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Meet Madera’s world class organist, Dr. John Romeri

For The Madera Tribune

Dr. John Romeri.


Little did Mrs. Lois Worthington, music teacher and choir director at Madera High School, know that she was pointing one of her students to greatness when she sent him to music camp at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. In 1967, John Romeri attended the four-week summer camp and returned to his home in Madera more inspired than ever with his love of music, especially the organ.

Today that young man, Dr. John Romeri, has gained a national reputation in the world of sacred music, and is the Director of Music and Organist for the renowned Christ Cathedral, formerly the Crystal Cathedral, in Garden Grove, California.

In an interview with The Tribune, Romeri gave his former Madera High teacher credit for providing him with the opportunity to gain a greater appreciation for the organ. Not only did he participate with the advanced choir and all-camp chorus under some of the finest conductors in the United States at that summer camp, he also studied with the University’s professor of organ.

At the end of the camp, he was presented with a scholarship and the award of best male vocalist for the 1967 season. When he came home for his senior year at Madera High, he knew in which direction his life would take. In following it, Romeri has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, a list of which would fill the pages of this newspaper.

After graduating from St. Joachims and Madera High School, he entered the University of the Pacific in 1968, graduating in 1972, with a Bachelor of Music degree in Organ Performance, Magna cum Laude. In 1974, he earned the Master of Sacred Music degree from Westminster Choir College, Princeton, New Jersey, and married his wife, Karen. (They have two children and four grandchildren.)

Romeri’s numerous awards include the following:

• 1996, “Full-time Pastoral Musician of the Year” by the National Association of Pastoral Musicians at their national convention in Stamford, Connecticut.

• 1998, Presented an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Lindenwood University, St. Louis.

• 1999, “Outstanding Choir Director” by the Missouri Choral Directors Association.

• 2010, with wife, Karen, the Avis Blewett Award and “Great Music Award” by St. Louis Cathedral Concerts

• 2019, Paul Creston Award, presented by St. Malachy Parish, The Actor’s Chapel.

Romeri became The first Music Director for Christ Cathedral in 2015, his fourth cathedral assignment. Previously he served in Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Philadelphia.

Choirs under his direction have performed throughout the United States, Canada and on many European tours. He frequently conducts the annual Epiphany Children’s Choir Festival in Rome, Italy. Participating are hundreds of young singers performing with the famed Sistine Choir for a Papal Mass on the Feast of the Epiphany.

Romeri is also the host of the radio program, “Music from the Tower,” featuring both sacred and classical music. He is the editor of the Cathedral Choral Series and the Cathedral Organ Series from Morning Star Music Publishers.

Romeri is a Commander with the Order of St. John and a Knight Commander with Star in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

It comes as no surprise that Romeri’s love for organ music has led him over the years to help in crusades to rescue pipe organs from closing churches and move them to a places where they could be appreciated or restored. He is overseeing the restoration of a world class pipe organ, the historic Hazel Wright organ, the fifth largest organ in the world.

Today, while the churches are not allowed to hold services, Romeri has more time to reflect on his life, and some of those reflections are about Madera. True enough, Dr. Romeri has made his mark in the world, and this certainly includes Madera. As one flips through the pages of The Tribune, Romeri emerges again and again, for instance:

April 21, 1960 — Mr. and Mrs. Renzo Romeri and son John attended a party;

July 11, 1963 — John Romeri attended National Convention of YMI;

Aug. 13, 1963 — soloist, accompanied at the organ by John Romeri;

Dec. 20, 1963 — High Mass service is to begin with carols on the organ by John Romeri;

Sept. 11, 1964 — soloist, was accompanied on the organ by John Romeri;

Dec. 10, 1965 — MUHS A Capella Choir To Sing Sunday Evening, Cathy Lesan will provide narration. John Romeri will serve as choir accompanist;

Sept, 16, 1966 — John Romeri of 425 N. H St., was the top prize winner at the well-attended Harvest Festival. Romeri went home with a color television;

July 19, 1967 — JOHN ROMERI, son of Mr. and Mrs. R. ROMERI, has recently returned from Pacific Music Camp;

Dec. 8, 1967,— Jo Lyn Roberts, accompanied John Romeri who sang “Sing Hosanna;”

March 15, 1968 — John Romeri honored at the Soroptimist Club;

July 10, 1968 — University of the Pacific, Cathy Lesan and John Romeri have been granted Honors at entrance to that school.

Central to Romeri’s thinking seems to be the apologia, “music transports us beyond our daily lives.” He maintains that the arts are something the Catholic Church has fostered forever.

“We’ve created great art from the Sistine chapel to the music of Mozart,” Romeri said. “The Church says that music is the greatest of the arts. Not only is it great art, but it carries the Word of God.”

This writer agrees, and to be sure, Dr. John Romeri has made his mark. The world will not forget him; neither will Madera.

Thank you, Charlotte Lesan.

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