Intensive program created for liturgical musicians

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chicago-area parish music directors and other liturgical music professionals will have a new option for pursuing education in their field without having to go too far.

The Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Divine Worship and the Rensselaer Program of Church Music and Liturgy at St. Joseph’s College of Rensselaer, Ind., are collaborating to offer the Chicago Series in Liturgical Music. The series is comprised of an 18- month cycle of weekly classes to be offered at St. Eulalia Parish in Maywood and two three-day liturgical music intensives at St. Joseph’s College. Students will finish with seven credits that could be later applied to a master’s degree program at St. Joseph’s.

“We’ve been talking about doing something like this for a long time, because there is a need,” said Anna Belle O’Shea, director of liturgies and music at the Office for Divine Worship. “None of the universities here offer a program in (Catholic) liturgical music.”

Todd Williamson, the director of the Office for Divine Worship, said several factors had to come together for the program to start, but providence smiled on it.

The first class will be a threeday intensive in Rensselaer June 27-29, followed by weekly classes on Monday nights at St. Eulalia. Most of those will be taught by Steve Janco, director of the Rensselaer Program, who lives in the area and is music director at the parish.

The usual Rensselaer Program offers students the opportunity to earn a master’s degree over the course of four successive summers, said O’Shea, an alumna of the program. Summers were chosen because most music directors are not as busy during the summer months of Ordinary Time. The program really caters to full-time music ministers, not those who are also holding down a day job.

The Chicago Series’ seven credits would take the place of one of the four summer sessions.

Williamson said that it will have an advantage, in that students will experience the full liturgical calendar and can learn about planning for, say, Advent and Christmas liturgies during the appropriate time of year.

“The real beneficiaries of this, of course, are the People of God,” O’Shea said, because their music ministers will be better prepared.

The Acta Foundation has awarded a grant to help support the program, and some scholarship funding is available for people who would not otherwise be able to participate. Williamson anticipates a class size of about 15 people, drawn from a variety of cultural communities so that they can all learn from one another’s traditions as well.

If the inaugural session goes well, St. Joseph’s already has interest from other dioceses in expanding the program.