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St. Vincent professor's passion? Music

Shirley McMarlin
| Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, 8:55 p.m.
Thomas Octave, St. Vincent College assistant professor of music and music director for a number of other organizations, pauses for a portrait on Feb. 4, 2016.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Thomas Octave, St. Vincent College assistant professor of music and music director for a number of other organizations, pauses for a portrait on Feb. 4, 2016.

Thomas Octave is an assistant professor of music at St. Vincent College in Unity, teaching courses in voice, musical theater and opera and conducting the St. Vincent College Singers. He also serves as musical consultant to Archabbot Douglas Nowicki of St. Vincent Archabbey.

That might keep the average person busy, but music is not just a day job to Octave: It's his passion. He also is music director for Bodiography Contemporary Ballet, the Diocesan Choir of Greensburg, Maestri Singers, Pittsburgh Festival Orchestra and Westmoreland Choral Society.

The Monessen native was educated at Duquesne and Carnegie Mellon universities and lives in Oakmont.

Question: When did you discover your love of music?

Answer: I was always singing in church, probably from age 4 or 5 (at the former Holy Name of Jesus Church in Monessen). We had a wonderful priest who was really good with music and liturgy, and I just grew up with this love of church and church music.

Q: Did you ever consider another career path?

A: I was either going to be a priest or a musician, so I ended up with a little bit of both.

Q: Who is your favorite composer?

A: Bernstein has always been my favorite. I love American music and new composers. My other favorite right now is Nancy Galbraith, who is the chair of composition at Carnegie Mellon. I recently did her “Passion According to St. Matthew” at (the University of Salford in Manchester, England) as part of its Create Festival.

Q: Do you listen to popular music?

A: I'm such a dinosaur when it comes to that, although my students try to keep me current.

Q: Do you do any composing?

A: I do a little bit of church music. One of my pieces is going to come out with Oregon Catholic Press, hopefully in the summer. On the weekends, I help at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Bloomfield. I perform my sacred pieces there. That's one of my greatest joys, when I can communicate with people weekly through music.

Q: What do you do in your free time?

A: I love to go out to eat, and I love to try new restaurants. I'm a foodie. In Pittsburgh, I like Casbah very much and Piccolo Forno and Stagioni on the South Side. I love Mediterranean and Italian food. I like what a meal brings to people: good conversation and relaxation. It's art in its own way.

Q: Do you cook?

A: I let people cook for me, for fear of their lives.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

A: I love good murder-mystery books, and I have some guilty television pleasures. I like the Father Dowling mysteries and anything by Steve Berry. As a child, I grew up loving Angela Lansbury and “Murder, She Wrote.” I have an autographed picture of her in my house. All things Angela Lansbury are golden to me. I also like “Doc Martin,” “Downton Abbey” and “Homeland” with Mandy Patinkin.

Q: That's nothing to feel guilty about.

A: Well, I love ice cream. I never met a flavor I didn't like.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750 or

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