The Catholic University of America

Mark Adamo First Winner of the Judith Tick Fellowship from the Society for American Music

Mark Adamo (b 1962) is an American composer and librettist who first came to prominence with the 1998 première of his début opera Little Women, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott. Born in Philadelphia, Adamo lives with his husband John Corigliano in New York City where he serves as the principal teacher of American Lyric Theatre’s Composer-Librettist Development Program. This new article was written by musicologist Kendra Preston Leonard, who was recently named the first winner of the Judith Tick Fellowship from the Society for American Music.

Voice Performance/ Musical Theatre Alumnus Wins Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition

Patrick Guetti was one of five finalists selected out of more than 1,500 participants. The Metropolitan National Council Audition is considered to be one of the most prestigious voice competitions in the field. See the New York Times article highlighting the event for more information

CUA DMA Student wins First Prize in Competition

DMA student Anna Nizhegorodtseva has won first prize at the Lewisville Lake Symphony International Piano Competition that was held March 8th at the University of North Texas College of Music. She will be performing Prokofiev's First Piano Concerto at the orchestra's season opening concert in September.

Current students and Alumnae Nominated for the Helen Hayes Awards

 The Helen Hayes Awards Nominations were released Monday, January 27 with a handful of CUA students and alumnae nominated across several categories. Current student Paul Scanlan ('14) was nominated for outstanding lead actor for his role as the MC in Keegan Theatre’s production of Cabaret!. Former student Maria Rizzo also received a lead actress nomination for this production for her portrayal of Sally Bowles. One nomination was not enough for Maria as she was additionally nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her role as Gypsy Rose Lee in Signature Theatre’s production of Gypsy. Alumna Lauren Williams (’05) was also nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress for her role in Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!”.  Other students and alumnae were nominated for Outstanding Ensemble.

CUA Faculty nominated for Grammy

After the January 2013 Naxos CD release of Annelies (nominated for Best Choral Performance), the featured soloist soprano Arianna Zukerman will perform in the live April 2014 premiere Annelies at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts. This will be the first time the soloist and ensemble have performed together since the release of the CD.


"This is timeless music, setting extracts from the diaries of Anne Frank. ...for me it joins Britten's War Requiem and Tippett's A Child of our Time as a major work bewailing the inhumanity of twentieth-century man to man, though it's very different in tone from either of them. The music is uplifting, yet never in such a way as to draw attention to itself from the words of Anne Frank - with one brief exception, describing the fate of the family, everything here comes from her. Performances are exemplary." -MusicWeb International

   "...soprano Arianna Zukerman sings with a supremely controlled tone that never strays from pure beauty, but sublimely imparts the contrast of isolation vs. devotion and buoyant hopefulness." - The Whole Note

New Voices@CUA January 24-25th

THe Catholic University fo America chapter of The Society of Composers Inc. presents the fourth edition of New Voices @ CUA: A Festival of New Vocal Music on January 24th and 25th at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at the Catholic University of America. In a set of four concerts, this unique festival highlights the vocal works of 17 composers from the United States and England. The concerts feature sacred music, art and cabaret songs, chamber music, and pieces by CUA student composers.

CUA Alumni featured in Gypsy

In one of Washington Post's most acclaimed and favored plays, Maria Rizzo (as Louise), Vincent Kempski (as Tulsa), Tracy Lynn Olivera (as Electra), Gannon O'Brien (Ensemble) take to the stage to perform Gypsy at Signature Theatre.

MT Alumnus Co-Starring in Law and Order SVU

In addition to this most recent role, Patrick Thomas Cragin was cast as Kenickie in the National Tour of Grease and went on to reprise the role at Olney Theatre Center and played Frankie in Forever Plaid at Olney. He was also Link in Hairspray at Signature Theatre and Starred in That Face at Studio Theatre.

