Music Ministry History

Mother AlfonsMother Alfons Schmid

Mother Alfons  was one of foundresses of the School Sisters of St. Francis, and her love of music and art helped lay the foundation for the community’s music ministry. For her, music, art and spirituality were interconnected; music was a way to pray and also an expression of God.  She placed an intense emphasis on music and art at St. Joseph Convent, and wanted not only the best and most pure music for God, but also for every sister musician to have a true understanding of music by having access to every source and channel of learning. She was vital in the development of the Music Department at St. Joseph Convent, and a crowning achievement of her life was the building of St. Joseph Chapel, an architectural and acoustical treasure in which sacred music has come to life for almost a century.

Sister ClarissimaSister Clarissima Neumann

A Chicago native, Sister Clarissima entered the community in 1918 and followed Sister Cherubim as director of the Convent Choir. She also taught in the St. Joseph Convent Music Department, which later became part of Alverno College, and was a key figure in the musical/liturgical formation of thousands of School Sisters. Her choir was frequently asked to demonstrate the singing of Gregorian Chant, which was part of the sisters’ daily sung prayer at Mass. When Alverno College moved to its present campus, Sister Clarissima became director of the Music Department at St. Joseph Convent (1954-1966). The convent music faculty taught in both St. Joseph Convent High School (for aspirants) and in the music studios, offering lessons to youth and adult students.

Sister CherubimSister Cherubim Schaefer

Sister Cherubim was born to the organ-building Schaefer family of Slinger, Wisconsin. She entered the community in 1903 and studied under John Singenberger, a well-known professional church musician and teacher who helped bring the Caecilian movement in Church music from Germany to the United States. Sister Cherubim was a composer driven to create music that would lift people’s hearts to God. Under her direction and with the help of her arrangements and compositions, the Sisters’ Orchestra—which was formed at a time when it was unusual for women to play in orchestras—flourished and became renowned for its quality musicianship. A prolific composer, Sister Cherubim had more music in print in 1938 than any other sister living in the United States. Her contributions to music education and pedagogy at St. Joseph Convent, Alverno College of Music and for school music wherever our sisters were on mission were marked by excellence, dynamism, inventiveness and practicality.

Sister TheophaneSister Theophane Hytrek

Born in Stuart, Nebraska in 1915, Sister Theophane was received into the community in 1930 and studied composition and organ. She was an internationally renowned recitalist and composer who started teaching at Alverno College in 1941. Sister Theophane was actively involved in the National Catholic Music Educators Association (NCMEA) and other professional organizations, and at the same time received her doctorate with a major in composition from Eastman School of Music. After Vatican II, when there was a need for Church music written in the vernacular, Sister Theophane helped meet that need with her excellent compositions. With Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland, she initiated in 1982 the symposium for musicians and liturgists that allowed them to collaborate and exchange ideas about the impact of the liturgy on the spoken and sung prayer of the people. There were five sessions of the symposium between 1982 and 1992, from which came the Milwaukee Statement about the nature and quality of liturgical music in the United States, especially within the Roman Catholic tradition.  Sister Theophane continued to compose, teach and perform regularly until her death in 1992.