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Hernando neighbors | Elaine Saulnier, 69

Teacher, musician, scholar and choral conductor, former nun lives a full life

Elaine Saulnier is an organist for St. Frances Cabrini Church and the accompanist for the Timber Tones Chorale. She has been a nun, scholar, music teacher and director, and a soloist herself.

RON THOMPSON | Times

Elaine Saulnier is an organist for St. Frances Cabrini Church and the accompanist for the Timber Tones Chorale. She has been a nun, scholar, music teacher and director, and a soloist herself.

How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?

I was born and raised in Massachusetts. Many of my family members, including one of my sisters, a nephew, three aunts and a cousin, all moved from Massachusetts to Florida, and about a year and a half ago I joined them. I live in the Wellington at Seven Hills in Spring Hill.

Who are the members of your family?

I'm not married, but I have four siblings — two sisters and two brothers. Both of my parents passed away several years ago.

Tell us about your career.

I come from a very musical family. My dad had a beautiful baritone voice and sang in church choirs until he passed away at the age of 84. My mother played the guitar and harmonica. My mother saw something musical in me at a very young age, so at the age of 41/2 I began piano lessons.

Music became my best friend, and it has been ever since. The choir director whom my dad sang with each Sunday began to coach me on the organ when I was in the seventh grade. I soon began playing the organ for Catholic Masses after that.

I was a religious sister from 1957 to 1972 and did my training in Maryland. During that time, I earned a bachelor's degree in voice at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Also, during that time, several of my colleagues (fellow nuns) who were musically gifted and I formed a chorale of about 25 voices, and we recorded four albums with Columbia Records. I soloed on those albums. These endeavors were fundraisers for the religious order I belonged to, the Religious of Jesus and Mary Order.

For 30 years, from 1973 to 2003, I devoted my time and creative energies to children and adults as a music educator. I taught in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and California.

The crowning years of my teaching career came in 1995 when I accepted a music position in a Catholic high school outside of San Francisco, where I developed choral programs, musical theater classes and offered voice coaching to students in my choral program. Before moving to California, I earned my master's degree in creative arts from Lesley University in Boston.

While in California, I prepared a select student concert choir to travel to New York three different times to participate in choral concerts at Carnegie Hall, sponsored by Mid-America Productions of New York. Under the direction of international composer/conductor John Rutter, my students performed Mozart's Requiem and Rutter's Magnificat. They formed part of a 200-voice chorus. On one of our trips, I conducted my students at Ground Zero, where they sang Mozart's Ave Verum and Amazing Grace.

In June 2001, I took my select student concert choir and my adult chorus on a 10-day performance tour of Europe. The tour culminated in our concert at the Salzburg International Choral Festival.

In 2003, I retired from teaching and accepted a church position as full-time music director in Massachusetts. There I developed several music programs (outside of the Sunday church choir), including a concert choir for adults, who would later participate in the Vermont International Choral Festival at the Von Trapp Lodge in Stowe, Vt. In 2005, the group sang at Carnegie Hall, and in 2006 we traveled to Austria to participate in concerts in Salzburg and Vienna, under the direction of Dr. Eph Ehly.

What kinds of activities are you involved in now?

Since moving to Spring Hill, I have become the accompanist at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church for the adult choir and one of the regular organists. I am also the accompanist for the Timber Tones Chorale at Timber Pines. I have also accepted the music director position for the Timber Pines Players musical Crazy for You to be performed in March. I am enjoying it all.

As an avid traveler, this past January I traveled to Rome and other parts of Italy to sing with the St. Frances Cabrini Choir under the direction of Christopher Berke. It was an honor to sing in several churches throughout Italy, with a special moment singing ever so briefly for His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. His beautiful smile at us as we sang was our reward.

This past July, I sang in the Berkshire Choral Festival in Sheffield, Mass., and in 2009 I will participate in two offerings presented by the Berkshire Choral Festival. Next May, I plan to travel to Prague, Czech Republic, to sing in the Verdi Requiem at Terezin, the concentration camp outside of Prague.

I was selected (after a vocal audition last summer) to perform next July with Dale Warland of the Dale Warland Singers, to form part of an a cappella choir that will perform Rachmaninoff's Vespers in concert in Sheffield, Mass.

I have lived alone since 1972, but my life is full — I am never lonely. I have been richly blessed through a life of music, which has given me a life of joy, beauty and deep fulfillment. It continues to be my truest friend, and I am daily grateful for its gift to me.

Do you have any special hobbies?

Viewing my collection of classic films, making puzzles and traveling.

What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?

Participating in the arts, attending the theater (Stage West Community Playhouse), dining out with family and friends and just enjoying the wonderful weather.

What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?

I do miss a good bookstore like Barnes & Nobles or a Waldenbooks.

Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

I have kept a journal all of my life. My family will find them interesting reading once I pass on.

Hernando Neighbors is an occasional feature of the Hernando Times. Do you know someone who would make a good profile? We'd like to hear from you. Contact Jean Hayes, community news coordinator, at jhayes@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1438.

Teacher, musician, scholar and choral conductor, former nun lives a full life 11/29/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 29, 2008 12:27pm]

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