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The Florida Catholic

Music is a big part of life at St. Ann School

St. Ann

WEST PALM BEACH   |   A musical progression is defined as “a passage or movement from one note or chord to another.” In many ways, the music program at St. Ann School is a progression, starting with students in pre-K 3 and 4 learning song structure (verses, refrains) and later grades experiencing choral singing and instrument use, all the way up the scale to middle school and beyond. 

Chris Hogan, director of music for the school and the youth choir that sings at St. Ann Church about once a month, explained that music is part of the required curriculum through the fifth grade. The youngest students work on basic skills, while “kindergarten through second grade is what I would consider to be our general music program.”

“They learn about what I call the building blocks of music, which are rhythm, pitch and timbre, timbre being the sound itself,” he said. “That unit takes us into instrument families and things like that. We do a little bit with music history and composers.” They also learn about performance, which prepares them for their Christmas show.  

After grasping the fundamentals, third-grade students learn to play the recorder, a woodwind instrument, “which is where they finally start taking everything they know and channeling it into something,” said Hogan, who has been at St. Ann since 2011.

“It’s important to me that they, just for that one year, really focus on trying to learn exactly how to read the pitches, the rhythms, all those things,” he said. “Then in fourth grade, the whole class is a choir. They get to sing around town a little bit and they develop their voices. The big thing in fourth grade that I aim to do is to try to get them to learn to sing in two parts. And some of the very best fourth-grade choirs, I’ve been able to get to three parts, which is pretty neat.”

Fifth-graders at the school commit one year to learn a band instrument. In sixth through eighth grade, music is an elective, and he sees students who are more invested in the performing arts. About 40 middle-school students take the advanced band elective, and a larger class includes students interested in singing and drama.

“I co-teach it actually with my wife, Michelle Hogan, who is the theater director,” Chris said. “Sometimes she’ll take them to do theater stuff, sometimes we’ll take them to do choir stuff. They get a real round experience with that.” The St. Ann middle school band and choir, which have done well in statewide competition, were headed to Orlando on March 15 to go up against other school groups, he said.

“I am thrilled with the different levels of learning, from pre-K 3 learning musical beats to fourth-grade choir reading music and performing to our award-winning band in middle school,” said Principal Susan Demes. “Not only do our younger students learn how to read music, but also how to play an instrument. Our students learn self-confidence through performing what they have learned.”

Many of the students involved in the school’s musical groups also are members of the St. Ann youth choir, Hogan said, which comprises more than 80 students from second grade to high school, and even some in college who are part of the school’s Legacy Choir.

The youth choir recently released its third CD, “Water of the Soul,” and the group performed in Italy at the end of 2018 and early 2019. “In Rome, we got to sing in St. Peter’s, we got to go to Assisi and sing there, and we did our own concert,” he said. “We did a joint festival concert with some other choirs. We got to participate in Mass with the pope. It was really, really special.”

Nearly all of the songs performed for the youth choir’s albums are written by Hogan, who has a background in musical composition and film scoring. “Music is a powerful thing. The youth choir is just incredible,” Hogan said. “I can’t believe the music they sing. Some of the stuff we sing is just really difficult. I know what they’re capable of. I write it. Younger choirs could never perform something like that. I don’t know why, but we just have the right formula, the right ingredients, the right community.”

In 2022, the youth choir toured and performed concerts in Ireland, including the Knock Shrine, which is recalled with the song “Our Lady of Knock” in their latest album. The choir is preparing for a series of concerts in Austria and Germany at Christmas 2024.  

To help cover the European travel costs, the youth choir raises money by appearing at parishes in the Diocese of Palm Beach, Hogan said, singing at Masses or performing a concert. Recent appearances have been at St. Joan of Arc, St. Vincent Ferrer, Holy Name, St. Rita and the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola. “The parishes are just so welcoming. I’m just so blessed. The feeling of being there, sharing our talents with them, it elevates the Mass,” he said. 

Hogan credits Jennifer Loyless, the youth choir’s managing director, with easing some of the operational concerns. “She’s just the most fantastic person to work with,” he said. “She heads up a lot of the organizational stuff. Fundraising is a big part of that. She’s always visionary when it comes to figuring out ways to raise money for the choir because we need it for things like our robes, the books and everything else, but especially to travel.”

The youth choir represents the pinnacle, or “highest notes,” on the extensive musical scale at St. Ann. “I’m just so amazed by these kids and the way that they just adapt to whatever situation we’re in and the way that they just keep putting in so much of themselves,” Hogan said.

“It really does feel like a family at the school, but I would say especially the performing arts program, just because of how people are integrated into so many different parts of it,” he added.

“Mr. Hogan is a gift to our school,” Demes said. “His knowledge and love for music helps our students shine. Mrs. Hogan also teaches theater from pre-K 3 through middle school. St. Ann Catholic School is blessed to have this family.”

Since St. Ann’s music program is required for younger students, it tends to be a unifying factor since the children remember the songs Hogan teaches them early on. Tina Slade, the school’s librarian and marketing/social media director, whose two sons attended St. Ann, said it’s impressive for current students to witness alumni staying involved.

“You see a high school kid that’s still interested in singing and being part of the church and being part of the school. I think that’s really awesome,” she said. Perhaps they stick around because of the love of music and performance instilled by Chris and Michelle Hogan.

“I get such enjoyment out of watching the kids develop and having a hand in it,” he said. “Some kids are on the right path right off the bat and others take time and patience. But I love seeing them succeed.”

For more information about St. Ann School, visit, call 561-832-3676, or connect through Facebook and Instagram.

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