Alumna develops chorus
Alumna Maria Rinaldi '00 to lead revolutionary chorus
“Given these troubling times where more and more people are being told they do not belong, Vermont’s Freedom & Unity Chorus plans to demonstrate through our music and our singers that ALL voices are welcome in the chorus and in the state,” says Saint Michael’s College alumna Maria Rinaldi ’00 about her recent efforts to found a choral group “to spread the message of peace and justice across the Green Mountain State.”
Rinaldi, the musical director of this developing chorus, suffered a spinal cord injury at the age of 12 which left her paralyzed from the chest down. Not one to let her disability define her, she pursued her love for singing with acclaimed vocal coach and performing artist, Shyla Nelson Stewart. A native Vermonter, Rinaldi was born and raised in Winooski. She graduated valedictorian of her high school class and went on to attend Saint Michael’s College where she graduated summa cum laude. She now is employed by Saint Michael’s doing work for the Admission office, sings with the Saint Michael’s College Liturgical Choir for Sunday Mass in the college chapel, and lives in Jericho.
Although not a formally trained conductor, Rinaldi has directed the Winooski Community Chorus for the last 10 years. She said she prides herself on having an innate ability to choose music that is not only enjoyable to sing but also moves audiences.
Rinaldi said that in 2016 she had the privilege of directing members of the Winooski Community Chorus and Mountainsong from Jericho, VT, as a combined choir for Counterpoint’s annual Vermont Sings for Peace concert held each September on campus at Saint Michael’s College. This positive experience from both the singer and audience perspective formed the foundation of her idea to create “a chorus that values every human being, and supports and celebrates each person’s uniqueness, experiences and contributions.” To this end, the chorus will welcome all voices regardless of age, race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, national origin (ancestry), disability, and sexual orientation, she said.
“The mission of Vermont’s Freedom & Unity Chorus is to bring together singers to perform music that represents the ongoing struggle for racial, social, economic and environmental justice in this country,” Rinaldi said. “The music we will sing will incorporate the popular folk songs and African-American spirituals from the peace and civil rights movements of the 1960’s. We will also perform songs from contemporary artists like Bono, P!nk and Ed Sheeran.”
She said she hopes that community members with a possible interest will consider these questions: “Does music fill you with hope for a better world and a brighter future?” and “Do you want to be part of a musical movement that will not only be fun, but will also make you feel good about what you are doing?” Rinaldi is reaching out to Saint Michael’s groups such as its Diversity Coalition, The MLK Society, Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts in Edmundite Campus Ministry and environmental activists for possible future collaborations and support, with positive early responses.
Rinaldi said she plans to take the chorus to towns and events across the state wherever the message of peace and justice will be welcomed. “I invite all Vermonters with an interest to join this unique chorus where they will use their voice to ignite change, transform hearts and inspire audiences,” she said, adding that she anticipates splitting rehearsals between the Saint Michael’s campus and Jericho “to encourage participation from as many people as possible.” She said Fr. Brian Cummings, S.S.E. ’86, director of Edmundite Campus Ministry, and music minister Jerome Monachino are making the campus rehearsals possible.
To learn more, go to: www.vermontsfreedomandunitychorus.org