Composing the Inaugural Fanfare

The inauguration of Dr. Steven R. DiSalvo as the tenth president of Saint Anselm College was a college wide event that included everyone in the college community. One unique aspect to the event was the official fanfare titled "Vers L'Avenir" (Toward the Future), composed by Assistant Professor of Fine Arts Dr. Francis Kayali. In late July of this year, he was invited to compose a brass fanfare for the inauguration and spent one month putting it together with the help of friends from the University of Southern Maine. Below is his first-hand account.

It was the last week of July, soon after my family arrived in New Hampshire from California. We were exploring Manchester, when I got a call from Prof. Parr, my colleague in the Fine Arts Department. He told me that Fr. Augustine was looking for someone to compose a brass fanfare for the inauguration of Saint Anselm’s new president. Was I interested?

I’ve always been fond of the brass sound, so I was very excited about the opportunity and quickly gathered the bits of information I needed to get started on this piece: the desired length, character (“bold and presidential!”), and, of course, the performance date (less than three months away).

There was about a month to go until the beginning of classes and I decided to have the project completed by then. Throughout the month of August, this would be my one and only project.

To prime my ears, I listened to a few tracks of brass quintet music on Spotify and on YouTube. After that, I jumped in. I improvised for a few minutes at the piano and proceeded to sketch the opening section of the fanfare.

I tend to work on pieces in a linear fashion. It’s certainly not imperative to work this way, but I find that it tends to be easier, particularly when time is of the essence. I wanted music that would have an energetic drive, music that would be festive, with the open and bold harmonies we associate with fanfares. I rarely set out to emulate a particular composer, but familiar voices or sounds do often emerge. To me, this piece has echoes of Gabrieli, Janacek, Ravel, Stravinsky, Ewazen, and Sonny Rollins, among others.

I soon started thinking of ways to include material that would be more directly associated with St Anselm. Most colleges have a school song and, I thought, St Anselm must be no exception. It wasn’t difficult to find mention of a school song, as its lyrics are included on the school’s Wikipedia article. However, there was no source for the melody. Fortunately, someone had recently uploaded a video of the choir singing the anthem. I transcribed it and started weaving some of its motives into the fanfare.

When I completed the first draft of the piece in mid-August, I decided it was time to find a brass quintet to play it through. This is when I thought of Scott Vaillancourt, the leader of the brass ensemble at my undergraduate college. I sent him a message asking for advice in locating players and he offered to have his brass quintet, the Norumbega Ensemble, play through my piece. I drove up to the University of Southern Maine campus in Gorham. They very generously devoted all of their time that night to rehearsing the piece. I came back with the recording of a run-through, which I sent to Fr. Augustine for review.

The next day, I received Fr. Augustine’s enthusiastic response. Apparently, he even played the recording on his iPad for other members of his office! He only recommended one revision: to make the quote of the school song a little more easy to discern so that the audience would be sure not to miss it. (In the first version, the melody was integrated in a somewhat veiled way.) After completing a second draft, which incorporated Fr. Augustine’s suggestion along with the performers’ technical advice, I travelled to Maine one more time to finalize performance details with the quintet.

The members of the Norumbega Ensemble are an easy-going crew. Yet, when it comes to matters of performance, they are among the most meticulous musicians I have worked with. They analyzed every aspect of the piece, carefully working out every parameter, adjusting the dynamics, tweaking the sound color, experimenting with different moods and tempo changes. At one point, they even asked me to sing the Saint Anselm Anthem for them so that they could ensure that their phrasing conformed to that of the words. I drove back to Manchester that night confident that the fanfare was in good hands.

Six weeks later, I slipped into my academic regalia and marched onto the quad with the other professors. Hearing my piece played live induced its own special form of stage fright. Nothing was expected of me: I got to sit in the audience, hidden amongst the crowd. However, everything about the performance was out of my control.

