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Moreau Catholic High School blesses grounds for $10M music center

The upcoming facility will house the award-winning music ensembles at one of the Bay Area's most diverse Catholic schools.

Dr. Elizabeth Guneratne, president of Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward, California, speaks at a grounds blessing ceremony for the Center for Music and Band on May 6, 2024. (Nate Tinner-Williams)

HAYWARD, Calif. — Moreau Catholic High School, one of the most diverse Catholic schools in the Bay Area, blessed the ground this week where a new music building will soon rise, the fruit of an ongoing fundraising effort honoring the Holy Cross Brothers’ commitment to education in the East Bay.

Officials, trustees, stakeholders, alumni, and parents gathered on Monday afternoon for a Mass and ceremony marking progress in the private phase of the $4M campaign, which kicked off in the fall. Students from Moreau’s various music groups participated in the two events, including members of the chamber choir and jazz ensemble.

Students in the school’s musical arts programs currently do not have a separate space of their own but have nevertheless achieved local and statewide honors, including a recent performance at historic Yoshi's jazz club and an award-winning showing at the Music in the Parks festival last month at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Soon, their new home will be Moreau High’s Center for Music and Band, a state-of-the-art $10M facility due for completion by 2027.

“We have always been on holy ground here. We are always doing incredible work for transformation for the transformation of the hearts and minds of our young people. But we're not always building buildings,” said Moreau president Dr. Elizabeth Guneratne at the ceremony.

“Today, we embark on a journey that celebrates not only the beauty of melodies, but also the power of community and creativity,” added senior Wyatt Reams. “Let us come together with hearts full of anticipation, and gratitude for the harmony that will fill this space and the unity it will bring to all who gather here.”

The new space will be named in honor of the late Br Donald Blauvelt, one of the most prominent Holy Cross religious brothers to have served at the school. It was founded in 1965 by the order and the Diocese of Oakland to serve boys, and was the first school named after Blessed Basil Moreau, the founder of the Holy Cross family. The school became educational in 1969.

While the brothers no longer live or teach on campus, their charism lives on in the fourfold Holy Cross educational commitment to hope, respect, integrity, and family. Blauvelt, whose name will adorn the first new building at Moreau High in 40 years, was spoken of on Monday as a quintessential representative of such themes.

“Donald always said we're all in this together, and he meant that with all his heart. We are all Holy Cross educators, every single one of us, anyone involved with the school,” said Br Thomas A. Dziekan, superior of the Moreau Province based in Austin, Texas, and a former principal at Moreau High.

“We bring hope by changing the world through Christ's love. We value and respect others by seeing the face of Christ in everyone. We understand that we inspire integrity of heart and mind by being true to the Gospel in word and deed. We celebrate family by building a loving Holy Cross community. And all of this is open to all, and here we have a wonderfully diverse student body.”

The ceremony on Monday also honored band and orchestra director Ted Newton, who was on hand to see his jazz combo perform for the assembled guests. Newton has served at Moreau for nearly 40 years and could have a classroom named in his honor in the new building.

Several parents and alums were present to promote that goal as part of the fundraising push, including Kent Sheppard, an African American whose twin senior sons have been educated by Newton for most of their time at the school.

“I’m here as part of the donors because of Ted, because of how he handles the music program,” Sheppard told BCM. “He's a great mentor. My son no longer has him because he’s taking Chinese, but still goes up and visits Ted and helps him out. I don’t know how often teenagers do that.”

The Congregation of Holy Cross, which includes both priests and brothers, is noted as a pioneer in the field of music education in America, having founded at the University of Notre Dame the first college band in the country in 1845. They have gone on to make music a central part of their ministry at the various Holy Cross schools nationwide.

“That first Holy Cross school was dedicated to the art of bringing students to wholeness, with music and the arts being a fundamental part of that wholeness,” said Peter Francis Smith-Shelley, who teaches theology at Moreau.

“These are grounds where the heart and mind come together, and the arts and music, the voice, the heart. Finding your voice has been part of a Holy Cross education.”

Soon that ground will be broken for the new music building at Moreau, though the date is yet to be determined. The development team, led by Dr. Elizabeth Berkes, will first need to raise half of the $4M fundraising goal, and she says they are well on their way.

Prospective donors can support the campaign in a number of ways, and naming rights are included at multiple giving thresholds. More information can be found on the capital campaign website.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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