Steve Caruso: A Remarkable Journey as Saint Patrick’s Music Director

July 1, 2016

 

by Glenn Krzeminski

Steve Caruso has begun the next stanza of his life.  He had been a constant at Saint Patrick’s Parish in Pelham as its music director for 15 years amid many changes in the pastors.  He was that familiar face that parishioners grew accustomed to seeing each week.  Among his many responsibilities, Steve played piano and sang at the 4 p.m. mass on Saturday and the two Sunday morning masses.  The musical accompaniment he created for the various masses, along with the choir he led, provided a seamless and beautiful setting for the gospel.

“I learned at a very young age how to entertain, how to do what I did here because I have done it for years,” said Steve, who retired this June as the music director.  “I always did music somewhere whether it be here (Saint Patrick’s), in high school, in college.  Saint Paul’s (which he attended as a child) was a school where when you graduated the director said it was the equivalent of a Bachelor of Arts degree in music because of the nature of the curriculum.”

And yet, Steve’s talents extend beyond music.  Before he entered pharmaceutical sales, Steve worked in college admissions and later at the Boston Herald writing sports stories.  Many parishioners were unaware that throughout his stint as music director, Steve worked full time for Lahey Health as the regional manager for physicians in the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire.  He currently oversees and assists around 800 physicians in the area, specialists and primary care.  Coming from a medical family made it an easy transition for him to the pharmaceutical industry.

Steve’s introduction to music came early.  He picked up the accordion at the age of four.  While growing up, he played many percussion instruments, including the recorder, guitar, and drums, along with the piano.  He learned how to read music well at a very young age and, as a result, in the fifth grade he auditioned for Saint Paul’s Choir School in Cambridge, Mass.  In order to get into the school you had to sing a very difficult song, then you had to march to show that you understood rhythm, and you had to be able to read confidently from the sanctuary.  He attended Saint Paul’s for four music-filled years.  Amazingly, Steve estimates that he performed in about 1,500 concerts during his childhood.

In addition to his musical ability, he also had to demonstrate academic aptitude.  He received a scholarship, so his parents did not have to pay his tuition, but, in return, he had to give the school his time and talent.  While at the school, Steve had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sing for Pope John Paul II in 1979.

After being at Saint Patrick’s for a decade and a half, Steve shared this observation, “To be successful as a music director you have to be able to collaborate with the priests, the deacons, with religious education, and with the office.”  When Rev. Bob Guillemette took over as pastor in 2003, the two would meet on Friday nights at the rectory to collaborate on homilies and pick the music for each mass.

Some of his fondest memories at Saint Pat’s took place when Father Bob was the parish priest.  They had a great relationship that became much more than just the bond a priest and a music director would have; they became lifelong friends.

“Fifteen years is a lot of time for a lot of things.  From the time Father Bob came until today I have done my best to do what I can for this community,” Steve said.

He has been married to his beloved wife, Anne-Marie, for 21 years.  She has been the unsung hero behind the scenes throughout his musical career.  Originally from Boston, Steve has lived in Pelham with his wife for the last 16 years.

“My faith is the strongest thing I have outside of the love of my wife,” Steve said.

Steve has had many profound accomplishments in music, but the thing he is most proud of is a CD he recorded.  The purpose of the CD was to raise awareness and money for the homeless.  All of the proceeds from the CD went to homeless people in the Pelham and Salem area.

As it pertains to raising awareness for the homeless, Shantytown was one of Steve’s favorite service events among many over the years.  As the coordinator of Shantytown, Cheryl Brunelle asked Steve to lead the songs at the opening prayer service.  The annual event advocated for and brought attention to the plight of the homeless and food-insecure population.  Without hesitation, he agreed to do so, gathered a few choir members and continued to participate year after year.  “I was touched when Steve also took it upon himself to compose and sing the Shantytown song (that appeared on his CD) which highlights the experiences and struggles of a disadvantaged population,” she said.

As for his musical pursuits, they extend outside the church.  He is involved in two bands.  Muldoon Park Band is formed with people from the Saint Patrick’s choir.  All of the MPB participants are from Pelham with the exception of the drummer who’s from Windham.  They do a variety of music from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.  He is a lead singer in another band, the Shadow Band, which has four members; they perform classic rock.

For Steve Caruso music and faith have been intertwined throughout his life.  It might be harder for parishioners to adjust to him not sitting there at the piano bench, than it will be for Steve to adjust to the next stanza of his remarkable and creativity-driven life.