I tried to remind myself that my work was over now, that performing the piece was someone else’s job, and that I was no longer responsible for the outcome… But that doesn’t ring true. Wasn’t it my job to make sure that I composed a piece that worked? And what if something came up to throw everything off? Would the performers be fatigued after sitting out in the cold for an hour and a half? Would it start to rain? Would the wind blow off a page of someone’s music?

No, that at least would not happen. The players brought with them dozens of wooden clothespins and fastened the music to the stands. It would take a hurricane for those pages to fly off.

Still, more thoughts raced through my mind as I waited for the moment when the fanfare would be played.

We listened to Dr. DiSalvo’s impassioned presidential address and all rose for a standing ovation. Then, as the first notes of the fanfare sounded, we sat and a more reflective mood seemed to fall upon the audience. A breeze passed over the trees and I started relaxing and taking in the view of Alumni Hall, the trees, and the New Hampshire autumn. I hadn’t listened to the piece in more than a month and I was rediscovering it myself, noticing details along the way: an inflection, a ritenuto, a syncopation, a chord. I found myself enjoying the ride. Nothing fell apart. No pages flew away. The piece just… worked.

The final notes sounded and my colleagues congratulated me warmly. Throughout the evening, faculty and guests came up to me to share their impressions. By then, the quintet players had packed their instruments and were already halfway back to Maine.

As Prof. Asbury once remarked, some creative artists, by virtue of their craft, are required to work alone. Painters and composers usually fall into this category. However, I think that this particular project may prove to have a different effect. In the course of just a few weeks, I met a group of wonderful and dedicated musicians, and thanks to the performance, I feel more closely connected not only to Saint Anselm lore, but to the Saint Anselm community as whole.

Professor Publishes Book on Vietnam

Educators who teach high school and college courses about the Vietnam War will benefit from the insights of Saint Anselm College’s associate professor of history, Matthew Masur.

Understanding and Teaching the Vietnam War, which he co-edited with John Day Tully (Central Connecticut State University) and Brad Austin (Salem State University), was released recently by The University of Wisconsin Press.

Masur’s primary area of research is the history of American foreign relations. The nation-building process in South Vietnam between 1954-1963 was the subject of his doctoral dissertation at Ohio State University, and he spent a year conducting research in Vietnam through a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship. He teaches and writes about the region, and has brought students on two immersion trips to Vietnam. This semester, he is teaching an honors course on modern Japan, and he is the advisor to the newly formed Vietnamese Student Association.

Understanding and Teaching the Vietnam War offers essays by eminent Vietnam War scholars, and strategies for teaching the war’s most critical aspects: the Cold War, decolonization, Vietnamese perspectives, the French in Vietnam, the role of the Hmong, and the Tet Offensive.

In addition to editing the book, Masur provided the chapter “Nationalism, Communism, and the Vietnam War.”

Masur received financial support for his research from the college, including a summer research grant in 2010.

Jeanne Cavelos Discusses her Fantasy Writing Workshop

Jeanne Cavelos teachingJeanne Cavelos, editor, author, former astrophysicist and part-time English professor, led her 14th Odyssey Fantasy workshop this summer at Saint Anselm College. The workshop brought together 16 writers hoping to improve their skills and dazzle the publishing world with their stories of zombies, vampires, and living on the moon.

These students of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, flew in from as far as Australia and Singapore, leaving behind their families and quitting their jobs to spend six weeks with Cavelos. They all hope to eventually be published authors.

In this podcast with Jeanne Cavelos, she discusses the workshop, her students, science fiction, and the world of publishing.

To read more about Odyssey, visit this previous blog post.

Photo credit: Greg Wallace '10

In Context: Dr. Daly Discusses End of Life Medical Decisions

Video Transcript

Welcome to a new feature on the Saint Anselm blog. From time to time, we will ask faculty members and others to shed light on issues in the news, and post their answers either as text or short videos. Health care reform is making headlines these days, so we have started with a professor of medical ethics, Dr. Daniel Daly, assistant professor of theology.

President Obama raised the concerns and costs of end of life care this spring, when he discussed the treatment of his late grandmother, who received a hip replacement after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. "If somebody told me that my grandmother couldn’t have a hip replacement and she had to lie there in misery in the waning days of her life — that would be pretty upsetting,” Obama told The New York Times.

