Home/Sacred Music

Sacred Music at the Cathedral

Dr. Richard Robert Rossi

Director of the Cathedral Liturgical Music Program/Organist, Conductor, Pianist, Countertenor & Composer

A native of Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, Richard grew up in Virginia Beach, VA, where he began to carry on a family tradition of making great music. His father, Anthony F. Rossi, studied opera at the Julliard School of Music and sang professionally in a number of Broadway musicals. In fact, Anthony met his soon- to-be bride, Barbara Winfield, while the couple toured together in the Broadway touring production of South Pacific.

Richard holds a DMA in Conducting from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, an MFA in both orchestral and choral conducting from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, a BM in music education with a concentration in piano and organ from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, and a Master of Divinity from Saint Vincent Seminary. Over the years, Richard studied organ with several teachers including Edgar Highberger and Fr. Cyprian Constantine, OSB and has held church organ positions since he was 16 years of age. Additionally, Richard studied orchestral and choral conducting with many renowned maestros including (in alphabetical order): Vance George (choral), Juan Pablo Izquierdo (orchestral), Dennis Keane (choral), Don Moses (choral), Robert Page (choral and opera), Donald Schleicher (orchestral), Fred Stoltzfus (choral), and Sandra Willetts (choral).

Prior to his appointment at St. Peter Cathedral, Richard spent the last 20 years at Eastern Illinois University (EIU) in Charleston, IL serving as Director of Orchestral Activities (17 years) and Choral Activities (19 years) directing the Eastern Symphony Orchestra, Eastern Symphony Chamber Orchestra, Concert Choir, Oratorio Society and taught both graduate and advanced undergraduate conducting and organ. Other courses included: University Mixed Chorus, undergraduate conducting, choral arranging, class voice and studio voice as needed. Most recently, in the Fall of 2019, Richard began a new venture by launching Charleston’s first professional orchestra, the Camerata Sinfonietta. The Camerata Sinfonietta is a professional chamber orchestra under the auspices of the Doudna Fine Arts Center in Charleston. Consistent with the traditions and mindset of the original 16th century Florentine Camerata, the orchestra is comprised of professional musicians who also maintain careers as professors, lawyers, nurses, business executives and more. The orchestra, located in East Central Illinois, attracts outstanding musicians from the tristate area and features regionally and nationally acclaimed guest artists. Earlier in 2001 while teaching at EIU, Richard collaborated with violinist, Terry Coulton, in forming the SHIP (Symphonic Honors Initiative Program), an outreach program designed to provide orchestral experience for the exceptionally talented high school and middle school string players primarily in Coles County and the surrounding areas. The program was very successful with over 85 local strings players from the surrounding communities including Champaign-Urbana. Additionally, in 2006 Richard also established and directed both the Sinfonia and the Camerata Singers as part of the Collegium Musicum (Early Music Ensembles) at EIU. Richard also actively recruited undergraduate and graduate music students both nationally and internationally. In addition to his teaching, performing and recruiting schedule, Richard found time to raise well over $600,000.00 for the music department over the years.

Richard has conducted many choirs, orchestras, operas and musical theater productions in his career both locally and nationally. Serving as the chorus master for several seasons with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra & Chorus in Springfield, Illinois, Rossi conducted such works as Fantasia on Christmas Carols by R. V.

Williams, Fauré, Mozart and Duruflé Requiem’s as well as others. Opera performances include Dialogue of the Carmelites and Die Fledermaus while he resided in the Pittsburgh, PA. In the Fall of 1999 while working on his doctorate, Richard was appointed the Conductor of the University of Illinois Main Stage Opera Production of The Barber of Seville by Rossini. This was the first time a graduate student received the honor of conducting an opera. That same year, Richard was awarded the ALEX Award in the performing arts category from the National Alliance for Excellence from New Jersey; he was chosen as the most out- standing student conductor in America.

In addition to his extensive conducting schedule, Richard has had an extensive singing career as a countertenor. Recent solo performances include Händel’s Dixit Dominum and Vivaldi’s Gloria alto solos with the Chatham Baroque and the St. Vincent Camerata as well as Händel’s Messiah. Other solo performances include the Peri/Caccini opera L’Euridice, a historical performance, Händel’s Messiah, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Purcell’s Ode to St. Cecilia and Come Ye Sons of Art and Orff’s Carmina Burana. Richard has also appeared as a vocal and harpsichord soloist including appearances on WILL’s Second Sunday Concerts. Richard also sang professionally as the countertenor soloist and section leader at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Pittsburgh. He can also be heard as one of the soloists in the recording of Leonardo Balada’s Torquemada, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize recorded while attending Carnegie Mellon University. Richard also continues to perform recitals as a pianist, accompanist and organist.

Richard was one of the original founding members of the acclaimed vocal ensemble Choragós at the University of Illinois. The six-member Choragós Ensemble was formed in the Fall of 1999 at the request of the Alamire Foundation, based in Leuven, Belgium. Performances include Medieval and Renaissance Conference in Jena,Germany,including tours to Berlin and Weimar. Additionally,the group performed several concerts in France (July 2003), the American Choral Director’s Association National Convention in San Antonio, Texas (March 2001), the American Musicological Society International Conference in Toronto, Ontario (November 2000), and the Alamire Conferences held in Belgium, Tours & Germany. Other performances include the University of Illinois Krannert for the Performing Arts Summer Series.

Prior to living in the Midwest, Richard spent many years in the Pittsburgh area, where he was the organist at St. Bernard Parish in the South Hills and principal organist and Liturgical Music Director for many years at St. Vincent Archabbey Parish and Monastery in Latrobe, PA. Richard was also the Conductor/Music Director of The Saint Vincent Camerata for ten years, and the founder and director of The Saint Vincent Camerata Chamber Orchestra, The Saint Vincent College Singers, Troubadours and The Abbey Singers (a professional vocal sextet) who in 1996 had the privilege of performing with The Pittsburgh Symphony under the direction of Marvin Hamlisch in “A Search for a Star” competition in which the ensemble won first place. While at Saint Vincent, Richard directed and produced many recordings that continue to be aired on local and national public radio. Recordings include Mozart’s Requiem, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, and Fauré’s Requiem as well as some of Rossi’s own compositions.

In addition to his conducting, composing, teaching and singing career, Richard has always held church organist positions since he was 16 years of age. His most recent post prior to coming to the Cathedral was at First Presbyterian Church in Champaign, a post he began in 1998 when he began his doctoral studies at the University of Illinois. Always keeping his Catholicism at the forefront of his personal and spiritual development, Richard also volunteered both his services as a countertenor at several Catholic Churches including Holy Cross Catholic Church in Champaign, IL and also worked with the student sacred music program at the Catholic Newman Center on the EIU campus while still maintaining his responsibilities at the university and at First Presbyterian Church.

In his “free time,” Richard composes sacred and secular music for performance and publication through several publishers including Colla Voce Publ.in Indianapolis, IN where Richard was selected as composer of the Month in September 2013 and featured in July 2019 as composer of the week for Christmas in July. Richard also won the 2015 Illinois-ACDA Choral Composition Contest with his sacred Latin choral work, O Sacrum Convivium, which is published with Santa Barbara Music Publishing. He also publishes with GIA Publications in Chicago and MusicSpoke Publications.

Conducting (Orchestral and Choral Videos)