Musical Theatre Junior Participates in Master Session with Sutton Foster

Nicole Elledge was coached by Tony winner Sutton foster along with other young artists at the Kennedy Center's American Voices Master Session. You can view the session here


School of Music Alumnus Highlighted as CUA Success Story

See the article from Public Affairs that highlights musical theatre student Gannon O'Brien's success as the leading role in Miss Saigon.

School of Music Alumnus Commissioned for New Holiday Opera

Read the news about Adomo's recently announced Holiday commission here

Two Music School Professors Honored for Teaching Excellence

Professors Paul Taylor and Joseph Gatwood received awards for overall teaching excellence at the University's annual teaching awards ceremony on November 8th. More details can be viewed on CUA Public Affairs' website.

Renowned Handel Scholar to Lecture Nov. 14

Ellen T. Harris, a renowned scholar of the well-known 18th-century composer George Frederick Handel and president-elect of the American Musicological Society, will spend two days at Catholic University in November as a Phi Beta Kappa visiting scholar, giving a public lecture and meeting with students at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music. See here for the full article by public affairs. 

DCMetro TheatreArts Reviews Sweet Charity

See here for the full review by Justin Schneider.


Edward Leaf Highlighted in "CUA Success Stories"

School of Music graduate Edward Leaf was recently interviewed by public affairs about his work as a performer and educator.

Gannon O'Brien Starring in Miss Saigon

After leading man Jason Michael Evans suffered a vocal injury, Alumnus Gannon O'Brien was called to fill in the role at the last minute. O'Brien's skill was sighted by an article by the Washington Post, "Evans had four weeks of rehearsal. O'Brien had one afternoon of blocking and rehearsal with Schaffer before playing Chris in front of a real audience... Fortunately for Signature, Gannon is a sight-reader." 

Students and Alumni Nominated for Helen Hayes Awards

The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music is proud to announce that musical theatre senior, Paul Scanlan leads CUA students and alumni in this year’s Helen Hayes Awards with a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor, Resident Musical for Spring Awakening at the Keegan Theatre.

Spring Awakening was also nominated for Outstanding Ensemble, Resident Musical. The Choreographer/Assistant Director was alumnus, Kurt Boehm BM ‘05, and cast members included, junior, Alex Alferov, seniors, Vincent Kempski and Maria Rizzo, and recent alumni Sean Burns BM ‘12, Emily Dey BM ’09, Gannon O’Brien BM’11, and Nora Palka BM’12,.

Junior Olivia Reed and alumna Melissa Victor BM’12 were among the actors in The Color Purple at Toby’s Dinner Theatre, nominated for Outstanding Resident Musical.

N. Thomas Pedersen, head of the Musical Theatre Division says, “We are thrilled that our students and alumni did so well in this year’s Helen Hayes nominations and are happy that they continue to be a vibrant part of the fabric of the DC Theatre Community. What better place for young actors to grow up professionally than DC?”


Organ Professor Profiled by Washington Post

"For nearly 50 years, Robert B. Grogan has ignored howling winds and frigid temperatures to climb hundreds of steps up into the tower of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and manually play, with his fists and his feet, 56 carillon bells . . .Whether it has been to celebrate the arrivals of Pope John Paul or Pope Benedict, or to remember the 26 children and adults who died Dec. 14 in the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., or to entertain the faithful arriving Monday on Christmas Eve for midnight Mass, Grogan has never missed a major event as the basilica’s carillonneur." Read more.

In Memoriam

It is with deep regret that we announce the death of Dr. Emma Garmendia on Nov. 15, 2012. She was the founder and director of the Latin American Center for Graduate Studies in Music from 1984 to 2000. A notable pedagogue and musicologist, Dr. Garmendia dedicated her career to promoting Latin-American music, presiding at the Fourth Inter-American Music Education Conference, sponsored by the Organization of American States (1970), giving seminars and workshops on Latin-American music, serving as a music consultant in various Latin-American musical institutions and festivals, and adjudicating international and Inter-American music contests. In 1990 she was the president of the Eighth Inter-American Music Education Conference, held in Washington, D.C. For her outstanding work in the field of Latin American music and for her contributions raising the academic level of the music to an international stature, Dr Garmendia received many international awards, among them the prestigious Award Konex (1999).

