Jennifer Donelson-Nowicka, D.M.A.

Associate Professor of Music/Director of Sacred Music


Jennifer Donelson-Nowicka is an Associate Professor and the Director of Sacred Music at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, where she holds the William P. Mahrt Chair in Sacred Music and serves as the founding Director of the Catholic Institute of Sacred Music. She has co-edited Mystic Modern: The Music, Thought, and Legacy of Charles Tournemire, published by the Church Music Association of America (CMAA). Her publications also include articles in the New Catholic EncyclopediaSacred MusicAntiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal, the proceedings of the Gregorian Institute of Canada, the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, the Adoremus BulletinLiturgy in the Twenty-First Century (Bloomsbury/T&T Clark), and Messiaen in Context (Cambridge University Press).

She serves on the board of the CMAA, is the managing editor of the CMAA’s journal Sacred Music, and is a regular member of the faculty for the CMAA’s annual Sacred Music Colloquium. As academic liaison of the CMAA, she has organized and presented papers at several academic conferences on Charles Tournemire, the work of Msgr. Richard Schuler, the role of Gregorian chant in pastoral ministry and religious education, and the work of William Mahrt. She was a co-organizer of the Sacra Liturgia conferences in New York (2015) and San Francisco (2022), and has presented papers at the Sacra Liturgia conferences in New York, London, Milan, and San Francisco. The sometime president, she is currently a board member of the Society for Catholic Liturgy. Donelson-Nowicka serves as a Consultant to the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship.

An innovative and pioneering educator, Donelson-Nowicka has developed an extensive program of musical formation for the seminarians at St. Patrick’s Seminary, teaching required courses in each stage of seminary formation, as well as providing musical formation in singing the Mass through voice lessons and formation sessions. Having founded the Catholic Institute of Sacred Music (CISM) at St. Patrick’s Seminary in 2022, Donelson-Nowicka serves on the faculty, teaching summer graduate-level courses. She runs CISM’s Public Lecture and Concert Series, which draws hundreds to each event with prominent presenters and recitalists, and each semester of the regular academic year she presents workshops open to the public on helpful topics in sacred music, as well as continuing education seminars for current graduate students in the CISM.

Donelson-Nowicka received her DMA in piano performance at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she studied piano with Paul Barnes, Mark Clinton, and Ann Chang in addition to her organ studies with Quentin Faulkner. She received her undergraduate degree in vocal music education and North Dakota State University, where she studied piano with Dr. Robert Groves and conducting with Dr. JoAnn Miller. Before coming to St. Patrick’s, Dr. Donelson-Nowicka served on the faculty at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, where she taught music theory, music history, piano, and directed the university chorale, and at St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie) in New York, where she developed an extensive musical formation program for seminarians and lay students.

Having presented hundreds of workshops, presentations, and classes on sacred music—especially Gregorian chant—for dioceses, parishes, and monasteries across the United States and Europe, Donelson-Nowicka’s experience is grounded in her daily work as the Director of Sacred Music and organist at St. Patrick’s Seminary, and as the director of a professional schola cantorum and organist at Mater Dolorosa Catholic church in South San Francisco. Having studied Gregorian chant at the Catholic University of America and the Abbey of St. Peter in Solesmes, for six years Donelson-Nowicka was a co-organizer of the Musica Sacra Florida Gregorian Chant Conference, and she has served as a clinician for numerous local sacred music workshops which have become annual events, including Musica Sacra Maine, Colorado Sacred Music Conference, Southeastern Sacred Music, and the CMAA’s Fall Sacred Music Workshop.

As a choral conductor, Donelson-Nowicka has directed seminary, collegiate, professional, semi-professional, amateur, monastic, and children’s choirs. At St. Patrick’s Seminary, she has established a schola cantorum and directs them in weekly rehearsals, preparing them for solemn Masses and Vespers, focusing on a repertory of Gregorian and Spanish- and English-language chant, alongside sacred polyphony and classical hymnody. She previously directed the Schola Cantorum of St. Joseph’s Seminary, which developed an extensive repertoire for the liturgy, while also singing a yearly concert broadcast on Sirius XM, recording a full-length album of music dedicated to St. Joseph, and performing choral masterworks on a concert tour of northern France (2017). She also founded and directed the Metropolitan Catholic Chorale which continues its mission in the New York City area, and has taught extensively for religious orders, including the Benedictine monks of San Benedetto in Monte (Norcia, Italy), the contemplative sisters at the Monastery of St. Edith Stein in Borough Park, Brooklyn (Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará [SSVM]), and the Benedictine nuns of Priorij Nazareth Tegelen in the Netherlands. She has served as a choral conducting coach for graduate organ students in Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music and has taught chant to children for many years using the Ward Method (Ave Maria Oratory, Ave Maria, FL; Colm Cille Club, Pelham, NY; Immaculate Conception Children’s Schola Cantorum, Sleepy Hollow, NY), also previously serving on the faculty at Cardinal Kung Academy in Stamford, Connecticut.

Dr. Donelson-Nowicka hosts a podcast entitled Square Notes: The Sacred Music Podcast, now in its sixth season.


“Messiaen and Tournemire,” in Messiaen in Context, ed. Robert Sholl (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2024).

“The Golden Thread of Music: A Practicum on How to Adorn the Church’s Collects with the Sung Garments of Salvation,” Adoremus Bulletin, May 2023.

“A Major Quartet: Music Among the Four Pillars of Seminarian Formation,” Adoremus Bulletin, May 2021.

“The Sacred Liturgy as a Primary Source for the Artist’s Imagination,” Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, Spring 2018.

“Sacred Music Renewal Fifty Years after Musicam Sacram,” Sacred Music 144.2 (Summer 2017).

“The Cultural Blossoming of the 20th-Century Chant Revival: Gregorian Chant in Charles Tournemire’s L’Orgue Mystique,” Chant and Culture: Proceedings of the Conference of the Gregorian Institute of Canada, ed. Barbara Swanson and Armin Karim (Ottawa: Institute of Mediæval Music, 2014).



D.M.A. University of Nebraska-Lincoln

M.M. University of Nebraska-Lincoln

B.S. North Dakota State University