Kodály Center improves documentation of historical folk songs

The University’s Kodály Center for Music Education has been receiving lots of press recently for its plans to update the American Folk Song Collection website—the only site with recordings of traditional folk songs and their transcriptions—with additional content and improved functioning. You can read more about it in articles published by the San Francisco Chronicle and KQED.

The center was founded on the Holy Names campus in 1969 and teaches students pedagogical strategies inspired by Hungarian composer and educator Zoltan Kodály (1882–1967), who catalogued folk songs and emphasized the importance of music in the intellectual, emotional, physical, and social development of children.

The website’s song database will double in size from 350 songs to more than 700 songs. Songs that are underrepresented on the site will be added, broadening the site’s coverage of geographical regions, ethnic groups, and song types—for example, sea chanteys, spirituals, and ballads. New material will include Spanish songs and songs from the Library of Congress.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has granted HNU $75,000 that will be applied to this project. The website was originally created with the support of a previous foundation grant.


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Alumna profile: Angela Pirrone Sandri ’63

Angela Pirrone Sandri graduated from the College of Holy Names in 1963 and celebrated her 50th reunion last fall. In a 2013 interview, she recalled the impact that Holy Name’s commitment to social justice and academic freedom made on her.

“It (i)s the kind of thing that … remains with you over the years, the way the nuns really cared about the community and also their students,” Pirrone Sandri said. “You weren’t just there to learn about some particular subject. You were there to learn about life.”

Pirrone Sandri, who studied literature, drama, and speech, remembers attending a conference at Dominican University with other Holy Names’ students that opened with a statement that drama in Catholic schools should only be related to religion. The nuns at Dominican University felt that the students should not perform any plays that did not have to do with the saints’ lives or similar issues.

“We decided we were not going to stand for that. So we got up and left,” she said. The late Sister Claire Madeline, who served at that time as chairperson of the Holy Names’ literature department, supported the students’ choice. Pirrone Sandri said that Sister Claire was a wonderful mentor.

“Her attitude about learning was (to teach) the whole person,” she said. “The (Sisters) led you to find what it was that you wanted to do.”

Read the full story here.

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HNU historical mural in Hester Building

Check out the historical mural in the Michael and Maureen Hester Administration Building that documents HNU’s story—from the arrival of the first Sisters to the establishment of the college and its relocation to the Oakland Hills.

mural mural2


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Engaging conversation


Bob Yaryan, professor of art, engages HNU community members in a lively conversation.



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Sister Barbara Williams: Life as a teacher and a Sister in the SNJM community

The text below is an excerpt of an interview with Sister Barbara Williams conducted on September 28, 2012, by Assistant Professor Anastasia Prentiss and Sister Carol Sellman. Minor edits have been made for clarity.

Tell us why you decided to enter the community?
I went to Holy Names High School and fell in love with the place and also with the Sisters. I didn’t really think I would enter the community—I was having too much fun early on. But then I began to seriously think about it, and I talked to my dad. My dad was not born Catholic. I asked him how he felt, and told him I would like to do this. I will never forget this—I had a wonderful father. He said, “Would you do me a favor? Would you go someplace else—just to have a different experience? Because you’ve been with the Sisters for 12 years—and if you still feel the same way you can enter.” I also went to elementary school at St. Bernard in East Oakland with the Sisters of the Holy Cross. I said fair enough. My best friend was going out to Berkeley, so the two of us went to UC. And I still felt the same way after getting my associate’s degree.

What year did you enter the community?
It was January 1947, which means as of January 2013 I will have been in the community for 66 years.

Do you have any special memories of the first Holy Names campus on Lake Merritt?
The initial building was built in the late 1800s. The choir loft was really shaky, and we had always been warned—“Not too may people in the choir loft. Be careful!” Guess what was the last thing standing when they tore the building down? We have to laugh at those kinds of things.

When you started teaching, did you begin at an elementary school?
I did. I started at Sacred Heart in Oakland in second grade. Through my whole career I’ve taught elementary, secondary, and college—for 44 years altogether!

What was your master’s degree in?
It was a master’s in social science. That was in the 50s. Then I kept teaching, and they sent me to Marin Catholic to teach high school. I thought I would stay there for a while. Instead I was transferred to Holy Names High School because they wanted me to start preparing for a doctorate. I took classes at Berkeley. I went out there in the summers and studied political science in hopes they would accept me to the PhD program, and they did. I began my doctoral work while teaching at Holy Names High School.

Is there something in your past that led to your interest in political science?
Sister Gertrude Mary was a very far seeing faculty member at the college. And she was lining up people to fit with various social science fields that she wanted to develop at the college. That’s how it started.

When did you start teaching at the college?
They transferred me from the high school to the college in 1967. I went to South America in the summer of ’67 to do some research. I taught summer session at Holy Names in ’68 while still studying for my doctorate, which I received in 1970.

