By Brittany Hanewinkel
On April 5th, 2017, Fontbonne University’s Chamber Choir performed a concert in Doerr Chapel. Dr. Adam Thome, Fontbonne’s Campus Music Minister, planned to show that Fontbonne students held an invested interest in music. The event attracted a crowd of approximately 70 people. Every pew in the chapel, as well as several rows of folding chairs, were filled.
Thome noted that the Choir that sings at Mass is different than those who are a part of the Chamber Choir.
“Chamber Choir members do not have to sing at Mass but certainly may. Chamber Choir is as interfaith as can be, but is not a faith based club, other than our unwavering faith in inclusion, love, and acceptance.”
Gabby Campa, a junior at Fontbonne and also the Co-President of the Chamber Choir, adds, “Music Ministry/Mass Choir is centered on coming together to praise God and give Him glory for the many gifts He has given us. Chamber Choir is an opportunity of involvement for students who love to sing, but don’t want to sing at Mass due to religious differences. It is a fun way to get involved with others you share something in common with.”
The group, which includes 20 different students, met each Tuesday night in Doerr Chapel while preparing for the concert.
Sanita Rodionova, a freshman at Fontbonne, performed the song “Read All About It” at the concert. She giggled as she recalled the beginnings of the group.
“I would come after school to play piano alone and Adam just came and he said, ‘Hey, there will be choir’ and I was like ‘Fine, okay, let’s do this!’ That was it, that was how we went in. Every Tuesday we would meet up and sing together.”
On March 29, just a week prior to their performance, the Fontbonne Chamber Choir was approved as a student organization by the Student Government Association. As choir prepared for the concert, members felt anxious to prove that the program was worthy of funding.
Amy Vilimek, a senior at Fontbonne and Co-President of the Chamber Choir, presented at a Student Government Association to advocate for the group becoming an organization.
Vilimek stunned the crowd as she sang a rendition of “Ave Maria.”
The concert included a variety of solos, duets and group pieces. Each singer was dressed head to toe in black attire, and they stood at the foot of the altar.
Nearing the end of the concert, Co-Presidents Campa and Vilimek joined hands and voices as they performed a duet of the song “Some Things Are Meant to Be.”
“I think it went really well. You know, everyone did their best and we’ve actually been working on this for a really long time,” Sophomore choir member John McQuaide commented.
Following the concert, Joe Deighton, Vice President of Students Affairs reflected on the success of the event.
“I loved the concert! It was great to see music back at Fontbonne. It’s kinda been a dream for a few of us, and certainly Adam has been a big part of bringing a choir to this campus and he has done a great job. As you can tell, he has not only built a choir, but built a community amongst those choir members.”
“I’m just so proud of all of the singers who are here and gave their time and themselves. They bore their souls so that everybody could witness something very beautiful.” Thome remarked as he watched the choir members receive hugs and congratulations from audience members.
After the success of the event, Thome is hopeful that the chamber choir will transition into Fontbonne offering a full choral program.
Dr. Adam Weyhaupt, Dean of College of Arts and Sciences provided insight into the history of Fontbonne’s music program. “Fontbonne used to have a music program. I’m not sure of the exact date or the reason why, but that program was discontinued some years ago. Dr. Michael Pressimone, Fontbonne’s president, has been passionate about bringing music back to campus, because he believes it would complement our excellent Fine Arts programs and would serve as a great creative outlet for our students.”
According to Catherine Lucy, Fontbonne’s archivist, Fontbonne previously offered music courses within some capacity from 1924-1997.
Weyhaupt,who leads academic programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, “Dr. Pressimone secured a generous gift to bring a music presence back to campus.” The monetary amount of the gift is not available to the public at this time. This gift will fund the search for a full-time faculty member who can “integrate music with our existing theatre program, to work with education students, and to offer and coordinate choral and instrumental music opportunities on campus. With a lot of work still to go, we are hoping to have something in place for the Fall 2017 semester.”
Three candidates have been selected for a non-tenure track music instructor. Two open sessions were held on April 20 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and April 21 at 11 a.m. in room 231 of the Fine Arts building. Potential candidates presented their vision of music and their teaching style to those in attendance. Weyhaupt hopes that the program will be put into place should the interviews be successful.
Brittany is a sophomore at Fontbonne majoring in Professional Writing and minoring in Literary Studies. She is an assistant to the Carondelet Chair in Catholic Thought. Her favorite involvements at Fontbonne include Service and Justice Coordinators and Campus Ministry events.