Francis Cathlina joins UofM School of Music

When Francis Cathlina decided he wanted to pursue a career at a public institution in a thriving city, he knew that he’d found a new home at The University of Memphis.

Francis Cathlina will join the University of Memphis Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music this fall as Visiting Director of Choral Activities.

“Francis Cathlina brings a wealth of talents, accomplishments, and experience to our faculty as a Visiting Professor and Director of Choral Activities this coming fall,” said Dr. Kevin Sanders, Director of the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music. “His proven commitment to his students’ musical development is inspirational and we look forward to an exciting and productive year in the Vocal Arts area.”

Cathlina’s unique background in choral conducting and music education includes time as a public school teacher in Texas, as well as Director of Music for Horizon Unitarian Universalist Church. As Director of Choirs for Centennial High School in Frisco, Texas, he directed six choral ensembles and taught AP Music Theory, with a 100% student pass rate on the AP exam. At Rouse High School in Leander, Texas, Cathlina directed seven choral ensembles and served as the choreographer of the “IntoneNation” show choir.

“As a member of the search committee, it was such a pleasure to watch Cathlina work,” said Dr. Albert Nguyen, Director of Bands with the Rudi Scheidt School of Music. He was genuinely interested in making an impact on our students, and I was inspired by his artistry. In a very short amount of time, he was able to harness the students’ creative power and elevate their performance – and he did this over Zoom. It is very exciting to think about what our students will experience and learn when he arrives on campus.”

The bulk of Cathlina’s scholarship focuses on choral conducting and the application of vocal pedagogy in rehearsal, which includes marrying the idea of solo singing with choral singing, as well as creating longevity in singers’ voices and positioning them for jobs in the future.

“As we all know, the task of finding a job in music in going to be more difficult in the near future due to the pandemic,” said Cathlina. “The field basically took a step back, and now more than ever, there is a desire and need for singers to be flexible in their approach to building a career. For many, that will manifest in solo opportunities, as well as professional choral singing. For that reason, most of my scholarship combines the two.”

Cathlina, who was raised in a Vietnamese household and underwent several years of ESL training throughout elementary school to learn the English language, brings with him a strong emphasis on community building to the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music.

“I’m so grateful for that,” he said. “Because now, I can stand in the middle of my Eastern upbringing and Western education and apply the best of both worlds to my work. One of the things I remember constantly hearing from my parents are phrases such as ‘What is best for the family?’ and ‘What is best for all of us?’ That sense of community over the individual carries over to my work. Of course, I want each student to bring their wholes selves to our work, but also, we must look at ways that we can all come together to augment the ensemble. There’s magic that happens when people from different walks of life become deeply invested in serving the ensemble with their distinctive gifts.”

Cathlina earned his Bachelor of Music Education degree from Baylor University in 2014 and Master of Music in Choral Conducting from Michigan State University in 2019. He is in the process of earning a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of North Texas, with an anticipated graduation date of December 2021. In addition, he earned the designation of 2021 National Semi-Finalist for American Prize in Conducting for his work with the UNT Men’s Chorus.

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