Joliet, Ill. – As the University of St. Francis (USF) continues its administration of courses in an online format this spring semester in response to challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the important role played by technology is clear. However, the use of technology is not limited to just the classroom. USF’s Schola Cantorum and Claritas Master Chorale are using virtual meetings as a way to rehearse. Recently, renowned composer Elaine Hagenberg joined one of these rehearsals.

“This activity was one of many that have been created as a means to create meaningful experience to replace choir rehearsals canceled in light of COVID-19,” said Paul Laprade, USF Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities.

During the session, Hagenberg discussed the art of singing, composing, choral music, careers in music, aesthetics, music publishing, and many other topics. According to Laprade, Hagenberg was an obvious choice to invite as a guest for the one-hour session. 

“Schola was acquainted with Hagenberg’s music, having sung her fine arrangement of ‘Wexford Carol’ for our last Christmas in the Motherhouse concert in early December,” Laprade said.

Laprade also said that Hagenberg’s path to where she is today would resonate with the members of his choirs.

“Elaine only decided to start composing six years ago, after earning her degree and then raising her family of four.  I felt she was a fine example of someone whose career trajectory was not linear, but who explored many directions before finding her true place–our students can learn that success is often found in an unexpected place during one’s life search,” Laprade added.

Although nothing can fully replace in-person rehearsals, Laprade believes there is a positive aspect to how his students are responding to current challenges.

“Our students have been learning a great deal about the arts and real world applications in these moments. The experience this opportunity presented was a rich success for our class,” he said.

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Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

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