Her academic publications include: Compilation of Songs for Teaching Music in the Elementary and High Schools in two volumes, University of Rosario, Argentina, and the nine-volume Tratado de Audioperceptiva published by Ricordi Americana. Her investigations into Argentinian music resulted in the doctoral dissertation The Use of Vidalita, Milonga, and Huella in the Piano Works of Alberto Williams.

Music Professor Honored by University for Teaching

On November 7, CUA honored Dr. Andrew H. Weaver with the Advancement of Teaching award.

Advancement of Teaching
Andrew Weaver, associate professor in the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, received the Advancement of Teaching Award, which recognizes creative and innovative contributions to effective teaching, from adding technologies that improve delivery of information to students to introducing new areas of study.

Weaver received his bachelor’s in music, magna cum laude, at Rice University, with a double major in musicology and viola performance, and then went on to Yale University, where he completed his M.Phil. in 2000 and Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at the University since 2005, and was promoted to associate professor in 2011.

  Faculty Teaching Awards 2012-13 Andrew Weaver

Weaver accepts the Advancement of Teaching award.

“He has been an active scholar and performer throughout his career,” said Brennan, noting that Weaver’s book “Sacred Music as Public Image for Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III: Representing the Counter-Reformation Monarch at the End of the Thirty Years’ War” was recently published.

Weaver is known for encouraging projects with performance opportunities for his students.

“His nominators noted specifically the work in his seminar coordinated with the opera production of the great Italian composer Monteverdi’s ‘Poppea,’” said Brennan. “He coached many of the singers participating in the performances, both graduate and undergraduate, and taught them various performance possibilities suggested by scholars in recent research.” This performance was acclaimed in The Washington Post and other media, he added.

A colleague noted that Weaver’s greatest achievement was the creation of a B.A. in music, a program that doesn’t require an audition and is designed to provide students with advanced music preparation at the university level combined with a broad liberal arts education.

Brennan noted Weaver was praised by colleagues for “his caring and innovative approach to education. He truly embodies the ideal of ‘scholar as performer, or ‘musicologist as performer.’”

“It’s a tremendous honor to receive this award,” said Weaver, adding that his parents had traveled from North Carolina to see him honored. “I am thankful to be teaching at this school that encourages us to be innovative and creative and provides the rich environment that made this award possible.”

He added that the award is not his alone, but belongs to the colleagues “without whom I never could have pursued the activities for which I’m being honored.” The award, he said, speaks to a cornerstone of his pedagogy “and that is of collaboration,” with students, colleagues, and other schools at the University. “I love what I do.” Read more.

Finian's Rainbow Shines in Hartke Theatre

DC Metro Theater Arts gave our production of Finian's Rainbow a great review!

"Catholic University’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music mounts a fabulous production of Finian’s Rainbow for its fall musical, with additional actors from Howard University and Duke Ellington School of the Arts. The 1947 musical   has a book by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy and music by Burton Lane with lyrics by Harburg.

Helen Hayes Award recipient, (for his choreography for Arena Stage’s critically acclaimed production of Oklahoma!) and Director and Choreographer Parker Esse, creates a  simple, funny, and high-energy production of this classic hit." Read entire article.

Join us October 26-28 for additional performances at the Hartke Theatre. Tickets are available online or at the door.

