Dr. Jessica Suchy-Pilalis
Research Specialty: Byzantine Chant
 
Jessica Suchy-Pilalis is a specialist in the history, theory and practice of Byzantine music. In 1984, she became what is thought to be the first salaried and officially-titled female Psalti (Chanter or Cantor) of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America by assuming the position of Protopsalti at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Indianapolis.  She reassumed this position upon her return to this country after a year of research in Greece made possible by His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos and by a grant from the Taylor Foundation.  She is certified by both the State and Church of Greece, and holds diplomas with highest honors from two Greek conservatories.

 Dr. Suchy-Pilalis' fascination with Byzantine music began as a child, but it was not until she had graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and was attending the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester that she was able to develop her interest.  This she did by writing her thesis for the degree Master of Arts in Music Theory, entitled Byzantine Chant: The Melodic Structure of the Octoechos, Mode III, while simultaneously training as a chanter at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester.  She also took a one-semester leave-of-absence from Eastman to attend Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, specifically to study with Savas I. Savas, Professor of Byzantine Music.  In Greece her teachers included Dimitrios Sourlantzis of the Macedonian Conservatory, Nestor Papalexiou of the School of Byzantine Music of the Holy Mitropolis of Thessaloniki and Eleftherios Georgiades, Archon Lambadarios tis Megalis Christianikis Ekklisias (the Ecumenical Patriarchate).

 For Dr. Suchy-Pilalis, it is most important to share those prayers of the church inherent in the rich musico-literary heritage.  She does this not only by chanting  the "classical" repertoire and by teaching, but also by utilizing her research to cross the language barrier felt by so many of the non-Greek-speaking young people.  By reversing the analytical method developed in her thesis, she is able to set English translations of the hymns in the manner of the Byzantine Melodos (composer-hymnographer) while still maintaining the all-important defining characteristics of the Byzantine style, e.g., the close correspondence between text accent and melodic structure.

 Dr. Suchy-Pilalis currently resides in Harrisburg, PA and Potsdam, NY, and chants at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Camp Hill, PA, and Analypsis Greek Orthodox Church in Brockville, Ontario. She has recorded two hymns by the seventh-century nun, Kassiani, that were issued on the companion cassette to Historical Anthology of Music by Women.  Bishop Timotheos of Detroit bestowed upon her the ordination of Rasophoros and the prayer of Hieropsalti in recognition of her service to the Orthodox Church. Her lectures and workshops have been presented to professional music conferences, women's studies seminars, Hellenic cultural organizations and Orthodox church groups in various cities across the U.S.  She is an Associate Professor at The Crane School of Music, State University of New York-Potsdam.  In addition to composing Byzantine music, she is authoring two texts on Byzantine music and preparing The Divine Liturgy in the Varys Mode for publication.
 

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