Mary Catherine Salo will be inducted into the Florida Vocal Association Hall of Fame on Friday, July 26, during the FVA Summer Conference. She is about to begin her 29th year teaching vocal music at Coral Springs High School (Broward County). Essentially her first and only vocal music teaching position, she is so proud to be a member of the Florida Vocal Association for all those years and to call District 15 home.
From Wheelwright, Massachusetts, Mary Catherine is the oldest of five children. She attended St. Aloysius Catholic School, Quabbin Regional Jr./Sr. High School and the New England Conservatory of Music where she earned two bachelor degrees, one in Music Education and the other in Applied Voice in 1979.
In high school, Mary Catherine sang in the Worcester Concert Choir under the direction of Henry Hokans which specialized in treble choir music, particularly orchestral features such as Carmina Burana, Britten’s War Requiem and Mahler’s 8th where she made her Carnegie Hall debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Howard Swan, Ivan Trussler, Frank Battisti and Lorna Cooke DeVaron were all inspirations. At the Conservatory, she had many incomparable choral experiences – singing with the Boston Symphony both at Symphony Hall and at Tanglewood, premiering many modern works of the time and perhaps the most sublime – being sent with a colleague to sing duets for a luncheon at a private home in Cambridge. The home belonged to Randall Thompson and as host he decided to coach them before allowing them to present the program to his guests (!)
After matriculating from NEC she headed for Florida to begin what ended up being a ten-year stint of performing that included earning her Equity card, dinner and regional theater, several national tours and finally several years on the five star cruise ship Sagafjord. This took her around the world several times and introduced her to the good looking drummer who would become her husband. Married in 1988, Steve and MC settled in Florida in 1989 where he was already a teacher in Broward County.
Once on land, Mary Catherine taught in several alternative programs for a short time before beginning at Coral Springs High School. It was a whole new world and fortunately the choral director who had just departed left a note directing her to the file cabinet and the Florida Vocal Association handbook located there. It was like finding the Rosetta Stone since the skills and knowledge needed for success with the All State Musicianship Test and the process of the performance assessment laid out a curriculum that was stunning in its helpfulness to a new teacher looking for direction in a high school larger than her entire town. The collegiality of the District 15 choral educators was also a wonderful thing. She began with a chorus of 30 and four classes of theater. The assistant principal who hired her said she could recruit throughout the year and once she had built her program, the school would hire a theater teacher – so she did and the school did! She introduced American Musical Theater and with the AB block produced two major musicals with close to 200 students each year. And of course these theater students quickly learned that they would receive useful vocal training if they took chorus as well! These early strategies have evolved into a vocal music program with five levels of choir, several piano classes involving close to 400 students and someone else producing the musicals! Four chorus concerts a year in school, numerous outside performances and each level of chorus participating in MPA each year has led to a very full schedule and thousands of students of all levels and abilities participating in vocal music experiences.
She was named the Coral Springs High School Teacher of the Year in 20??, was one of the first teachers in the nation to achieve National Board Certification in 2002 and renewed the certification in 2012. She was also honored to be invited to conduct the United States Youth Ensembles Chorus in their 19 day tour of Europe in both 2003 and 2005.
Mary Catherine is a 28-year member of the Florida Vocal Association where she served as President (2009-2011) and as the District 15 Chair (2005-2007). While FVA President-Elect, she served on the Board of the Florida School Music Association (FSMA), and as FVA President served on the Board of the Florida Music Educators Association as the FVA representative, and later as the Student Activities Chair. She has coordinated numerous All State choruses and she is also an original member of the FMEA Conference Planning Committee, serving as an at-large representative for vocal and jazz interests.
Mary Catherine has been married to Steve for 30 years, happy to spend 10 months a year in Boynton Beach, but even happier to spend two months in Fryeburg, Maine
Mary Catherine has requested that “If Music be the Food of Love” by David Dickau be sung in her honor at the FVA Awards Ceremony on Friday, July 26. The piece will be conducted by her friend and Broward County colleague Bradley Jack Franks.