What did you do while you were in South America?
I was there on a Fulbright Fellowship, but I used it to get some valuable materials for my doctorate focusing on Latin American politics. I could read and speak Spanish fairly well at one time—not any longer! I studied at the University of Chile in Santiago. We took various courses at various places—their universities are not all on one site. The classes were all over the city. It was most interesting. For five weeks we did that. Wonderful experience. That summer was one of the most exciting times in my life. For expanding my cultural horizons, it was just unbelievably rich.

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A classroom shot from the 1960s

Sister Christina Maria Weber, who taught history, refers to a U.S. map during a lecture.

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Visitors from around the world


Foreign students at Holy Names in the fall of 1964 included visitors from Wales, Trinidad, Kenya, and Singapore.

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Fifty years ago this week…

College of the Holy Names Commencement 1962

A warm congratulations to our Class of 2012, graduating this Saturday, May 12.

Today we share with you this image of the Class of 1962 celebrating their Commencement in the then-new Corrigan Courtyard. How many of you from that Class will be with us this weekend?

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The art of Louisa Jenkins’ Sophia Mural

Working on the Sophia mosaic on Brennan Hall

The Spring 2012 issue of CA Modern, a magazine on Californian Mid-Century Modern architecture published by the Eichler Network, features a fascinating and colorful story on the art of mosaics, “Art Goes to Pieces.” In it, Senior Staff Writer David Weinstein speaks with contemporary Bay Area mosaic artists about the current revival of the art form, and its long symbiotic relationship with architecture dating back to “the days of Philip of Macedon.”

At the time of the College of the Holy Names’ campus construction in the Oakland hills in the mid- to late-fifties, large-scale mosaic murals were a common feature in modern architecture, particularly public buildings, “reliev[ing] the plainness of surfaces with enrichment at focal points, increasing the effectiveness of the buildings,” [Eugene Clute, Progressive Architecture, 1950]. “Mosaic fits into our architecture because it does not break the surface, but is an integral part of it, and it is a versatile means of expression.”

“During the late 1950s to mid-1970s,” wrote Lillian Sizemore, a mosaic artist who lives in an Eichler home in Marin’s Lucas Valley, “there was a major movement of abstract and modernist imagery used to embellish architectural settings, rising out of the WPA [Works Progress Administration from the 1930s] and Mexican muralist movement.”

Louisa Meyer Jenkins (1898-1989), an artist from Big Sur, was known for her magnificent sacred mosaic art, including an angel-covered baldaquin and a Madonna with a rosary for St. Ann’s Chapel in Palo Alto, California, and Stations of the Cross for Mount Angel Abbey Crypt at St. Joseph Chapel in St. Benedict, Oregon. Her work, clearly influenced by Picasso and other modern artists, was typical of mosaic artists of the time, “moving into abstract designs… many influenced by biomorphic Surrealism.”

In Oakland, mosaic artist Louisa Jenkins, working with students in 1957, placed a marvelously three-dimensional mural of glass, tile, and stone on an exterior wall of the brand-new Holy Names College, designed by modern architect Milton Pflueger.

Sophia mural on Brennan Hall, Holy Names University

Ms. Jenkins had been hired by Sister Mary Luke (Maria Luisa) to create the Sophia mosaic, financed by St. Luke’s Art Guild, on the southeast wall of Brennan Hall. This brief excerpt from the History of Holy Names College (ISBN 1-4010-9913-0 Xlibris Corp.), by Ethel Mary Tinnemann, snjm, Ph.D., reveals more:

“To me,” the artist said, “the College of the Holy Names is a central place of learning, where the search for knowledge and wisdom is honestly pursued.” [College of the Holy Names Magazine, April 1957] … Combining the ideas of Sophia (wisdom) and Maria (seat of wisdom), the artist portrayed the face of Sophia in relief surrounded with sections suggesting rose leaves, symbolizing the Mystical Rose. Mrs. Jenkins chose to symbolically represent three major areas wherein knowledge is pursued in a liberal arts college; philosophy and religion, arts and letters, and natural science.

The mural was completed by April of 1957, and is such a central visual element to Corrigan Courtyard in the center of campus, it’s difficult to imagine the Holy Names campus without it.

All excerpts above from David Weinstein’s article, “Art Goes to Pieces,” in CA Modern, Spring 2012, unless otherwise noted.

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Preserving Historical HNU wins a Horizon Interactive Award

The Horizon Interactive Awards, a leading international interactive media awards competition, announced the 2011 award winners to highlight this year’s “best of the best” in interactive media production. We’re delighted that this blog was recognized with a Bronze award.

A warm congratulations to the HNU Marketing team and Cushing Library staff, as well as Sister Carol Sellman, who have been instrumental in the creation and maintenance of this blog.

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