A little more than a decade ago, Jennifer Pascual became the first woman to be named the director of music at the famous St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.
But Pascual, who will perform in Altoona's Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament this month, said she she's more concerned with doing a good job in her position than with setting any precedent.
"Personally, I do not think it matters whether a man or woman is in the position of director of music in any church situation, so long as they do the best job they can,'' she said. "In the past, these prominent positions have, for the most part, been held by men, so I am glad to be part of a growing statistic.''
Pascual has a doctor of musical arts degree in organ performance from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. As director of music at St. Patrick's Cathedral, she arranged all the liturgical music for Pope Benedict XVI's visit to New York in 2008. Two weeks later, she conducted St. Patrick's choir when the group sang for President George W. Bush at the White House for a National Day of Prayer.
"Those were some grueling, long rehearsals and in the end, everyone and everything pulled together rather nicely,'' she said.
Pascual will perform a variety of selections on the Altoona Cathedral's 1931 Steinmeyer organ at the concert slated for 2 p.m. Feb. 16. She said her program will include the music of J.S. Bach, Felix Mendelssohn and Hector Berlioz. Pascual said she made her choices based on what she thought people would like to hear.
"I've never played a Steinmeyer before and very much look forward to playing this wonderful organ in the Cathedral's beautiful space,'' she said.
Pascual grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., and began taking piano lessons at age 5. As a music major at Jacksonville University, where she eventually earned bachelor degrees in piano and organ performance, she said she was required to acquire basic knowledge of all the instruments of the orchestra.
"I took to a few instruments rather quickly, but French horn was my favorite,'' she said. "I took lessons and played in the university orchestra.''
She furthered her education with a master's in piano performance and later her doctoral degree. She has taught organ and piano and also music theory at the schools where she has studied. Pascual has also served as organist and choir director for several Catholic dioceses including those in St. Augustine, Fla., and Rochester, N.Y., and the archdioceses of Newark, N.J., and New York City.
In addition to the many awards and recognitions she has received for her musical talent, she was named a Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great in December 2008 in recognition of her service to the Catholic church. Two years later, the St. Patrick's choir was the only American choir selected to participate in an international festival of sacred music and art at the Vatican.
The Altoona cathedral's Concerts Under the Dome series began in 2010 as a way to bring additional musical talent to the sacred space.
Donations will be received to help offset the cost of the series.