LATROBE, PA – Associate professor of music Thomas Octave was awarded the 2021 Boniface Wimmer Faculty Award at Saint Vincent College’s virtual spring Honors Convocation, recorded on May 5 in the historic Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica.
Named in honor of the founder of Saint Vincent College and Archabbey and pioneer of Benedictine monasticism in the U.S., the Wimmer Faculty Award recognizes a senior faculty member who has demonstrated sustained excellence.
Octave has been a member of the Saint Vincent College faculty since 2006 and is currently chair of the College’s Department of Fine Arts in the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. He teaches a wide range of courses, covering subjects including music appreciation, spirituality of music, musical theater, opera and the art and music of western civilization, while he teaches private vocal lessons for undergraduate students.
Responsible for overseeing all opera productions and musical events on campus, he is adviser and the conductor of the Saint Vincent College Singers, has served as orchestra conductor at numerous Saint Vincent College Summer Theatre productions and is director of the Saint Vincent College Concert Series, which presents world-class performances by internationally-acclaimed artists across a variety of genres.
“Saint Vincent College has been blessed to have Professor Octave’s many talents,” said Dr. John J. Smetanka, vice president for academic affairs and academic dean, “including his baritone voice, his skills on the piano and his expertise as a choral conductor, grace our musical studios, classrooms, Performing Arts Center and events such as these for more than 15 years.”
“I am grateful to God for the opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of the Saint Vincent community,” said Octave. “To think that you can share with so many people what you love to do, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Along with his extensive role within the Saint Vincent community, Octave is extremely active throughout the musical community across the region. He serves as Diocesan Director of Sacred Music for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg and musical director and conductor of the Westmoreland Choral Society and the Bodiography Contemporary Ballet. He is associate spiritual director with the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality and has served as guest conductor for numerous elementary, junior high and high school choral festivals across the region.
Octave, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in vocal performance from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master of Music in vocal performance from Duquesne University, had never given much thought to entering education prior to his arrival at Saint Vincent College.
“My mother was an educator for 38 years,” he said, “teaching first grade. In the summertime, every year, she’d have my brother and me help with setting up her classroom, and I’d say to myself, ‘I never want to be a teacher.’ Yet, God had other plans.
“I made lots of plans in my life to do many different things,” he continued, “and the one thing I never planned on was becoming an educator. I planned, and God laughed, and He found me a place at Saint Vincent, for which I’m eternally grateful to have shared my life and my joy with this community.”
Smetanka noted that Octave’s passion for and joy of music has positively impacted countless students, both past and present.
“A student in his choir shared,” said Smetanka, “‘I have been singing classically since elementary school and Professor Octave is the best voice teacher I ever had.’ Another observed that, ‘his passion for music excites me and his teaching has made me a better singer.’ A first-year student in Music Appreciation said, ‘Professor Octave taught me more than music and history – he helped me to appreciate life.’ Yet another shared, ‘I was frightened to take a music course, but Professor Octave challenged me and allowed me to see that there are many ways to appreciate music.’”
For more than 15 years, Octave’s teaching, mentorship, leadership and passion for music has influenced hundreds of students, colleagues and friends in the Saint Vincent community and he is grateful to this community for allowing him to continue to share his joy.
“I’m grateful to my colleagues,” he said, “who each day, enliven my work, inspire me and challenge me. I’m thankful for this community that challenges me, consoles me and pushes me forward. But, most of all, I’m thankful to the students of Saint Vincent who show me new life and new joy daily. Even during this time of pandemic, we’ve been a resilient community and to be a part of that is one of the greatest gifts of my life.”
A native of Monessen, Octave and his wife, Sara, reside in Lower Burrell.
PHOTO 1: Thomas Octave (left) is presented the Boniface Wimmer Faculty Award by Saint Vincent College president Father Paul R. Taylor, O.S.B.
PHOTO 2: Thomas Octave delivers remarks upon being awarded the Boniface Wimmer Faculty Award in the historic Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica.