PIPE DREAMS: From Prout to Vatican, and a brush with Mozart
Schneider’s escape from Italy came three months before he completed the requirements for his bachelor’s degree. Instead of quitting, and with the support of his family, the conservatory and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, he is one concert away from graduating. Here is some of what they did:
His parents bought a small Italian organ for him to use at their South Kingstown home.
He finished his classwork and music lessons remotely.
He was able to practice and perform on the 6,235-pipe Casavant Frères organ at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence.
He continued organ lessons with his professor, a Benedictine monk in Switzerland who commuted to Rome but now teaches via Skype.
Schneider has applied for a master’s program in organ performance at the Zurich University of the Arts. He performed his audition from the cathedral in Providence. He plans an intensive course in German before school starts in September.
He has also applied for a student visa from Switzerland.
His father’s family is Jewish, he said, and his mother comes from Methodists. Until he turned 13, his mother took his older brother, his younger sister and him to a Unitarian church. He liked it.
How a boy from a Jewish-Protestant family would go to Prout, convert to Catholicism, sing at the cathedral in Providence and study sacred music in Rome at a Vatican-connected conservatory is unlikely but not impossible.
He was enrolled at Prout because his parents, Steve, an OB-GYN doctor at South County Hospital and Kelly, a real estate agent at Mott & Chace, had liked how the private Catholic school in South Kingstown worked out for Nathan’s brother, now 23.
“My first exposure to Catholicism was when I was 14, we had religion class.” He also had music, and Prout’s music teacher, Philip Faraone, is the organist at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.
Faraone invited him to sing with the cathedral choir, and along with Msgr. Anthony Mancini, who is music director there, encouraged him to pursue studying the organ. He was invited to play at the cathedral when he was home for Christmas and Easter.
Schneider wanted to convert to Catholicism, and he succeeded at the age of 16. Faraone became his godfather.
Schneider hopes to begin his two-year master’s program in Zurich in September. After that, he would like to be a music director for a church, consider getting a doctoral degree, teach college students and spend his life wholly immersed in music that lifts the soul.