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St. Paul’s Choirmaster Repat: Former Chorister at the Helm

By Kelly Lovering

Jonathan
Scarozza had been trying to get back to Buffalo for years. After spending time
in the New York City area, Atlanta, GA, and Evanston, IL, as an Organist and
Choirmaster, he has finally returned to his roots at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Downtown Buffalo.

Growing up the
youngest of five, Scarozza followed in the footsteps of his older siblings, singing
as a chorister in the St. Paul’s Cathedral
Choir of Men and Boys.

“We had a musical kind of family although you would
never know it. My mother was very talented, but she was shy and tried to hide
it. My father however was an imposing and outgoing human being; needless to say
none of us were shy,” said Scarozza. “
I did this blindly in my childhood. I always
said I wanted to quit. Then my voice changed, and I started singing with the Men’s
choir. At that point I became aware that I had a strong talent. That inspired
me to stick around.” 

baby scarozza.png

His experience at St. Paul’s Cathedral provided the
solid foundation of his musical career. Once he graduated high school, Scarozza
went on to receive his Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Performance from the
University of Kentucky, in Lexington.

“After
graduating with a degree in piano, I had to consider what I was eventually going
to do for a living and all I ever knew. I instantly thought of the church.
I returned to Buffalo immediately after Kentucky, having to start from scratch as
an unmatriculated student at the University at Buffalo, learning the organ,” he
says.   

While
studying, Scarozza was apprentice to local active composer and UB Professor, Ronald Martin. “I eventually applied
to the program and they accepted me,” said Scarozza who graduated with a Master’s in Organ Performance from SUNY Buffalo.

No
stranger to the program at St. Paul’s, Scarozza spent just more than year from 1998 to 1999 as Organ Scholar under Dr. Dale
Adelmann. Years later, the stars would align for Scarozza. The competitive and
rigorous audition for the Choirmaster/Organist position at St. Paul’s
Cathedral, Buffalo became available in November 2009. 

“Our
field is not that big, and St. Paul’s is a reputable position, and more than 50
to 100 of the top musicians will generally apply. That is not just the US, it is
everywhere. People are really familiar with the field and have very intense
resumes. I am young, and I was familiar with the program. They knew that there
was not going to be a lot of acclimation time. Once I got through the paperwork portion, my skills and confidence became more obvious at the live
audition,” said Scarozza.

Then he received the emotional phone call that brought
him back to the city where he grew up, as the new Choirmaster and Organist for
St. Paul’s Cathedral.

scarozza.png

Scarozza is a family man, married with a son and
daughter. He is the kind of Choirmaster that scoots everyone out of practice
and rushes to get home and watch the Sabres play. Cosmopolitan and
an avid soccer player, he is the kind of leader that children can truly look up
to. Not because he is a solid father figure, incredibly intelligent, successful
or determined, but because he has worldly experience, and he is not going anywhere. Scarozza has every
intention of rebuilding the program from the bottom up, even if that means
staying late, working over-time and devoting countless years to making it a
success.

I have no desire to go anywhere for a long time,” he said.I want to give the children a healthy, wholesome experience. I was supported by great men and adults growing up. I was
challenged by my directors and, while it was difficult, it was never destructive.
We traveled all over the world and it was wonderful,” he said.

Despite
the challenges ahead of him, Scarozza plans to work hard. Especially for the
next six months while his family stays to finish out their school year in
Chicago. There have been many changes in the program from what it was when he
was a chorister; there’s a heavier concentration of talent and knowledgeable
singers. What they need is a leader, and that is what Scarozza intends to give
them.

“I
am working with good people, and there is potential to get it going where I want.
My priority is the kids – getting them back up to speed, handling the workload from week to week. I would love to get more kids coming from all different types of
backgrounds, and socioeconomic upbringings to sing in the choir. I want to reach
as many people as possible and gel the community.”

Still
in the honeymoon period, Scarozza sees the little changes day to day. A highly
energetic influence, people are both surprised and pleased with improvements he
has made thus far. 

“I am only here because of the team
aspect. I do nothing alone. It is about brining people on board to be a part of
the team and building the program,” said Scarozza. “I’m coming home. I know
what Buffalo has to offer.”

Interested in Joining?

The
St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys has openings for boys aged 8-14 with
unchanged voices and The St. Paul’s Cathedral Girls’ Choir has openings for
girls aged 8 through high school age. All are welcome regardless of prior
musical experience or religious background. All choirs are professional and all
singers are paid.

For
more information contact Organist/Choirmaster, Jonathan Scarozza at 716.855.0900 or jonathan.scarozza@stpaulscathedral.org.

Also think about attending the “Friends of Music” recitals each Friday at 12:30.

Image credits: Scarozza by Christopher Scinta; St. Pauls by ECB

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