James-Peter Trares, O.P., B.M. in Liturgical Music ’10

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After recently moving to Rome, Italy, and beginning studies in spiritual theology at the Angelicum (the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas) in October, Father James-Peter Trares ’10 took some time to reflect back on his studies at his alma mater and to give us some details on the path that he has pursued since graduating 10 years ago.

What I appreciate the most from my time at Aquinas College, and especially in the music department, is how personalized it was. I found the department to be close-knit, a family of sorts. The atmosphere among the students was one of mutual support rather than competition, and I remain close friends with many of my classmates. During my time at Aquinas, I got to know the faculty well, and they worked with me to tailor the classes to meet my needs and goals. I could turn to them not just for help in class, but for personal and professional mentorship as well. Although I had come to Aquinas with limited training and experience, the music department saw my potential and enthusiasm and worked with me to become a well-rounded and competent liturgical musician by the time I finished the degree.

Because Aquinas is well known and respected in the region, I was connected with alumni and others working in the field, as well as with the local chapter of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, developing professional relationships that opened up the chance for valuable work experience in a variety of parishes and performance settings. Being a liturgical music intern at the Cathedral of St. Andrew was especially formative, giving me the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with some of the best musicians in the area.

The liturgical music program was what drew me to Aquinas (from the Cleveland, Ohio, area), and I found it to be just what I needed to become not only a competent keyboardist and director, but a trained liturgist with a solid foundation in theology, sacraments and scripture. I was exposed to the Church's broad musical tradition while learning how to apply that rich history to the practical realities of the contemporary parish in light of recent Church teaching. Because of the formation I received at Aquinas, today I am a confident, versatile liturgical musician, able to work with a variety of musical styles in a variety of settings.

Since graduating from Aquinas in 2010, life has taken me in directions I would never have imagined when I arrived on campus as a freshman. I took a detour from my original plans to be a parish musician in order to pursue a vocation as a Dominican priest (a vocation the AQ community nurtured). However, liturgical music remains a daily part of my life and ministry, and the formation I received at Aquinas has prepared me to apply my skills in a variety of ways. During my time as a seminarian, I was the choir director for our formation community. This involved coordinating daily Mass and Liturgy of the Hours, accompanying at the organ or piano, directing a schola for special liturgies, arranging and composing liturgical music, and planning and directing music for large gatherings such as Province Assemblies, Vows Ceremonies and Ordinations. I am now the chair of the Liturgical Commission of my Dominican Province, as we work to support and improve the liturgical and musical lives of our Dominican communities throughout the Midwest.

Since being ordained in 2017, I spent the first three years of my priesthood as a chaplain and theology professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. As a musically trained priest (a rare species indeed!), I not only sing when presiding at Mass but also apply the principles of pastoral liturgical leadership that I learned at Aquinas. As a campus minister, I have mentored and led student musicians at Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, Night Prayer and retreats. As a professor, I often bring music into my teaching, I guest lectured on liturgical music for seminarians at the St. Paul Seminary, and I had the opportunity to teach an entire undergraduate theology course on Catholic Sacred Music. Now I have transitioned back to being a student again, working toward a doctorate in Spiritual Theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome. There I am excited to deepen my understanding of the Church's and the Dominican Order's spiritual and liturgical traditions, while expanding my perspective through living, praying, and making music in a very international community. Because of the formation I received at Aquinas, today I am a confident, versatile liturgical musician, able to work with a variety of musical styles in a variety of settings.