Ahern: Musician for St. Barnabas gives free concert
BY PATTI AHERN Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org February 20, 2014 2:28PM
Alexandre “Sandro” Tsomaia, associate music director of St. Barnabas Parish, and violinist Jaime Gorgojo will give a free concert at 3 p.m. Feb. 23 at St. Barnabas Parish, 10134 S. Longwood Ave., in Chicago's Beverly community. | Supplied photo
Updated: March 24, 2014 6:11AM
When Alexandre “Sandro” Tsomaia began to study music in his native country of Georgia, little did he expect that he would leave home at 13, meet a pope or become an assistant musical director for a parish on the South Side of Chicago.
Yet, Tsomaia did all of those things. Today, he works for St. Barnabas Parish, 10134 Longwood Drive, in the Beverly community of Chicago, but is also pursuing his career in music, a dream he has had since he was a young boy in his native land.
Tsomaia, who plays piano at all Masses for the church, is going to have a special classical music concert at St. Barnabas that will feature works by Mozart and Beethoven as well as music by Irish, Georgian and Spanish composers. It will be held today at 3 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Performing with Tsomaia will be violinist Jaime Gorgojo.
Tsomaia’s journey to the United States happened by coincidence. An American couple traveling in Georgia happened to hear him playing the piano and felt compelled to tell him about the famous Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan.
“It just happened by accident,” Tsomaia, 29, said. “I was just talking to American people, practicing my English by talking to them. I was 13 years old.”
The American couple made a strong impression on Tsomaia, so as they suggested he applied to Interlochen, was accepted and began his American experience.
“I was given a full scholarship (to attend the summer camp). It was difficult for my mother and for my piano teacher, but they knew I would not have a second opportunity for this and so I made the right choice for me,” Tsomaia said.
“I was super excited to come. There were cultural barriers, though, because it was difficult speaking. I had to take English classes, and it was hard to be so far away from my family, but this experience made me mature.”
Tsomaia’s musical experience at Interlochen was just the beginning. The pianist performed on National Public Radio’s “From the Top” show, which celebrates young classical musicians and has an audience of more than 700,000 listeners. He also performed at the famous Newport Music Festival in Rhode Island, where he was invited back three times.
In 2002, he had the opportunity to play for Pope John Paul II, an experience that he speaks of with pride.
“I played for the pope, and then he gave me a rosary that day,” Tsomaia said. “It was an amazing experience.”
In between his concerts and performances, Tsomaia managed to earn a bachelor’s degree in performance from Indiana University and a master’s degree in music performance at DePaul University.
“Last year, I got to Chicago and began looking for jobs,” he said. “I wanted to be in the United States, and I saw an opening at St. Barnabas and applied. I worked at a church throughout college, and I was hired.”
Kitty Ryan, the pastoral associate and director of music and liturgy for the parish, wrote in an email that Tsomaia’s “outstanding talent and delightful personality were a winning combination.
“After the interview and audition, I knew Sandro would be perfect as a music minister at St. Barnabas,” Ryan wrote. “Jaime Gorgojo, who was introduced to us by Sandro, has also become a part of the St. Barnabas music ministry.
“Since the liturgical music we do at St. Barnabas is only one genre of music that Sandro and Jaime are accomplished in, we thought we would give them the opportunity to perform other types of music which they have mastered by having a concert. They love what they do and are very excited about sharing their gift of music with the local community.”
Gorgojo, who is originally from Madrid, Spain, said he and Tsomaia met in 2003.
”We play a lot of recitals together, and we will have some fun pieces for the concert. We will perform Mozart and Beethoven, but we will also have things that will be fast and passionate and things that reflect where we both are from,” Gorgojo, who has a doctoral degree from Indiana University, said.
Tsomaia said he was eager for people to attend the concert, particularly the people of the parish.
“I enjoy very much working for St. Barnabas. It is very special and welcoming and generous,” he said. “The people at St. Barnabas love good music and they care for it, they love hearing music.
“Fame is not what I am trying for. I am trying to do good music. I am happy with music, and ... I’d like to do more musical events at St. Barnabas. I hope to touch people with my music.”
For more information about St. Barnabas Parish, visit www.stbarnabasparish.org.