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Remembering Ms. Suzanne Senese

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Ms. Senese conducting the student choir.

Ms. Senese conducting the student choir.

Ms. Senese conducting the student choir.

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On Friday, September 27, members of the choir left school and donned their robes to sing at Divine Infant church during a mass. That it was the funeral for their beloved Choir Director Suzanne Senese made it a somber trip.

Last Tuesday Ms. Senese passed away after complications from a hip surgery done last summer. She was 67.

Senese was born December 6th, 1950, and grew up with her Italian family, where music became integral to her being. By the age of five, she was taking piano lessons, and soon after began taking ballet, tap-dancing, and vocal training.

After graduating from Divine Infant Grade School, Senese attended Immaculate Heart of Mary High School. She continued her musical vocation through college, graduating from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in Music Education/Vocal, and getting her Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts from Columbia College Chicago.

Senese then spent almost 25 years teaching choir for Catholic high schools, including St. John Vianney, St. Pius X, Seton Academy and Regina Dominican High School, before finding her home at Fenwick in 1999.

Throughout her expansive career and for her accomplishments, Ms. Senese was honored with the Archdiocese of Chicago Heart of the School Award in the Arts Category, was listed in the biographical dictionaries Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who of America, Who’s Who in American Education, and Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. She was a member of National Association of Music Education, American Choral Directors Association, Illinois Music Educators Association, National Catholic Education Association, Pueri Cantores, Art Institute Chicago, and served as Chapter Advisor of the TRI-M Music Honor Society.

During her 19 years of service to the Fenwick community, Senese’s impact on the arts department and the entire school is incalculable. Aside from being commonly known as the woman who single handedly built the choir to its current state, she developed relationships with her students, boosting morale one person at a time. Senese taught men’s chorus, women’s chorus, and fine arts.

Choral Director Melanie Lamoureux has been working with Ms. Senese since she started in the fall of 2012. She and Senese collaborated to further develop the choral program, from planning concerts to just bouncing ideas off one another. Describing Senese, Lamoureux said that she was “so passionate about what she did. Teaching was everything. She was committed to seeing every challenge through.”

Senese’s legacy lives on not only to the changes she made to Fenwick choir, but to her students’ lives.

English teacher Ms. Mary Marcotte taught next door to Senese, then a new addition to the staff. Over Senese’s time teaching choir, Marcotte began to admire her depth of knowledge in singing, instrumentals, and music history.

“She devoted herself to presenting flawless performances in singing stage performances,” said Marcotte. “She was the ‘architect’ of the choir development…She brought out the best of her students with her detailed instruction.”

Marcotte most remembers Senese as someone who “lived her art, and loved her art.”

In her time away from school, Senese loved mystery novels, the White Sox, and crossword puzzles, as well as Tony Bennett; she attended a concert of his on every major birthday.

Though Senese may not be with us anymore, her legacy is evident daily. She has changed Fenwick forever, as well as inspiring hundreds of students from around the Chicagoland area.

As Marcotte noted, Ms. Senese will be remembered as someone who lived all things music, and continues to live in all things music.

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Remembering Ms. Suzanne Senese