SHU Welcomes Veteran Musician/Teacher to Lead New Music Ed Program

FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Sacred Heart University’s Isabelle Farrington College of Education (FCE) has welcomed Frank Martignetti, an experienced music teacher educator, conductor and organist, to its faculty as assistant professor and director of SHU’s new music education program. 

The 42-credit graduate program will begin in the summer. Applicants who have an undergraduate degree in music and who wish to become teachers are invited to apply. Undergraduate music majors at Sacred Heart will complete both the new BA and MAT degrees, as well as a minor in music education as part of SHU’s Five Year Education Program

The program will provide students with the skills and knowledge needed to successfully teach the diverse field of music to all students. “Our goal is a vibrant community of music education students who graduate with the finest and most forward-thinking formation in the profession, informed by significant experience in local school districts.” Martignetti said. 

Martignetti is a New Rochelle, NY, native and current Fairfield resident. He has spent the last 22 years teaching and performing music professionally. 

He traces his love for music to his music teacher in kindergarten. “She got me singing and making music,” Martignetti said. “She changed my life.” 

He started taking piano lessons when he was 7 years old and sang in church and school choral groups throughout his life. Martignetti began working professionally as a church organist and choir director, as well as music director for community theater productions, late in his high school years. 

Throughout high school, Martignetti performed in choral and theatre productions. Pondering a career, his thoughts kept returning to music education. “I was mostly clear that I wanted to become a music teacher,” he said. “I had no interest in trying to become a concert pianist or perform full time.” 

Martignetti earned bachelor’s degrees in history at the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY, and music education at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. He said Eastman had a profound impact on him, due to the remarkable level of students and faculty, and the mentoring he received there. “It was a really transformative place,” said Martignetti.

After graduation, he worked as a music teacher in Rochester before moving to Ohio to earn his master’s degree in choral conducting at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. Upon completion of his degree, he returned to the East Coast and took a position as a high school music teacher. 

While maintaining his own career as a music educator, he served as part time choir director and director of music at several churches, including the Webster Presbyterian Church in Rochester, St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church in Cincinnati, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Bridgeport and Advent Lutheran Church in New York City. He is currently director of music at First Church Congregational in Fairfield.

“I really value robust congregational singing,” Martignetti said. “As a choral director, I enjoy helping people grow their vocal and musical skills. In church music, we’re working with 2,000 years of amazing music to support prayer. At so many key moments in life, from a funeral to a wedding, the music supports people during important moments in their lives,” Martignetti said. 

As a conductor, Martignetti served as artistic director of the Mystic River Chorale in Mystic, for 13 years. Under his leadership, the Chorale created partnerships with high schools, received its first grants and performed a variety of choral music, both with and without orchestra. 

He said he is passionate about choral music and enjoys programming music from the Renaissance to the present to engage both audience and choir. 

While music is a passion for Martignetti, so is the collaboration that goes into refining a performance. “I have worked with all age groups, various classes and ensembles, and I quickly came to realize I prefer those situations to one-on-one private lessons. I just really enjoy the group dynamic,” he said. 

Progressed to collegiate setting 

After more than a decade of teaching high school students, Martignetti transitioned to collegiate teaching and found it so gratifying, he went to New York University for his doctoral degree. “It was a really big leap of faith,” he said. “I went from being a tenured teacher with a steady job and salary to being a student again. But it was really my dream, my passion and hope to teach full time at the collegiate level.”

His dream became a reality. He directed the University of Bridgeport’s music education program for nine years, as well as, ultimately, the entire department of music & performing arts, learning much about how to build and sustain a successful program. Drawing on his own education, experience and skills, he was prepared for his new role at SHU. He has written the curriculum for the new program, is currently working on recruitment, facilities, equipment and staffing, and looks forward to welcoming the first cohort of students in 2022. 

“It’s a real gift to bring a new major to life,” said Martignetti, who works closely with Joe Carter, longtime faculty member and director of SHU’s undergraduate academic music program, and Keith Johnston, director of bands & orchestra. “I can’t wait for music education to become a vibrant, humming part of SHU.” 

He said he is looking forward to his graduate students observing in the excellent music programs in area school districts and working with SHU’s ensembles. He’s also eager to continue his longtime work with Bridgeport schools. “Most of my K-12 teaching experience and research is in urban school districts, which I care deeply about,” he said. His students will have the opportunity to learn in and support the neighboring school district through the Bridgeport Teacher Residency.  

Martignetti’s current research uses case study and ethnographic approaches to study music education in urban public schools, and also explores innovation in the undergraduate music curriculum. His writing has been published in the Choral Journal, the Music Educators Journal, the Journal of Popular Music Education, Visions of Research in Music Education and by Oxford University Press. 

“In this new role at SHU, I get to connect all my passions: music, collaboration and urban education,” he said. 

Michael Alfano, FCE dean and vice provost for strategic partnerships, called Martignetti a talented musician and passionate music educator. “Our students are going to love working with him. We are incredibly fortunate to have him here at the Farrington College of Education, and I am looking forward to seeing where he takes our new music education program in the days ahead”, Alfano said.

For more information, visit the music education program webpage.