Music thrives under new direction at OLS

First Posted: 12/1/2014

CLARKS SUMMIT — After graduating from Scranton High school and before landing a job as director of music at Our Lady of the Snows Parish (OLS) in Clarks Summit, Dana Cerminaro, 26, studied music in Italy, Ireland and Scotland. And although her experiences were different in each of these places, as well as in Pennslyvania, she found at least one aspect to be the same everywhere:

The people.

“People all over the world are very alike,” she said. “I think music, in general, is just about relating to people. And if you can relate and you can connect with somebody, I think that really makes the music much more meaningful, and much more effective – in a performance setting, in a mass setting, in any type of setting that you create music in.”

The new Clarks Summit resident first gained an interest in music through her participation in the Choral Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania while growing up.

Deciding to make music her profession, she attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and graduated with a dual bachelor’s degree in music education and vocal performance. During her time there, she studied opera abroad for three summers in Italy and completed her student teaching requirements at Blackrock College School, an all-boys secondary institution in Dubland, Ireland.

She then earned her master’s degree at the The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.

It was while at the JFK Airport on her way back to NEPA from Scotland that she received a phone call scheduling an interview for the job at OLS.

As director of music, Cerminaro is in charge of the musical aspect of all seven regular weekend masses at Our Lady of the Snows church and Church of Saint Benedict. She also plans the music for special masses, such as those for holidays, funerals and weddings. She sings, plays the organ and leads the choirs.

When she first assumed the position in July, the adult choir had about a dozen members and a children’s choir was non-existent. Now, the adult choir, “The Snow Singers,” which grows in numbers by the week, includes about 40 people, and the new children’s choir, “The Snow Angels,” features over a dozen young musicians, ranging in age from 5 to 13 years.

Rev. Jeffrey Tudgay, parochial vicar, pointed out, however, the choirs aren’t only growing numerically, but qualitatively as well.

Cerminaro, he said, brings “a tremendous amount of vitality” to the music programming at OLS, with her musicianship and contagious energy.

“I’m so fortunate to have people who are extremely talented in both groups,” Cerminaro said, “and many can play instruments and sing.”

She added she’s also thankful for the rest of the parish staff, especially Maria Fay, associate director of music. The Fleetville resident is a lifelong member of the parish and was an associate organist since 2001, moving up to associate director of music and principle organist in September.

“Everyone’s extremely helpful and extremely giving in this parish,” Cerminaro said. “That’s really exciting to be in an environment like that.”

She said the best part of her job is the “craziness” and “chaos” each new day can bring, as well as the fact that she is paid to do what she loves.

“I enjoy planning masses that really affect people in a certain way for a purpose,” she said. “For example, we recently had a healing mass; we had a mass for veterans and we had some very tough funerals lately for some people. It’s so great to have the choir and have some soloists who are invested in helping with that type of hard situation in somebody’s life.”

This same concept is what Fay said draws her personally to music.

“I think that music really connects us to the spiritual,often where words have a difficult time doing that,” she said, “I think it offers a comfort to people who are grieving at funerals. I think it offers a celebration when people are getting married. It offers contemplation when people are going through just regular everyday things in their life. When they’re going through struggles, I think music can be a comfort, or it can give a message when needed.”

Fay first started playing guitar in church when she was in high school. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in music therapy and a master’s degree in social work.

“Becoming involved when I was in high school allowed me to learn more about my faith,” she said, “and really got me interested in liturgical music as well.”

Fay and Cerminaro both agreed they work well together and Tudgay said they make an effective team.

“I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to work with Dana,” Fay said. “It’s just wonderful to collaborate with somebody. We’re both on the same page and I think we both have the same vision of where we want the music to go in the parish.”

Cerminaro’s goal is to continue to grow the program, in both numbers and quality. She is in the process of starting a class to help adults in the choir learn how to read music.

The choir recently held the first session of its Sunday Music Concert Series and has a second, titled, “Lessons in Carols,” scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 14 at the Church of Saint Benedict on Newton-Ransom Blvd. The concert will feature both the adult and children’s choirs, as well as guest soloists. It will tell the story of Advent through readings and music, and light refreshments will follow.

This, the sharing of the music with others, is what she is all about.

“It’s a passion,” she said. “It’s something you can’t help but share, because it really makes your life so much better, and you want to share that with other people.”

Music, Tudgay said, is an important part of OLS and each individual’s encounters with God.

“When we look at a music ministry,” he said, “we recognize that it’s so important for the liturgical life of our parish. So when we look at the vibrancy of Our Lady of the Snows Parish community, our goal would be that our music ministry, which is so vital to the parish, would be a reflection of the vibrancy of the parish.”

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