Faith Through SongDecember 15, 2015
Whether it’s an all-school Mass in Sullivan Gymnasium, a Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Chapel or a concert for the community at The Breen Center for the Performing Arts, the Choral Music Program is deeply-rooted at Saint Ignatius High School and an enduring voice on and off campus.
“What I am most proud of concerning the Choral Program is that we take any student, no matter his ability or level of experience. They are able to pull off performances that meet (and sometimes rival) some of the best collegiate men’s choruses,” says Jason Falkofsky, Director of Choral and Liturgical Music at Saint Ignatius. “That’s not an easy thing to do, even in schools where students enter high school with many years of elementary and middle school choral experience. The students allow me to push them. They want to sound their best. Even when they’re not sure of their capabilities, they give their best effort.”
The Choral Music Program consists of four student ensembles: Chorus, Freshmen Chorus, Cat-o’-Tonics (audition only), and the a cappella Ensemble (non-auditioned, open to all students)
Falkofsky emphasizes to students the impact their music can make on an audience. He says, “I often receive comments from people several weeks, months, and in one case at least five years after a concert has passed, about how much a particular song or that evening meant or how it helped them get through a rough time. It’s for these people that we always strive to do our best.”
The love of music does not end after graduation for many students. A large number of Saint Ignatius grads have gone on to become members of their college or university chorus, and many take leadership roles within their group. Notable alumni are Tyler Higgins ’10, who received the James Gallagher Spirit Award for outstanding participation and enthusiastic dedication to The Ohio State University Men’s Glee Club, Jack O’Brien ’13, who serves as Vice President of the Miami University Men’s Glee Club, and Charles March ’15, who is the only freshman to make it into the male a capella group Nuance at the University of Akron. These are just a few of the many alumni who have followed their passion for music beyond high school.
Another notable alumnus who has made his mark on the Choral Music Program is the President of Saint Ignatius Fr. Ray Guiao ’82.
“I count my time as Director of Choral and Liturgical Music among the most gratifying and creative years I have spent at Saint Ignatius,” says Fr. Guiao. “Helping our students literally ‘find their voice’ and discover the joy of choral singing was a a big part of my mission here. That joy of singing was absolutely contagious. I started with only 18 Chorus members in 2002, and by 2007, the Chorus more than quadrupled in size.”
“In 2005 I founded the Cat-o’-Tonics a cappella group, kind of on a whim. I wanted to see how a small group of a dozen singers could do with a cappella singing: barbershop harmony, doo wop, and the like. It caught on like wildfire. Only a year into the program we were competing at the national level of high school a cappella (2006 National First Runners Up in Washington, D.C.). I got the biggest thrill out of seeing these young singers discover that they could make something beautiful with their gift of music: move hearts, lift spirits, raise hopes – and have a lot of fun doing it!”
Fr. Guiao is also the author of the popular “Sing We Now to You, O Mary“, which closes many all-school Masses, community Masses and the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit. The song is hauntingly beautiful, especially between the second and third verse when the alma mater is sung.
Each year, the Chorus and Freshmen Chorus also participate in the Ohio Music Educators Association Adjudicated Events and regularly receive the highest scores of Excellent and Superior. Members of the choral program also go on an annual out-of-state performance tour. Past tours have taken the students to Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, St. Louis, and New Orleans, among others. This year, the students will travel once again to Orlando, Florida. Students in the choral program sing for over 40 events both on and off campus each year.
The Saint Ignatius Chorus is made up of Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. Most get their start by singing in Freshmen Chorus. Students in the Choral Program represent a wide range of the student body including, but not limited to, varsity athletes, student government leaders, and National Merit Scholars.
Together they make a joyful noise unto us and unto the Lord.