We asked Professor Daly to outline an ethical framework for making the often wrenching decisions about health care that can come in the final stages of life. He discusses the difference between ordinary and extraordinary care in the context of Catholic theology.

The Office of College Communications and Marketing welcomes suggestions for In Context interviews. If you would like to suggest a topic or have something you’d like to discuss, please contact Barbara LeBlanc or Doug Minor.

Chasing the Mourning Warbler; Dr. J Explains Four Song Regions

This is our second of two podcasts with professor Jay Pitocchelli; in our first podcast, he discusses his research and life in the field tracking the Mourning Warbler.

Mourning WarblerOn the Saint Anselm College campus, Jay Pitocchelli is known for his biology and ornithology classes. But off campus — and among readers of his blog, — he is known for his body of scholarly research on the Mourning Warbler.

In our first podcast of this two-part series, Pitocchelli described the his research, travels, and innovative uses of technologies. In this podcast, he discusses the four regions of Mourning Warbler song that he has observed. His current research examines the birds' ability to identify Mourning Warblers from other dialects, or regiolects. He also let us listen to his audio recordings from each of the geographic and dialectic regions: Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Eastern, and Western.

Photo: Courtesy of Flickr

Chasing the Mourning Warbler; Dr. J on Doing Research in the Field

This is our first of two podcasts with professor Jay Pitocchelli; in our second podcast, he discusses the four song and geographic regions of the Mourning Warbler.

Mourning WarblerWhen nature shows the first signs of impending summer, migratory birds that have wintered in southern habitats begin growing fidgety and restless for the biannual journey northward. In his Goulet Science Center office, with a window overlooking the quad, biology professor Jay Pitocchelli experiences a similar sensation.

Saint Anselm College’s resident ornithologist packed his jeep this spring to continue his research on song variation in the Mourning Warbler. Pitocchelli, the preeminent expert on this olive-green and yellow warbler, named for its black bib and grey hood, has identified four regions with specific variations on the species’ song. This summer alone, he has observed and tracked the Mourning Warbler in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, as well as the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

While he drives the estimated 4,000 miles by himself, he keeps students, colleagues, and family updated on his blog, He also posts audio, digital video, and photos of flora and fauna.

In this podcast, we asked him about his research, use of technology, and the art of bringing the two together in pursuit of science.

Photo: Courtesy of Flickr

The Great Depression and Today’s Financial Crisis

Great Depression Bread and Milk LineOn March 11, a panel consisting of professors Andrew Moore (history), James Mahoney (philosophy), Jonathan Acuff (politics), and John Romps (economics and business) discussed the Great Depression relative to our country’s current economic crisis.

Professor Romps, the event’s organizer, dispelled common misconceptions about the Great Depression, explaining that it was actually a downturn beginning in early 1929, not just a reaction to the stock market crash. He discussed the belief that everyone in America was destitute; in actuality, while many suffered (27%-30% unemployment), about 70% of Americans still had jobs. About 60% of Americans never lost their jobs for the whole span of the 1930s. He described the common debate of the 1930s–recovery vs. reform–a debate that resurfaced throughout the event.

Professor Moore focused on the New Deal and the Roosevelt Administration. The New Deal, he argued, did not end the Depression, and its primary importance was to change the relationship between government and the people. FDR thought government should help individuals by promoting economic stability and security, and believed the best way to resolve the crisis was to provide a sort of safety net. Another focus of the New Deal was to help businesses by eliminating competition and encouraging cooperation with legislation like the National Industry Recovery Act. FDR wanted people to look to the government for help instead of charities or churches, especially because those resources were depleted by the time he took office.

Professor Acuff discussed international politics, stating that the first global economic decline since 1945 was in fact 2009. Many of the causes were similar, such as enormous overheating of the economy because of problems with housing and Wall Street. A few more similarities he discussed were both events saw major pressures on the capitalist structure, Europe waited for the United States to act, and there were worldwide feelings of political instability. Acuff noted differences as well; the level of global trade is much higher now than in the 1930s, and this interdependence is brought on by many more international organizations than politicians could have imagined. The tools are better now, Acuff stated, and we now know more about the problems at hand.

