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Dennis McKinley Honored with Naming of New Performing Arts Center

Dennis McKinley Honored with Naming of New Performing Arts Center

Dennis McKinley, St. Maria Goretti parishioner and long-time choir director, was recently honored with Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart’s new McKinley Performing Arts Center. The facility, named after him, features state-of-the-art performance spaces and includes a 465-seat theater, classrooms, and rehearsal spaces.

The grand opening of the McKinley Performing Arts Center was held on August 25, 2019. The event included a liturgy, a community open house, tours of the new music classroom and performance areas, and a blessing of the new Performing Arts Center by Bishop Donald Hying.

Dennis McKinley, a 1963 Edgewood High School graduate, has served as a band director, a choir director, and in many other positions at the high school, including associate principal, alumni director, and interim president, since he started teaching there in 1967. He remains very active at the school and still works there part-time.

History of Directing Church Choirs

In addition to his significant involvement with Edgewood, he has been directing church choirs since 1966. He grew up in Madison and attended St. James Catholic School. After high school, he started attending Our Lady Queen of Peace and was encouraged to join the choir. A few months later, during his senior year in college, he was asked to become the choir director.

In 1984, St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church needed a choir director. Fr. Wilfred Schuster reached out to Dennis and asked him to direct the choir. Dennis accepted the job and has been leading the Adult Choir at St. Maria Goretti ever since. This choir, still under his direction, sings at the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass. Directing the choir is a large task, including weekly rehearsals, coordinating instrumentals and soloists, and numerous hours during the summer researching and planning music for the entire year. 

Additionally, Dennis directs the choirs for other special occasions throughout the year, including some funerals, Mass with the Anointing of the Sick, Christmas and Easter, and most notably, the visit of the St. Maria Goretti relics in 2015. In addition to choir directing, he volunteers in many ways including serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, a lector, and a sacristan, as well as events like Fish Fry Dinners, Christmas caroling, and the events surrounding the Installation of Bishop Donald Hying. 

To Sing is to Pray Twice

Dennis says his interest in liturgy and participation in choirs goes back to his grade school days. Growing up, he sang in choirs and loved to serve at Mass. He said another reason for his involvement in music ministry is because of the saying, “to sing is to pray twice.” “And if there is anyone who needs to pray twice, it’s me,” he added with a smile.

“We call ourselves a choir family and I really believe that,” said Dennis. “When a need is made known, we pray for the needs of those members. We also send cards and arrange Mass intentions when someone loses a loved one.”

There are a number of parish members who were in the choir when Dennis started directing it and are still in it today, including Annette Carran, Sue Gallagher, Barb Gutweiler, Elaine Jarvey, Marilyn Kinney, Jim Schwarz, Mary Jo Steiger, and trumpet player Randy Roisum. Dennis's own family, including his wife, Margaret, and occasionally his daughter, Theresa, join him in the choir as well.

“Being members at St. Maria Goretti and participating in the music ministry has been a very special and big part of my life," Dennis added. "It is something that God has really blessed me with, and the benefits are truly innumerable.”

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