Every rehearsal has the potential to feel like a festival, but it takes time to cultivate and grow a choir. Whether you start from scratch or already have a core group, growth must always be nurtured. Gaining enthusiasm and commitment from your community, your pastor, and the children is essential. Director Linda Opaleski will share her recipe for attracting singers (both male and female) into your choir and keeping them there with the support of your families, parish and pastor. Father James Conlon will give his perspective on the importance of Catholic youth choirs from a pastor's perspective. Both will share how being active members of Pueri Cantores has helped with choir growth and retention.
Director of Fine Arts, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School, Ann Arbor, MI
Linda Opaleski is the Fine Arts Director at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she teaches choir, general music, and musical theater. When she began teaching at St. Francis 20 years ago, there were no choirs in place. Now the school boasts two choirs of over 70 children each. Mrs. Opaleski's Elementary Choir consists of third, fourth, and fifth grade students who sing two or three part sacred music. Her Middle School Choir is made up of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students who sing four to eight part SATB sacred music. This choir tours internationally with performances in Rome, Barcelona, Segovia, Chicago, Washington D.C., Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Mackinaw Island. However, the focus of her choirs is singing the mass. She begins training most of her singers to cantor when they enter the fifth grade. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater, and Dance and has a master's degree from Eastern Michigan University's School of Music.
Fr. James Conlon
Pastor, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Ann Arbor, MI
Born in Ireland, Fr. James Conlon is the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Ann Arbor, Michigan. With almost 3,000 families, St. Francis has a large parish school and is a strong and active community of faith. It was at St. Francis Parish that Fr. James first came in contact with the work of Pueri Cantores through the Middle School Choir. In 2016 he accompanied them to Rome for the international festival and had also traveled with them to Barcelona and Chicago. In 2017 he was co-opted onto the national board of the American Federation of Pueri Cantores. Although not a musician, Fr. James seeks to bring a pastor's perspective to the board and to encourage parish clergy to participate in and join the organization. As a priest he understands that the mission of Pueri Cantores can be a strong aid to parish life and ministry.