Professor Mahoney discussed the relevance of philosophy in the Great Depression, reflecting specifically on what is happening in philosophy as a theoretical discipline. The sense of fear that emerged during the 1930s produced a distrust of reason. He said this idea of “giving up on reason” forced humans to seek stability and security. Mahoney cited novels, movies, and documentaries from the period that really explain the incredible fear people had during The Great Depression. He closed by describing 1930s philosopher John Dewey, who gave hope to people who worried about the collapsing economy; Dewey believed if one used scientific reasoning and applied the ideas in a systematic way, there was a chance one could have new visions of what constitutes reason.

In the questions that followed, the themes of government intervention and the global economy continued to resurface. Professor Romps believes the current situation is beyond the point where America can’t expect the government not to step in. “It is so dangerous that to expect the government not to intervene is preposterous. They have to.” Professor Acuff said that the United States’ recovery impacts global recovery. He stressed that although there were some positive results of a bad global economy (better relations with foreign nations, more interdependence), today’s problems in the United States create an accidental ripple effect. Acuff and Romps agreed that if the United States doesn’t recover, the world doesn’t recover.

Photo credit: Depression era bread and milk line

Prof. David George and Matthew Gonzales in History Channel Series, "Battles BC"

Professor David George on the History ChannelDavid George, classics professor and chair, will be a regular face on the History Channel for eight weeks beginning Monday, March 9, when he offers historic perspective in the series, Battles BC.

Starting with “Hannibal the Annihilator,” the series will use cutting edge, computer graphics to explore towering feats of battle that scholars and students of war continue to study today.  “David: Giant Slayer” will be the second episode, launched Monday, March 16. [Read more…]

Washington Post Columnist E.J. Dionne Lectures on NH Primary

E.J. Dionne Described as "one of Washington's finest thinkers," the New Hampshire Institute of Politics was happy to welcome E.J. Dionne as a senior research fellow for the 2008 New Hampshire Primary, quickly deploying him to guest lecture in a number of classes. Dionne began his career in political journalism at The New York Times, where he wrote for 14 years. He then moved to The Washington Post in 1993, and has remained there since. Drafting a biweekly column that appears in more than 90 newspapers both in the United States and around the world, Dionne has penned several columns this fall from his office at the NHIOP. In addition to his duties at Saint Anselm College, Dionne is also a Brookings Institution senior research fellow and Georgetown University professor

This podcast features a public lecture delivered by Dionne on November 5, 2007, that addresses the history of the New Hampshire Primary, and it's current role in American politics. Following his lecture, Dionne took a number of questions from the audience on topics including the affect that the lengthening campaign has on voters, the media, and the candidates themselves.

Podcast Interview With Prof. Beth Salerno From South Korea

Beth Salerno in Korea

Can you imagine living in a country where everything you say gets consistently lost in translation? How about the feeling of always being stared at because you look so different? And could you eat food that you don’t even know how to pronounce?

Saint Anselm History Professor Beth Salerno is having just this kind of experience in South Korea, where she is currently living and teaching as part of the Fulbright Scholar Program.

In this podcast, we feature part one of a two-part phone interview with Professor Salerno from her home in South Korea. We discuss why she chose to go to South Korea and live within a culture so very different from her own, the tourist experiences she's had, and what the food is really like.

She also tells me why she doesn’t always feel so far away from the United States when it comes to her students' choice of attire.

Professor Salerno is blogging about her adventures in South Korea this entire academic year. She includes entries about her cultural experiences along with many photos documenting her life in Asia. You can access Professor Salerno’s blog at

Be sure to look out for part two of my interview where I ask Professor Salerno about living so close to North Korea, the South’s views toward its northern neighbor, and the first thing she wants to do when she returns to the United States.

Update: Part two of this interview is now available.

Photos courtesy of Professor Beth Salerno