The Catholic University of America

April 14, 2015

Music Students Shine in Sold-out Kennedy Center Concert


The Catholic University combined choruses and the CUA Symphony Orchestra perform Carmina Burana during the 50th Anniversary Gala Concert April 12.

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Catholic University students, alumni, and faculty performed in one of Washington’s most notable venues Sunday night during the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music’s 50th Anniversary Gala Concert, a full orchestral and choral program held in the Concert Hall of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The concert opened with the premiere of a new orchestral fanfare, Ut Sol, Ut Luna. The composition was written by senior Matthew Yost and selected in a blind competition out of a pool of applicants ranging from current students to alumni from the early 1960s.

Yost’s piece was followed by selections from Rodeo and West Side Story and the full-length classical work, Carmina Burana, a scenic cantata by Carl Orff based on a series of 24 medieval poems reflecting on the shifting fortunes of life.

Prior to the concert, which was sold-out, attendees enjoyed walking the historic halls of the Kennedy Center and watching the sun set from the back terrace. University President John Garvey addressed the audience and said the evening’s performance of Carmina Burana was tailor-made for life at a university because of its verses about spring, taverns, and romance — “what students think about in April,” he joked.

“The prose is racy, but it’s in Latin so you can pretend you’re doing homework,” he said. “And the beginning and ending verses (‘O Fortuna’) are well-suited to the approach of finals.

Students from the Musical Theatre Division perform selections from West Side Story.  

“We have taught music like this at The Catholic University of America since Herbert Hoover was president,” said Garvey. “For 50 years, we’ve had the pre-eminent School of Music in the nation’s capital. We educate 300 students and give 200 performances each year.”

Following intermission, Grayson Wagstaff, dean of the music school had one question for the evening’s audience: “Don’t my students, faculty, and alumni look amazing at the Kennedy Center?”

The dean gave special thanks to President Garvey and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, chancellor of the University, before paying a tribute to professor emerita and concert organizer Elaine Walter, who served as dean from 1982 to 2001. He also acknowledged current music school faculty and those who have passed away.

“Tonight is about the future as much as it is about celebrating the past,” Wagstaff said. “I will declare that wherever this great world goes, we will need music like what you’re hearing tonight.”

Looking ahead to the future, Wagstaff challenged students and young people at the concert to return to the Kennedy Center for the 100th anniversary of the music school.

“Be here in 2065 celebrating the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music and this great national Catholic University, a place of faith, service, and family, and music, drama, and art that uplift the spirit and can change the world,” he said.

The gala concert marked the first time in 15 years that the music school has held a performance in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. The performance was conducted by Simeone Tartaglione, music director of the CUA Symphony Orchestra; Thomas Pedersen, head of the Musical Theatre Division; and student conducting major Dimitar Nicolav. The choruses were directed by Leo Nestor, Justine Bayard Ward Professor, director of Choral Studies, and director of the Institute of Sacred Music, and conducting professor Kevin O’Brien.

Soloists included soprano Sharon Christman, tenor Rick Christman, baritone Steven LaBrie, and soprano Catherine Wethington, as well as students from the Musical Theatre Division: Cassandra Knipper, Gretchen Midgley, Eleanor Tynan, Molly Janiga, Katie Bogdan, Marika Cantaris, Andrew Looney, Gregory Gardner, Liam Marsigliano, Shiloh Orr, Merideth Eib, Ines Dominguez del Corral, Mackenzie Newbury, Kristin Cardinal, Elizabeth Colandene, Nicole Elledge, Allison Verhofstadt, Robert Gallagher, Emily Samuelson, Brendon Bedore, and Amy Maniscalco.

The music school’s 50th Anniversary Celebration will continue in the fall with a series of events to include the musical theatre production of Most Happy Fella in October and “Sacred and Liturgical Music of the Baroque from the Bolivian Rainforest” in November. For a complete schedule of events, visit





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