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Founders Chapel Choir and Instrumentalists
Choir is “home away from home” for USD musicians

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Director Annette Welsh

"When I feel stressed from school choir is my retreat away from it all. It is a time I put aside every week so that I don’t have to worry or stress, I just get to be present with God and my best friends."

– Heather Kadera, student director

For members of the Founders Chapel Choir and Instrumentalists, nothing sounds better than great fellowship. The all-volunteer choir rehearses mid-week to prepare music for student masses (Sundays at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.) with additional performances on feast days and for special events. A unique bond is forged as members share their talents, express their spirituality and enjoy monthly events. We caught up with Director Annette Welsh to learn about the choir’s history and traditions, as well as its important role in the campus community.

Annette, tell us about the history of the Founders Chapel Choir.

My first introduction to the choir was when I was a first year student at USD in the fall of 1975. I remember going to the first Sunday Evening Student Mass and wanting to join the choir. I asked a friend, who was a current member, if I could be a part of it. She introduced me to the senior student who led the choir and the next week I began going to the rehearsals. I sang in the choir all through my four years at USD.

Founders Chapel Choir

"We begin each practice with a three-round "Amazing Grace." I still get chills, because I know there is so much love that surrounds me. I found some of my best friends through choir and have only missed one practice in my four years of singing. It gets me through the week, especially if that week has been stressful."

- Taylor DeVries, student director

My next encounter with the choir was several years later in 1985 after receiving a phone call invitation from Fr. Owen Mullen and Mike McKay to come in for an interview for the job of Choir Director. They wanted to hire someone to take the lead of this student choir and to grow the program. It was a job that I did not know existed but upon returning home from the interview, I told my husband that “I had to do this job!” I was hired and began the following fall semester. And so began my ministry as choir director at USD.

It was not until years later when Mons. I.B. Eagen came to the university that the group was formally named the Founders Chapel Choir and Instrumentalists.

What do you enjoy most about your role as director?

Anne, there are so many things that I love about the job. I love being part of an awesome team of people that make up University Ministry. I love creating music for so many special liturgies and events on campus. And I have always loved making music, writing songs, playing my guitar and singing, but what I enjoy most about being a director is walking through the four years with students and sharing such key moments in their lives. From the Mass of Welcome, where we are blessed to be part of the cherished moment of their entry into the University and the moment where they leave their families to begin this important stage of their lives, to the Baccalaureate Mass where we celebrate together the journey that has been full of joy, hope, challenge and growth. It is truly a privilege seeing them grow, not only as musicians, but as persons, confident, compassionate, inspired and ready to take on the world.

Founders Chapel Choir

"FCC rehearsal on Wednesday night has always been a favorite part of my week. It is just what I need in the middle of the week to help me center myself, find a little peace from my usually hectic schedule, and the rejuvenation I need to make it through the rest of the week."

– Alexa McAneny, student director and instrumentalist

Does the choir have any traditions?

Yes, the choir has a few traditions.

Sing for Your Supper is the beginning and end of the year choir party. The students gather for fun and food as they perform for each other in creative and delightful ways.

Choir Bring a Friend BOND–FIRE Once or twice a year, the choir has a bonfire on Fiesta Island where we sing, cook hotdogs and s’mores and spend time getting to know each other. The additional fun of getting to bring a friend or roommate adds to the fun.

Candlelight procession and Candlelight Mass Each semester during finals the choir sings for the Candlelight Mass. The beautiful Mass begins with the students processing down the aisles while carrying candles. As the choir students make their way up the aisles, they light the candles held by their classmates in the assembly. The end result is a Chapel lit with hundreds of candles. Beautiful Advent music is sung and special prayers are said. Though the Mass takes place during finals the Chapel is packed with students. It is truly one of the hidden gems of our USD calendar.

Founders Chapel Choir

"I remember singing a song and one of the patients [at Alvarado Psychiatric Hospital] got up and started conducting us, singing with us and dancing. It was an overwhelming feeling of something good we did for someone else. It is a tremendous feeling of service, not only in that we are serving them, but they also serve us."

– Heather Kadera, student director

The choir has ventured beyond the Chapel to perform for communities in need. Tell us about some memorable performances.

Founders Chapel Choir groups have had many opportunities to go out into the San Diego Community. The choir over the years has sung for inpatients at Alvarado Psychiatric Hospital, young people at Children’s Hospital, for the Wounded Warriors at Balboa Hospital, inmates at Las Colinas Women’s Detention Center, Senior Citizens at St Paul’s Place, at fundraisers for the Homeless Women of San Diego at Balboa Park and Liberty Station, Juvenile Hall, at the Relay for Life, at the Walk for Hope, at a Christmas Concert at MCRD for 1700 new recruits, at the Veterans Administration Hospital and for families at Marine Corps Air Station Christmas Carnival to name a few.

Founders Chapel Choir

"FCC is here to welcome anyone who has yet to find their home at USD."

– Taylor DeVries, student director

How can music enhance a liberal arts education?

The students have told me that the choir rehearsals and music help them to make connections to their everyday life. That being involved with the choir helps to keep them grounded. And that the rehearsal is a mid-week break that is so badly needed in the stressful lives of the students, which helps them to maintain a healthy balance. Singing in different languages helps them to make connections with their world neighbors. Being in the choir helps them to build community one person at a time. And spending time in musical prayer helps them to develop their spirituality.

- Anne Malinoski ‘11

Quick Facts

  • From San Diego to Singapore, from Liberal Arts to Engineering, choir members enrich each other in their diversity.
  • The Founders Chapel Choir has multi talented students who sing and/or play instruments, which include flute, violin, guitar, bass, percussion, piano, ukulele and other instruments.
  • The choir has a social event once a month. Bowling, Ice skating, bonfires, dinners, pumpkin carving and costume contests for Halloween, white elephant gift exchanges for Christmas time, pizza and more pizza are among the events that have been enjoyed.
  • Students can be involved in the big choir, and additionally the Men’s or Women’s Ensemble. They can audition to serve as Cantors and sing in the Cantor Ensemble. And finally, motivated juniors and seniors can apply, interview and serve as Student Directors.
  • Every other year the choir gets to go on retreat. This year the choir went to Camp Cedar Glen in Julian.

Useful Links

Founders Chapel Choir

University Ministry

Virtual Tour: Founders Chapel

Department of Music