Paul Salamunovich, the Maestro
Paul Salamunovich passed away on April 3, 2014. He was professor of music and choral activities at LMU and director of the L.A. Master Chorale.
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By Joseph Wakelee-Lynch
Paul Salamunovich was a legendary figure in almost every part of his life: professor, mentor, choral music director, conductor, choir director and parish member.
When Salamunovich passed away on April 3, 2014, his legacy was noted in publications ranging from his parish bulletin to the Hollywood Reporter and the Los Angeles Times.
Not only is it difficult to overestimate Salamunovich’s impact on the U.S. choral tradition and sacred music, it’s challenging to even describe it fully: professor of music and director of choral activities at Loyola University and LMU from 1964 to 1991; 10 years as director of L.A. Master Chorale; recipient of a Papal Knighthood in the Order of St. Gregory the Great from Pope Paul VI; responsible for choral music in more than 100 feature films, including “The Godfather.” He did all this, and much more, while raising a family with his wife, Dottie, and directing choirs at St. Charles Borromeo, where they were members for more than 60 years.
Salamunovich was recruited to Loyola University in 1964 by Richard Trame, S.J., who wanted to improve the quality of the university’s choral music. He is credited with raising the level of music-making on campus to the highest form of academic excellence, bringing national renown to the Loyola and LMU Choruses.
In the Archives and Special Collections Department of the William H. Hannon Library is a 1976 interview with Salamunovich conducted by a student named Daniel Pasini ’77. Salamunovich told Pasini that he fell in love with singing in choirs when he and his family moved to Hollywood in 1940. There he joined the choir of Blessed Sacrament at the invitation of a parish priest. Salamunovich said the greatest thing about singing “was the expression of religious ideas… It was the beauty of prayer.”
If his life was all about sharing the music he loved, then Salamunovich probably summed it up best himself. Many conductors, he told Pasini, have know-how and expertise, “but they seem to retain it only for themselves… they lack the ability to get it across and share it with other people.” Paul Salamunovich lacked none of that ability: he was among the first group inducted into the Faculty Hall of Fame.
This article originally appeared in LMU Magazine.