One-on-One with Cheryl Boga, Director of Performance Music

A Q&A with Cheryl Boga, the director of Performance Music

Cheryl Boga leading the alumni band during the Performance Music Reunion in October 2016.
Cheryl Boga leading the alumni band during the Performance Music Reunion in October 2016.

You’ve been at the University for 35 years. Why have you stayed? 

Oh, because it’s where I belong. 

How did it all begin? 

Ultimately, it was John Gavigan and Father Bill Byron who hired me, with a little bit of involvement from Father Ed Gannon. My intention was to spend a year or two here doing just the band. Fr. Gannon came to the first band rehearsal and watched a little bit. He swung his coat on his way out with his cigarette in hand. I thought he was annoyed. The next day, I got the key to the cabinet with the choral music in it. His note said, “You’re doing the choir now, too.” I didn’t know him or where I could return the key, so I ended up doing the choir, too. It was fate. 

Did you always feel supported here? 

Yes. This was, from where I stood, never a patriarchy. At that time, women didn’t do university bands. None of these guys batted an eye. They said, “Yeah, you’re good at what you do. We want you. Go forth and build this.” 

How did your vision match the University’s vision back then? 

Looking back, the University and I were a perfect match at the perfect time because they wanted solid musical experiences for their students. They had no intention of it ever being a major. They knew that being able to make music was as important for musical kids as being able to make friends. We’ve always done it for the love of music. 

Why are performances free? 

Many years ago, Father Al Panuska said, “You will not charge.” Every president since has said the same thing. They say, “You put this out there and let the people in the community come and hear it.” 

Our students are doing this not only for their own musical expression and development, but also to serve the University and the community. 

You direct instrumental and choral music. This is pretty uncommon. Why do you do both? 

As it turned out — though I didn’t expect it — I love doing both. It’s really neat that I can do stuff like that here. I can do a concert piece that requires the band and choir performing together and not have a fight with the band director about it. Or the chorus director. Because if I do, I need a shrink. 

Do you think of yourself as an educator or a musician? 

Equal parts. It’s education through performance. To get to their end-performance result requires transformation. People say, “What do you do?” I say, “I do chaos. I create order from chaos. That’s what I do.” 

Do you ever take a break? 

I think I took off a week or two to have my daughter Maggie. I first brought my son Joseph to work at three days old. I had to take off three weeks for my cancer surgery . . . although, they apparently said three or more months, but I guess I didn’t hear that right. So I just came back. 

I don’t see myself getting sick of this. I love these kids, and I love the music. I don’t see an endgame. Nor am I planning for one. I’ll probably drop in my boots here.

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