Alumni Info Needed for "Legacy: Memorable People, Memorable Events"

Dr. Elaine Walter is close to finishing her book chronicling our Music School and the impact of the famous and not-so-famous people who interacted with faculty and students during her years at CUA that began in 1959 when she first arrived as a Woodrow Wilson Alternate Fellow graduate student. She seeks news to include in her chapter on alumni professional achievements. Please send items directly to her at:

Adjunct Professor Kevin O'Brien to be Honored by ACDA

Dr. Kevin O'Brien has been awarded the Julius Herford Dissertation Prize for 2011 for Russell Woollen: Catalogue and Contextual Examination of the Sacred Music. The Herford Prize is awarded for the outstanding doctoral terminal research project in choral music. Dr. O'Brien was the first graduate of the Doctor of Musical Arts in Sacred Music program at CUA in 2011.

In his recommendation letter Dean Grayson Wagstaff  wrote, “When the Woollen archives were deposited at the Library of Congress and the topic of Kevin’s dissertation was made known, the LOC asked Kevin to be the official cataloger of the collection…. As a result this research undertaken for the dissertation, Dr. O’Brien was asked to author the entry on Russell Woollen for the forthcoming second edition of the New Grove Dictionary of American Music and Musicians …. Dr. O’Brien’s treatise provides scholar-conductors with an annotated catalogue of the entire oeuvre, with a comprehensive biography and insightful information on the choral canon, enriched through exhaustive interviews and correspondence with the composer’s wife, family, colleagues, commissioners, performers and conductors.   In its published form, it should be a shelf book for American conductors hungry for distinctive American choral music.” 

The committee’s comments included the following: “an exhaustive study supported by multiple resources… very thorough history of Roman Catholic church music and composers;” “a mature writer and a very fine story-teller … Woollen has been effectively revived;” “a cogent presentation of important music.” All committee members felt it made a contribution of the highest caliber to the body of choral scholarship.

Dr. O’Brien is currently Lecturer in Music at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music of The Catholic University of America, teaching undergraduate choral conducting, music theory, and conducting two of the school's five choruses. He is in his tenth year as Music Director at St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill, and is active as conductor in both the CUA and Washington communities.

He received his B.M. in Sacred Music (organ concentration) from Westminster Choir College of Rider University and holds M.M.S.M. and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in Sacred Music with concentration in choral music from The Catholic University of America.


The award will be presented at the ACDA national convention in Dallas, March 2013.


Students Join Bucchino at Kennedy Center

Four musical theatre students joined composer John Bucchino for a Kennedy Center Millennium stage concert on September 22nd. The students, Sarah Biddle, Nicki Elledge, Jimmy Mavrikes, and Paul Scanlan presented original works by Mr. Bucchino to a large audience. Sarah, Nicki, and Jimmy will also appear in the October 2012 production of "Finian's Rainbow," directed by Parker Esse.

School of Music Students Shine in "Spring Awakening"

The Keegan Theatre recently presented a production of "Spring Awakening" at the Church Street Theatre, and the Washington Post has high praise for two current students and one alumna!

"Vincent Kempski is particularly charismatic as the smart, mutinous hero Melchior ...The vocally gifted Paul Scanlan brings a persuasive desperation and restlessness to the misfit Moritz, Nora Palka [BM '12] is poignantly scarred and waifish as the outcast Ilsa..."

Read the original review.


Three Students Appear at Infinity Theatre this Summer

This summer three CUA students can be seen in the professional musicals "Sisters of Swing" and "Dames at Sea" produced by NYC theatre company "Infinity Theatre."  In "Sisters of Swing" (a show about the lives of the Andrews Sisters) Musical Theatre Junior, Lance Hayes, plays a the role of the stagehand in the studio recording scenes and can also be seen as a GI in the later USO tour scenes.  Lance Hayes and musical theatre senior Jimmy Mavrikes are both featured dancers in the number, "Six Jerks in a Jeep,"  while senior musical theatre major Julia (JZ) Zaeske briefly graces the stage as Doris Day.  The musical is directed by CUA faculty member Jay D. Brock.
All three of the aforementioned students are secured summer-long paid internships with Infinity theatre will also be seen dancing in the chorus of "Dames at Sea" directed and choreographed by three time Tony award nominee Randy Skinner.  In addition to their professional stage work as a part of the internship all three students will be playing starring roles in the educational theatre productions of "The Tall Tales of Enoch" and "Stories, Live and In Person" of Infinity Theatre. 


