|Since its rebirth 20 years ago, the Scholarship Tea has recognized outstanding citizens whose work stimulates the vitality, health, and success of their communities. The Tea has played a long and honorable role in the history of the University, with the first being held in 1942. Over the years, the Tea has remained a direct link to the Worcester State of the past and serving as both guide and inspiration to the greatly enhanced scholarship program of today. Held annually in May, the formal event features a traditional tea and honors a notable member of the community.
The Scholarship Tea Committee is pleased to announce this year's honoree, Visual and Performing Arts Professor Christie Nigro, Ph.D.! Nigro, an accomplished cellist who performs as a soloist and with various orchestras including the Massachusetts Symphony, has transformed choral music at Worcester State University.
Nigro says, “In college I was a cello major with a minor in vocal studies. In reality, I never foresaw myself getting so involved with choral music, but I found I have a knack for it. Working with the choral ensembles enables me to combine my orchestra training and choral training.”
Nigro joined the WSU faculty in 1989. At the time, there was only a small Chorus of around 20 students. Today, the Chorus has from 35 to 60 singers who perform several times a year, including a holiday concert and a concert of a large master work such as Mozart’s Requiem, Faure’s Requiem, or the Bach Magnificat.
In addition, Nigro established an internationally respected Chorale, a small a cappella group of around 30 singers who perform at many alumni events and throughout the region. They also tour internationally every other year. In 2013, they performed for Pope Francis during a tour of Italy – their second performance at the Vatican. Now they’re preparing for a tour of Edinburgh in 2015.
“These students are a mixture of music concentrators and non-music majors,” says Nigro. “There’s a kind of intimacy about a cappella singing. We become almost like a family.”
The power of that experience was evident in 2009 when Nigro decided to invite Chorale alumni to a 20th anniversary reunion. The event was so successful that plans are now in the works for a 25th reunion this November to celebrate “the joy and transformative power of music,” she says. In addition, the reunion inspired a group of about 24 alumni singers to get together to sing every other week. The singers perform each year at WSU’s reunion festivities.
Much of Nigro’s success at creating a vibrant music program at WSU can be attributed to her deep love of music. “Music enriches our lives in so many ways,” she says. “It allows us to express ourselves on a deep and meaningful level. In ancient Greece it was part of the university curriculum known as the quadrivium, along with arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. In Europe, they raise musicians and music lovers because music is an important part of their curriculum. In this country, unfortunately, we’ve forgotten how important music is and many schools don’t include it at all. This is a real disservice to our children, because a well-rounded education should include music.”
This year, Nigro was asked by music directors in the Worcester Consortium to conduct the Durufle Requiem at Mechanics Hall in April. The performance features 250 singers from five area colleges – including about 40 from WSU – as well as soloists and a full orchestra.
“I was thrilled when I was asked to conduct the Requiem,” says Nigro, who conducted a similar production of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana in 2005. “It’s a huge, magnificent piece requiring a big orchestra.”
Four years ago, Nigro established a scholarship to encourage students to stay in the Chorale, which has a demanding rehearsal and performance schedule. She notes, “We work hard on making every phrase meaningful and beautiful and musically precise.”
In recognition of Nigro’s accomplishments, she will be honored at WSU’s Scholarship Tea on May 4, 2014.
Past honorees have included Esther Forbes, Olive Higgins Prouty and John Higgins, to name just a few from the early years and, some of our more recent, George W. Tetler III, Esq., James and Maryanne Kenary, Leonard Morse, M.D., Stasia Hovenesian, Edwin “Ted” Coghlin Jr., James Morrison, M.D., Stephen Pezzella, M.D., Andrea Pezzella, M.D., author Nicholas Gage, Drs. Arthur and Martha Pappas, and many others who have contributed so much to Worcester and its fine institutions. The Scholarship Tea has contributed over $191,000 to the scholarship program at Worcester State over the past 19 Scholarship Teas.
To attend or to make a gift to the Dr. Christie B. Nigro Chorale Scholarship, please click here or contact the Alumni Office at 508-929-8141.