Music Program Starts Off on a Good Note

by Josiah Lerman

Ever since interest in music has been expressed by JPCatholic students, faculty and administration have been enthusiastically working to build a music program at JPCatholic. As of now, there are only music course electives available for students.

Dr. Derry Connolly, president of JPCatholic, said that he became aware of students’ desire for a music program during last year’s senior film screening. In the past, most student film scoring was done by reaching outside the university. Last year was different. Dr. Connolly said, “It was interesting how much of the film scoring was done internally. There were many more students that had an interest in music than I had realized.”  Understanding the importance of music as a component of film, Dr. Connolly wanted to make this aspect of film available to students.

The addition of Dr. Robert Giracello to the teaching staff was the first step toward building the program. Dr. Giracello earned his PhD from University of California Riverside in music composition and has been the director of music and liturgy at Church of the Resurrection in Escondido for the last twelve years. When asked about how he became involved with the program he commented, “The weird part of the story is I contacted [Dr. Connolly]. I set up a meeting and it was the most fortuitous thing.” He explained further, stating that Dr. Connolly expressed a desire for a music program “where we could incorporate things like film scoring, things like music and songwriting, and also liturgy.”

Dr. Connolly said that Dr. Giracello “came in and we had a chat, and I liked the guy, and students liked him even more.” Since then, Dr. Giracello has taught classes including Music Appreciation, Songwriting and Composition, and will be teaching Music Theory in the coming spring quarter. When asked about what he thought of students at JPCatholic, Dr. Giracello commented, “As far as the general amount of maturity and respect, JP students are the best I’ve ever encountered.” Scott Camden, a new professor at the university, also has expertise in music and will help to establish the program and teach.

JPCatholic senior Ben Roberts, who will be graduating with a custom degree emphasis in Film Music, expressed support for the new program. Ben, with the help and support of Dr. Connolly, had to create his own custom degree in music. He is hopeful for the new program and believes it has the potential to “bring life to the media emphasis like it never has [had] before.” In addition, John Paul Poirier, freshman at JPCatholic who has been working in music production for a few years now, expressed excitement and interest for a music program. Upon hearing about the Music Theory class being offered next quarter he said, “I would take everything from that class and really apply it to my own work…I think it would help me a lot.”

The program development is still in its early stages, and the specific degrees to be offered  are being worked out. According to Connolly, one of the programs would be an emphasis of Film Composition in the Media/Communications degree, and the other a Music emphasis in the Humanities degree. The specifics of these new programs will ultimately come from the expertise of the faculty. Connolly said, “I’ve had conversations with faculty and I’ve asked them to come back to me with two new programs.”

In addition, Dr. Connolly, Dr. Giracello, and Ben Roberts understand the importance of music in the rich Catholic tradition and the Catholic liturgy. Ben stated, “I think that music is huge in the Catholic Church…it always has been.” Dr. Giracello is very enthusiastic about the future of the program, and even hopes to form a full-time choir in the future.Dr. Giracello says that the courses will “challenge students to think in ways that they never thought before…[and help students] experience music in ways they’ve never experienced before.” He added, “I want to broaden people’s horizons.”

Ultimately, the future of the music program is in the hands of JPCatholic students. If students continue to show enthusiasm, sign up for classes, and help guide the courses to their interests, the school is glad to develop the program. Dr. Connolly said, “JPCatholic attracts really creative students. Music is a very important component of people’s creativity, and I’m pleasantly surprised that so many students like it…I’m glad to see it.”