Sister Jo Ann Dold plays piano

Music for a Better World:
Sr. Jo Ann Teaches Piano

You might say that music and a keyboard have been attached to the soul and hands of Jo Ann Dold, OP, since she was a little girl. She shared, “I always loved the music. I always thought that one should make the music beautiful. To me, sound is the same as what a writer does with words or a painter does with light and color and what they see. It’s the sound and the hearing and the speaking. And I thought all of them should be beautiful.”

Jo Ann’s mother, Catherine Dold, always loved music, too, but never had the opportunity for lessons, so she made sure that all six Dold children had piano lessons. Catherine often said that “the piano never stopped playing” in their farmhouse. Jo Ann took lessons all through her elementary years as a boarder at the school run by the Benedictine Sisters in Epiphany, SD.

At St. Clara Academy, Sinsinawa, Jo Ann was under the tutelage of Marie Antoinette Hogan, OP (1896–1963). “She was excellent, and I loved her dearly,” Jo Ann said. Marie Antoinette introduced Jo Ann to all kinds of music that she never had the opportunity to play. There was a clear routine to Marie Antoinette’s teaching: scales, chords, cadences, Bach, Beethoven or classical, romantic, and then a contemporary piece. After Jo Ann’s freshman year, she became an aspirant with the Congregation. Then she was sent to Rosary College, River Forest, IL, to earn a Bachelor of Arts in music education. “I had Sister Gertruda—Genevieve Pinion.” Next, Jo Ann was sent to UW-Madison to study for a master’s in education, specializing in music. “That’s where I got my education in music, especially in teaching. I’m very grateful for that,” Jo Ann reflected.

With all those years of study, one might assume that Jo Ann is a master of the keyboard. She humbly states her truth, saying, “I’m not a concert pianist. I’m much more of a teacher. I’m very happy with the gifts I have. And very happy with the opportunities I have had and that opened—sometimes without [pursuing them].”

One opportunity surfaced while she was teaching music at St. Peter School, Oshkosh, WI. Father Paul Koszarek asked her to be the parish liturgist. Jo Ann said, “I can’t do that.” He asked why. She said that her community expects that she be trained in what she does. Impressed, Fr. Paul asked Jo Ann to find out if she could study. As a result, she spent the next six summers at St. John University, Collegeville, MN, studying for another master’s, this time in liturgical studies.

Years later, she was living in Wrightstown, WI, and helping Caroline Sullivan, OP, at the Bridge-Between Retreat Center. Jo Ann was asked to help teach piano lessons to a group of Hmong and Hispanic children who attended the Coming Home Project through Brown County (surrounding Green Bay). She was supported in this endeavor by the Congregation’s Research/Writing/Creative Works fund. She called her program Music for a Better World (MFBW) and supplied music and portable keyboards for the students to take home for practicing. Jo Ann relayed, “It seemed to fit our mission of helping the economically challenged. I never charged for a lesson.” She spent eight years there.

When the Coming Home Project was phasing out, Jo Ann asked some friends she knew from St. Clare Parish in Wrightstown if they knew of any children who might want to take piano lessons. They began with their own son and brought other children who were involved in the Hispanic program at the parish. Others joined as well. Congregation funding helped MFBW continue.

The next locale for MFBW was Sinsinawa Mound two years ago. Jo Ann brought her keyboards and music with her and asked about giving lessons. Connections were made with Hispanic families from the tristate area, and she began teaching. As of this writing, lessons are on hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jo Ann said she has been enriched by the beautiful families she met through MFBW. She will be forever grateful to the Congregation for their support. Teaching remains her gift. “To see the children get excited when they catch on or get to know something . . . they just light up! I have to watch that I have patience. As I get older, I want them to learn it fast. It takes time. I love to see them accomplish—no matter what it is: three notes, 10 notes, a little song. Or if they come in and say, ‘Oh, I did this!’ That’s the fun part about teaching. You see people grow, and you see people like it. Teaching is just a tremendous challenge and a tremendous opportunity.”

At Sinsinawa, Jo Ann also accompanies for prayer services and works with Gail Jagroop, OP, who plays the steel pan drum. Not only does music make this a better world, so do Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa like Jo Ann.

Click for Spectrum May 2020 Index

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