WHEELING - Wheeling Jesuit University (WJU) joins with the Sisters of the Visitation in announcing plans to establish the Mount de Chantal Conservatory of Music at Wheeling Jesuit University.
In establishing the Conservatory, Wheeling Jesuit will honor the legacy of the Sisters and continue their educational mission by providing WJU students with fine arts instruction in the revered tradition of Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy, which closed its doors in 2008.
"The idea of creating the Mount de Chantal Conservatory of Music at Wheeling Jesuit University is built on a friendship that has flourished for centuries between the Visitation Sisters and the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), and locally for more than 50 years between Mount de Chantal and WJU," said Wheeling Jesuit President Richard A. Beyer.
Robert Troeger, music instructor at Wheeling Jesuit University, and Mount de Chantal's Sr. Joanne Gonter inspect a chandelier given to the University by the Sisters for use in the Mount de Chantal Conservatory of Music at Wheeling Jesuit University. The chandelier, along with other items donated by the Sisters, is undergoing cleaning and repair.
Longtime Mount de Chantal music instructor Dolores Ambrister leads a choir at the school in the 1970s.
Louise Gubert gave up a promising singing career in the mid-19th century to join the Sisters of the Visitation. Thereafter known as Sr. Mary Agnes, she established the high standards that made Mount de Chantal renowned for its quality music instruction.
The initiative includes renovating a 5,000-square-foot space in the WJU Center for Educational Technologies transforming it into the new home of the University's Department of Music. The space will house a recital hall, a study lounge, multiple practice rooms, an artist-in-residence studio, a director's office and the Sisters of the Visitation Art Gallery, which will showcase Mount de Chantal antiques and archival materials, along with WJU student art.
Wheeling Jesuit has already received $550,000 in gifts toward the $3 million fund-raising goal for the Conservatory. This includes a leadership gift of $250,000 from the Sisters of the Visitation which was matched by an anonymous local donor. The Sisters contributed an additional $50,000 to establish an education fund that will provide scholarships, beginning in the fall of 2013. Each year, one incoming fine arts student will receive a $10,000 Mount de Chantal Scholarship, renewable annually for four years. In addition to these gifts, the university has committed $350,000 to support the programs as they develop.
"We are tremendously happy to entrust our legacy - the legacy of Mount de Chantal - to Wheeling Jesuit University," said Sr. Joanne Gonter, VHM, former teacher at Mount de Chantal and superior of the Wheeling-based Sisters. "We are fully confident in the University's plans to expand its reach into the fine arts by establishing the Conservatory and we look forward to its growth in the years to come." A 1952 graduate of Mount de Chantal, Sr. Joanne also has the distinction of being a WJU co-founder as a member of the first graduating class of Wheeling College, in 1959.
In addition to their financial support of the Conservatory, the Visitation Sisters have donated various items including the Mount de Chantal front door, three beveled glass panels that surrounded the door, and two chandeliers - from the front hall and the Parents' Parlor. These items will be incorporated into the design of the new space. The Mount's 800-pound bell, which hung for 150 years in the school's tower, will be given a place of prominence at the entrance to the Conservatory.
Archival items donated by the Sisters will be on display in the Sisters of the Visitation Art Gallery, such as photographs, music, and publications including an 1858 book entitled The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which belonged to Sister Mary Agnes Gubert. In the mid-19th century, Sr. Mary Agnes (then Louise Gubert) gave up a promising international singing career to join the Sisters of the Visitation and is credited and brought fame to Mount de Chantal's Department of Music.
WJU faculty recently approved four new majors within the Department of Fine Arts: Music, Art, Film and Theater. WJU currently offers students a variety of co-curricular music opportunities including three choirs, the WJU Chorale and a pep band. The University will enhance its Fine Arts curriculum and instruction with money raised through this initiative, supplement the curriculum with concerts and lectures, enlarge the symphonic band, further develop its partnership with the River City Brass and support its underwriting of the College Concert Series of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra. In addition, the University will establish an endowed Chair of Fine Arts and host an artist-in-residence each year.
Fund-raising efforts will continue throughout 2012 and 2013 as the University further develops its plans, and it expects to have the Conservatory ready for student use in the fall of 2013. For more information about the conservatory, please contact Kathryn Kelly in the WJU Advancement Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.