Simpson Praised by Post

Dr. Andrew Earle Simpson, ordinary professor and head of the Theory and Composition division, had his score for the 1928 silent film "The Wind" premiered at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring. Performed by the Cantate Singers under the direction of Gisele Becker, the Washington Post praised the work, saying, "Neither the film’s absence of spoken dialogue nor the drowning of the choral texts in a welter of instrumental sound and theater acoustics mattered ... The music did its job of amplifying the story’s passion, humor and drama and did it splendidly." Read the entire review.

Ph.D. Candidate Wins Grant From Cosmos Club

Kenneth Stilwell, Ph.D. candidate in musicology, received a grant from the Cosmos Club of Washington, D.C. to research how Jesuit missionaries in New France used music in their work among the Huron, Mohawk and Abenaki nations over a two hundred year period.  With the generous support of the Cosmos Club, Kenneth traveled to the Séminaire de Québec, founded in 1663 by Bishop Laval and located in Quebec City, to study mission manuscripts housed in the archives, some with noël and cantique melodies whose original French texts were replaced with Huron, Mohawk, and Abenaki texts by the Jesuit missionaries.  Many of these melodies are still sung by native communities today.  Kenneth was recently honored at a dinner held for this past year’s Cosmos Scholars and joins a wonderful group of emerging scholars from area universities cited for their work in philosophy, history, government, and the sciences.

MT Junior Wins in D.C. Competition

Jimmy Mavrikes, a junior Musical Theatre major, won the Helen Lee Henderson Award at the Washington, D.C. Chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters Career in Musical Theatre Competition. Competition judges included Broadway Music Director, David Loud, award winning music director, Christopher Denny, Palmer chair of Fine Arts at Mercersburg Academy, Laurie Mufson, and renowned dance instructor, Lea Archer. In the middle of May, Jimmy will go on to Compete Nationally against 13 other chapter winners in El Paso, Texas.

School of Music Partners with Mexican Cultural Institute

On January 29, the Rome School of Music presented a lecture and concert of the Music of Carlos Chávez at the Mexican Cultural Institute here in Washington, D.C. The lecture, presented by Assistant Clinical Professor Christina Taylor Gibson, Ph.D., was titled "Chávez and Modernism." After the lecture, the School of Music presented a concert featuring students, faculty, and staff for an hour of art song and chamber music.

This concert was given in honor of Dr. Robert L. Parker, distinguished scholar of Mexican music.

'Songs of Old CUA' Performance Brings Musical History to Life

On Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, performers from Catholic University's Benjamin T. Rome School of Music presented "Songs of Old CUA," a nostalgic revue of music from CUA's history. Songs not heard for decades were performed again as part of the event celebrating the University's 125th anniversary. The Great Room of the Edward J. Pryzbyla Center was packed with an audience of about 400 people, many of whom were alumni who came back to hear the old songs they remember singing during their years as students. After the show, audience members enjoyed a reception and swing dancing to a live orchestra. See photo gallery.

Watch the performance.

Fall Music Hits the Right Tone

This fall's production of "On the Town" hit all the right notes with critic David Friscic of MDTheatreGuide.

"From the moment the 30 piece-student ensemble plays the exciting Leonard Bernstein overture to the lovable old chestnut On the Town, you feel swept up and propelled into the vibrant world of three sailors on leave for a weekend ‘on the town’ in New York City.  Music is the strong point of this ambitious undertaking by an enthusiastic group of college talent from the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music under the superb conducting of N. Thomas Pedersen. Presented at the Hartke Theatre of the Catholic University of America, this tried and true classic holds up well – especially when executed by such an eager and enthusiastic cast." Read the entire review.