Michael L. Bower, conductor and organist at St. Agnes Cathedral, Rockville Centre, N.Y.
A native of Floyd, Virginia, he began formal piano lessons at age six with Clara Harmon, and was playing for Sunday school services in his home church (Red Oak Grove Church of the Brethren) by 12. He began teaching himself to play the organ at age 13 and held his first position as church organist at Zion Lutheran Church in Floyd at age 15.
He had early exposure to the great choral masters with Mrs. Sandra Rector Smith, Floyd County High School, and area colleges (Radford University, Virginia Tech, Hollins College, Roanoke College), and churches (First Presbyterian, Greene Memorial, St. John’s Episcopal of Roanoke) . He sang in such masterworks as Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio,” Handel’s “Messiah,” Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” Dubois’s “Seven Last Words of Christ,” Schubert’s “Mass in G,” Faure’s “Requiem,” and Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” His first organ teacher was Sandra Smith; Mr. Bower also studied piano with Marian Beardsley Albee.
Mr. Bower received his Bachelor’s Degree Magna Cum Laude in Sacred Music and Organ Performance from Westminster Choir College, Princeton, where he studied organ with Donald McDonald, harpsichord with Mark Brombaugh, and conducting with Joseph Flummerfelt. He was a three-time recipient of the William and Mary Renneckar merit scholarship. During undergraduate years, Mr. Bower pursued additional organ study with Marilyn Keiser of Indiana University and boys choir training with James Litton, director of the American Boys Choir, Princeton and Gerre Hancock, St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York. He was also a member of Donald Allured’s Concert Handbell Choir. In 1985, he was appointed Associate Director of Music for St. Agnes Cathedral. At this time, he assisted Christoph Tietze in the development of a professional music program, including multiple choirs. He founded the Cathedral Girls Choir and trained the probationer group of the Boys Choir. In 1987, Bower continued specialized studies in organ and boys choir training with Stephen Cleobury at Kings College, Cambridge, and conducting with John Rutter at Clare College, Cambridge, England.
Michael earned his Master’s Degree with Honors in Organ Performance from Manhattan School of Music in 1992. At Manhattan he studied organ with John Walker, Baroque continuo with Kenneth Cooper, and conducting with Amy Keiser. At graduation, Bower received the John Cerovalo award for his outstanding performance of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He has also done graduate work in liturgy at Notre Dame University and the National Pastoral Musicians Institute. Bower has performed organ recitals on the East Coast, the Midwest, and in Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and England.
Michael’s duties at St. Agnes Cathedral include directing the 65-voice Choir of Men and Boys, the 65-voice Cathedral Chorale (Adult), and the Schola Cantorum (16-voice a cappella ensemble), and the Cathedral Singers (extremely vocally gifted octet ensemble of the Cathedral’s professional singers). More recently, he created the Diocesan Boys Choir of Rockville Centre and the New MasterChorale 2013. Mr. Bower has prepared and conducted the Cathedral Choirs and Orchestra in performances of many choral masterworks including Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s Mass in C, Haydn’s Harmoniemesse, and Mozart’s Requiem. He has also toured with the Cathedral Choirs here in the United States and Europe, including performances at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, the White House, Westminster Cathedral, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna; St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, St. Mark’s, Venice.