There’s no place like home—and that’s where Joseph Modica found himself when he became a professor of choral music at the University of Redlands.
“Redlands is home—I have a lot of ties here,” he says. As a teenager, Modica’s family moved from Buffalo, New York, to Redlands in Southern California, where he sang in the choir and played in the band at Redlands High School.
Modica notes that the friendly environment of the city of Redlands is reflected on the University’s campus and in its School of Music. “It’s not a cutthroat or competitive kind of environment; it’s very supportive and nurturing,” he says. “Our students seem to thrive—they learn as much from each other as they do from the faculty.”
During his 22-year career, Modica says that he has never encountered a more distinctive cohort of students. “The diversity in students’ backgrounds is so interesting,” he says. “I learn from the students just like they learn from me; they’re very intellectual. They bring a lot to the table.”
As a way to ensure that the curriculum is as diverse as the students, Modica and other music faculty members stress the importance of a well-rounded music education. “We teach them how to build resumes, and we challenge them with the music they’re given,” he says. “Starting in their first-year seminars, they’re learning how to be successful musicians in the 21st century and how to market themselves.”
Modica notes that the students aren’t the only ones being challenged—he is as well. “I have a lot of artistic freedom,” he says. “I am free to be involved in projects off campus, and I’ve always felt supported pursuing them.” Modica spent his last semester on tour with Il Volo, a popular Italian ensemble, performing in 15 cities across the country.
The May Term service projects have been another highlight for Modica. “In 2013, we held a concert on Memorial Day to benefit the Wounded Warrior program, and that was a really rewarding experience,” he says. “This year we concentrated on raising money for homeless services. The kids collected 8,000 pounds of food and three truckloads of clothing.”
As his personal and professional musical endeavors continue, Modica says that nothing compares to watching his students succeed. “I love going to student recitals,” he says. “Getting to a point where students really feel successful is tremendously rewarding.”