Jennifer Pascual at St. Patrick’s
by Jennifer Pascual
When I first moved to New York City in 1993, one of the first places I went to visit was St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I thought, “It would be really awesome to work here, but they would never hire a woman!”
I grew up in Jacksonville, FL and earned a BM in Piano and Organ Performance (Magna cum Laude, 1992) and simultaneously earned a BME (1993). Through high school and college I worked part-time in various Catholic Churches.
My MM was in Piano Performance (1995), studying with Nina Svetlanova at the Mannes College of Music. During that time, I studied organ privately with Mc Neil Robinson. I was employed full-time at St. Charles Borromeo in Harlem and worked as a part-time accompanist for the Boys Choir of Harlem. For three years after this, I lived in Rochester, pursuing a DMA in Organ Performance (2001), studying with David Higgs. I worked part-time at two Catholic parishes and full-time for one year as the Director of Music at Sacred Heart Cathedral, the beginning of my cathedral work experience. After finishing my residence in Rochester, I returned to the Archdiocese of New York and was employed full-time at a parish in the Bronx. After a year-and-a-half, I accepted the Associate Director of Music position at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ. In December of 2002, His Eminence, Edward Cardinal Egan was in attendance at an Advent and Christmas concert that I conducted at St. Joseph’s Seminary and College in Yonkers. It was that event that led to my assuming the position of Director of Music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, my primary job is to conduct the cathedral choir, which currently consists of 40 singers (17 of whom are professional singers). They perform for all major liturgical functions at the cathedral in addition to the regular Sunday 10:15 a.m. Mass. They have sung for a number of dignitaries and with a number of famous opera stars, including Reneé Fleming. In 2008, I coordinated the liturgical music for the visit of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. This included two events at St. Joseph’s Seminary, an ecumenical service at an upper West Side parish, a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Mass at Yankee Stadium. A week later, the Cathedral Choir was invited to sing at the White House for President George Bush for National Day of Prayer. In 2010, I took the Cathedral Choir to Rome to participate in the Festival Internazionale di Musica e Arte Sacra as the only America Choir invited to participate. The Cathedral Choir has sung on a few recordings and has appeared on Good Morning America.
I choose all of the music for most events at the cathedral, host a concert series every year, play the organ for several Masses a week, handle the music staff scheduling and read through an awful lot of snail and e-mail! As the Director of Music for St. Patrick’s Cathedral, some hidden duties include serving the bigger church of the Archdiocese. My office has, for a number of years, served as the office of music for the Archdiocese. I have tackled a whole range of issues from answering simple questions for priests and musicians (“Who published x piece of music, and where can I find it?”) to serious issues (“X church is closing and will be demolished – what do we do with the pipe organ?”)
Aside from the cathedral job, I have served as Professor and Director of Music at St. Joseph’s Seminary and College since 2007, teaching Gregorian chant and liturgical music to seminarians becoming priests, men become permanent deacons, and persons studying for degrees in the Institute for Religious Studies. I have worked with the seminary schola who provide music for daily liturgies and who eventually will become good-singing priests!
Every week I host a one-hour radio show called “Sounds from the Spires” on the Catholic Channel of SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio. I’ve hosted a wide variety guests such as musicologists who are experts in chant, conductors, publishers, organists, singers, folks who jam in praise music bands, etc. It has been a great way to meet so many fascinating people!
I also freelance as an organ recitalist, and have performed in the United States, Italy, Austria, the Philippines, Russia and Canada. This also has been a fabulous way to meet new people as well as visit places I’ve never been.
Last year I gave birth to my first child, a daughter. Needless to say, my priorities have all shifted, but somehow, everything still comes together!
Now if only the Vatican would hire a woman!