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Grant supports music program

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Thursday, October 11, 2012

Artists in Notre Dame’s sacred music program received a $400,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which will immediately be used to fund innovative interdisciplinary projects.

Carmen Helena Tellez, professor of conducting in the Department of Music and concurrent professor of sacred music in the Department of Theology, will serve as the principal investigator and producer of the project as a whole.

“The grant will fund the investigation and production of three interdisciplinary works that will join faculty and students in examining important humanities topics through innovative performance and audience interaction,” Tellez said. “We have labeled it the Mellon Sacred Music Drama

Project because all civilizations have had a form of music drama where the great concerns of the society – especially religious ideas – would be experienced through an enacted performance.”

Tellez said exploring the relationship between the humanities and the arts is a key component of the project.

“An interdisciplinary work is one that marries many arts, but also possibly the humanities, science, and digital technologies,” Tellez said. “I see it more like a true resonance between languages and methodologies, not only a mere combination of arts on a stage. There is always a message and a reflection – one can say that liturgy is one of the earliest forms of interdisciplinary art.”

The sacred music program at Notre Dame currently has 15 students pursuing masters of sacred music degrees. Tellez said the degree is artistic, though it is affiliated with the Department of Theology, and it complements the pastoral duties of a church music director.

“Sacred music at Notre Dame is a young initiative of the University, devoted to the formation of proficient artists in the field of sacred music and to the exploration of the significance of sacred music to our civilization,” Tellez said. “Sacred music is considered the handmaiden of liturgy and religion because it may open the spirit, generate a sense of bonding, and bring peace to the mind to ready it for theological reflection.”

The sacred music program at Notre Dame collaborates with South Bend churches to place its graduate students in supervised church music director positions, Tellez said. This allows them to practice the discipline of an artistic relationship with a pastor and a congregation.

Tellez said she will contribute to the musical direction of the project as needed, collaborating with other participating faculty and students.

“The projects funded by the grant will permit the student to explore the merits of certain artistic methodologies and performance formats, some of which will be very innovative,” Tellez said. “This will invite them to explore the ways in which they can be more inspiring and compelling in sharing sacred music with their congregations.”