

This year French will perform at the Mass as a cantor, leading the congregation in prayer. "I think what's unique about the choir is that it's not all music majors - there are staff members and grad students - and the fact that they open it up to the whole campus is special."

Michael Beard, rising senior psychology major from Beaverton, Ore., has been involved in Campus Ministry's music ministry, but this will be his first experience performing in the National Shrine. "I think it's awesome to be in the environment of people who have committed years of their lives to musical endeavors and to witness them bearing the fruit of their education," he says. "People know I am not up to that caliber, but it's a very cool exemplification of campus unity."

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