Patrick McCoy ’05 earned a Master of Church Music degree from Shenandoah.
Shenandoah provided me with a world-class education.”
During his time at SU, McCoy was able to maintain his part-time music director position at Covenant Presbyterian Church in his hometown of Petersburg, Va. He explains, “The pastor, choir and congregation there were so supportive of my desire to further my education. In fact, my church music professor, Dr. Steven Cooksey, so graciously allowed me to present my graduate choral conducting project “When In Our Music God is Glorified” at the church.”
Following graduation, McCoy began full-time work in Richmond, Va. at Capital One, Inc. as an associate in the Retention Department. His job was to convince customers not to close their credit card accounts. McCoy recalls a time when a famous choral conductor called to close her account. “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share with her that I was a young choral conductor and that I had just read about her in The American Choral Journal, the official organ journal of The American Choral Directors Association. To make a long story short, she did not close her account!”
After Capital One, McCoy became the minister of music at Takoma Park Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He moved to the D.C. area in 2006 and served in this role until 2012. During this time, he also taught vocal music at Rosa L. Parks Elementary School in Hyattsville, Md. from 2006-2008. In November 2012, McCoy was invited by The Rev’d Canon John T. W. Harmon to serve as guest organist and choir director during the Advent season at Trinity Episcopal Church. He explained, “It is a very small world. Fr. Harmon was once the rector at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in my hometown and I used to play occasional services for him there when I was an undergrad at Virginia State University.”
Playing at Trinity turned into a seven-month post as acting-director of music and organist for McCoy. Last September, he was formally installed as minister of music at Trinity where he conducts and accompanies The Chancel Choir, comprised of volunteer singers and a paid professional core. “In the background of all this, my passion for writing resurged,” McCoy recalls.
After several years of writing concert reviews and articles for a variety of outlets and publications such as CBS Washington, Artsong Update, Examiner.com and The Afro-American Newspaper, McCoy was hired in 2012 as the Performing Arts Columnist for the prestigious Washington Life Magazine (www.washingtonlife.com). “For the publication, I have interviewed A-list figures in the arts and classical music, including violinist Joshua Bell, soprano Renée Fleming and my former teacher Robert Shafer, conductor of the Shenandoah Conservatory Choir and the City Choir of Washington,” says McCoy.
Covering the Washington, D.C. arts scene for Washington Life Magazine exposed McCoy to some of the most celebrated artists of our time. One of his most memorable story assignments was in 2013 at the elegant Hay Adams Hotel for an inaugural brunch hosted by the Washington Performing Arts Society in honor of the esteemed opera soprano, Jessye Norman. “After many years of listening to her recordings and watching her television specials, I was speaking to the great singer face to face,” says McCoy. “Another amazing part of my work as a music critic for such a well-known publication is that I get to hear amazing performances in great concert spaces, particularly The Kennedy Center, The Music Center at Strathmore and exclusive private venues.”
McCoy had made the decision to not return to teaching music in the public school. “My students gave me great joy, but that setting did not inspire me or challenge the avenues of the arts that I wanted to explore.” With more time on his hands, he took out his laptop and pursued a lead to write a column for Examiner.com. His first concert review was of a performance of the Mozart Requiem by The Washington Chorus conducted by Julian Wachner. McCoy says, “I posted it on Facebook and the rest is history!”
While at SU, McCoy had the opportunity to study voice with Metropolitan Opera tenor Michael Forest ’85, ’86 on a weekly basis and other renowned members of the conservatory faculty. But, Dr. Darla Hanley, McCoy’s former SU professor, made the lasting impact. “In this new season of my writing career, I hearken back to the excellence she demanded in her writing assignments. When I stood before her and presented my work on the choral music of Undine Smith Moore, I never imagined that moment would prepare me to stand confidently on the Concert Hall Stage of The Kennedy Center, moderating a panel with conductor Julian Wachner, soprano Janice Chandler-Eteme and baritone Stephen Salters after a towering performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah. Talk about a full circle moment!”
“Giving back to Shenandoah is an absolute joy,” expresses McCoy. He was very happy to be asked to apply to become a member of the Alumni Board of Directors. “Being on the board has given me ample excuses to return to the beautiful campus. In just nine years since my graduation in 2005, the campus has grown tremendously,” adds McCoy. “Sowing into the university financially is the least that I can do for a place that gave me great nurture during my graduate studies.”
McCoy is looking forward to being an ambassador for the university, especially in the Washington, D.C. area. “There are so many talented young people enrolled in performing arts schools here and I hope to introduce them to the jewel of the Shenandoah Valley. The upcoming Conservatory Alumni Reunion on March 21-22 is a first for Shenandoah and I am so excited to be attending! I hope to see you all there!” McCoy also looks forward to reconnecting with his friends from his time at SU. “There are quite a few of Shenandoah Hornets buzzing right around here in D.C. that I run into quite a bit, including Christopher Fominaya ’05, Brian Bartoldus ’07 and Nicole Davis ’03, ’06,” adds McCoy.
McCoy’s fondest memories at Shenandoah include being one of the founding members of the Black Student Union and singing in the Harambee Gospel Choir. He explains, “Both of those groups added another sense of family and community and for me that was very essential while living away from my loved ones and family.” McCoy always admired how personable President James Davis was. “It’s not often that you find a leader that really wants to know what the students want by personally speaking to them. Our new president, Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons, has taken on that same type of gracious humility and I admire her greatly.” McCoy recalls shaking Dr. Davis’ hand after receiving his diploma and then shaking Dr. Fitzsimmons’ hand. “Now, she is the first woman president of Shenandoah!” Singing as guest soloist for chapel, reading scripture at his graduating class’ baccalaureate service and seeing Dr. Miles Davis so sharply model the dress of a gentleman and scholar has left indelible marks upon McCoy.
McCoy’s parents have supported him every step of the way. He fondly states, “My family is amazing! There has never been a moment that they have let me down.” In addition to his biological family, McCoy believes he would have never made it without his Winchester neighbors Nana, Deva, Beanz and the whole “Holiday Drive Crew.” Nana helped McCoy prepare for his comprehensive exam. “When Dr. Danny K. Phipps, who was then the Associate Dean of the conservatory, informed me that I passed, I knew that it was much to my neighbors’ credit!”
In his free time, McCoy enjoys watching movies, exploring new restaurants and occasionally visiting the Washington museums like a tourist. “I also love to collect vintage records, especially those by celebrated opera singers such as Beverly Sills, Joan Sutherland, Leontyne Price and Jessye Norman.”
“So many exciting things have happened recently. I am thankful to God for all His many blessings,” expresses McCoy. He was named among the Forty Under 40 for Prince George’s County in 2013 because of his contributions to the Arts and Humanities. Under his leadership, The Chancel Choir at Trinity Church performed the Fauré Requiem and Handel’s Messiah. He hopes to continue a legacy of a rich music program.
McCoy’s work with Washington Life Magazine led him to his first arts story at The White House for the National Medal of Arts Ceremony. “That was amazing because I had already interviewed two of the recipients, soprano Renée Fleming and Washington Performing Arts Society President Jenny Bilfield who accepted the medal on behalf of the organization. 2013 was a very fruitful year and I look forward to great things ahead in 2014.”