Heaven must have not only choirs of angels, but bands and orchestras, too!
Though St. Cecilia is (quite famously) the patron saint of musicians, this patronage finds its origin not in her musical abilities but in a tradition that she sang to God in her heart as musicians played at her wedding. There are, however, any number of saints who were instrumentalists, vocalists, and composers, musicians whose friendship and intercession can encourage those among us who seek to use our musical gifts to glorify God.
St. Aldhelm of Sherborne (639-709) was an English abbot whose musical talents included harp, fiddle, pipes, and voice; he was also a scholar and a miracle-worker.
St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) was an Italian bishop and doctor of the Church. Having been made to practice the harpsichord for three hours a day as a child, he was a great master on the instrument and used it to accompany novices in his community as they practiced the many popular hymns he composed.
St. Andrew Kaggwa (1856-1886) was the master drummer of the king of Buganda, head over 15 other drummers before he became director of the entire royal band. Though a favorite of the king and leader in the army, he was martyred with St. Charles Lwanga.
Servant of God Antonio Cuipa (d. 1704) was an Apalachee chief, a husband and father who served his people as a carpenter and evangelized his neighbors by playing the flute and the guitar, followed by his powerful preaching.
Bl. Bartolo Longo (1841-1926) was an Italian high priest of Satan who converted and became a preacher of the Rosary. As a young man, he played violin, flute, and piano and directed a band; years later when he worked with young people, he made sure his institution had a band.
St. Benignus of Armagh (d. 467) was an Irish chieftain converted by St. Patrick whose voice was so beautiful it earned him the nickname “Patrick’s psalm-singer.” He directed a choir and later became bishop alongside his mentor.
Bl. Carlo Acutis (1991-2006) is best known for his skill as a computer programmer and web designer, but he also taught himself to play the saxophone.
Bl. Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Santiago (1918-1963) was a Puerto Rican layman who lived for the liturgy, instructing people about it and playing the organ for the Mass; he was self-taught, after only a year of piano lessons.
St. Catherine of Bologna (1413-1463) was an Italian Poor Clare abbess. She was a talented painter and poet and played the viola, even on her deathbed.
Servant of God Cyprien Rugamba (1935-1944) was a husband and father of 11, a composer and choreographer who led the renewal in Rwandan culture after the end of colonialism and was martyred in the Rwandan Genocide.
Bl. Dina Belanger (1897-1929) was a Canadian concert pianist, composer, and mystic who studied at a conservatory in New York City before becoming a Sister and a music teacher.
St. Dulce Pontes (1914-1992) was a Brazilian nun who was nominated for a Nobel Prize for her work with the poor. In addition to building hospitals and soup kitchens, she played soccer with street children and played her accordion to cheer up workers.
St. Dunstan of Canterbury (909-988) was an English bishop, artist, sculptor, and metalworker. He played the harp and composed hymns in English and Latin.
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880-1906) was a French Carmelite nun who had played the piano for hours each day before entering the convent. She won numerous prizes and might have become a famous concert pianist but chose Carmel instead.
St. Ephrem the Syrian (306-373) was a Turkish deacon who wrote over 400 hymns and was called the Harp of the Spirit. Ephrem used his hymns to instruct people in the faith and combat heresies.
Bl. Ezequiel Huerta Gutiérrez (1876-1927) was a Mexican husband and father of 10, a pianist, a church organist, a choir director, and a classically-trained tenor who was martyred in the Cristero War.
Ven. Felix Varela (1788-1853) was a Cuban priest and intellectual, a violinist who helped found the first Cuban philharmonic society, and a human rights advocate whose work for abolition got him exiled to the United States.
Bl. Fructuoso Pérez Márquez (1884-1936) was a Spanish journalist and newspaper editor who played piano and sang, serving as a cantor for his cathedral. He was martyred in the Spanish Civil War.
St. Godric of Finchale (1069-1170) was an English pirate who became a hermit and was blessed with mystical visions and the gift of prophecy. He’s said to have received the songs he wrote in visions.
Bl. Hermann of Reichenau (1013-1054) was a disabled German Benedictine monk who built musical instruments and composed many chants, possibly including the Salve Regina and the Alma Redemptoris Mater.
St. Hervé (521-556) was a blind French bard who became a hermit and developed such a reputation for holiness that many other Christians came to live with and learn from him.
St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a German Benedictine prioress, mystic, poet, herbalist, and celebrated composer. She is a doctor of the Church.
Bl. Hyacinth-Marie Cormier (1832-1916) was a French Dominican priest and Master of the Order who had a beautiful singing voice and played the flageolet, the organ, and the ophicleide. He was so talented at the organ that celebrated composer and pianist Franz Liszt called him “a master of the art.”
Bl. Jarogniew Wojciechowski (1922-1942) was a Polish teenager whose father had left the family when Jarogniew was 11. Jarogniew sang in the choir and played the piano and had hopes of learning to compose, but was killed by the Nazis.
St. John Wang Rui (1885-1900) was a Chinese minor seminarian known for his beautiful singing voice; after touring Europe with his bishop, he returned to China and was martyred.
Bl. Lucien Botovasoa (1908-1943) was a Malagasy husband and father, an athlete and teacher, and an exceptional singer who played the harmonium and directed the parish choir before being martyred.
St. Maria Crescentia Höss (1682-1744) was a German Franciscan with a voice so beautiful that Protestants and Catholics alike came to Mass to hear her sing.
Ven. Maria Orsola Bussone (1954-1970) was an Italian teenager who played guitar and loved singing, skating, and skiing. She was electrocuted while blow-drying her hair.
Bl. Maria Romero Meneses (1902-1977) was a Nicaraguan Salesian Sister trained as a violinist and a pianist; she built schools and clinics and food banks and is known as the Social Apostle of Costa Rica.
St. Mechtilde of Helfta (1241-1298) was a German Benedictine nun known as the “Nightingale of Helfta” for her beautiful voice. She directed the choir in her monastery for many years.
Bl. Miguel Pro (1891-1927) was a Mexican Jesuit priest who served his people while in hiding during the Cristero war. He was famous for his practical jokes and often played guitar or mandolin to keep people’s spirits up.
Bl. Natalia Tulasiewicz (1906-1945) was a Polish poet, a violinist, a PhD, and a teacher who infiltrated a Nazi factory to serve the workers and was killed in Ravensbrück.
Bl. Notkar Balbulus (840-912) was a Swiss monk (often called Bl. Notkar the Stammerer) who composed many chants and liturgical sequences and compiled the work of other composers as well.
St. Peter Claver (1581-1654) was a Spanish Jesuit priest who served enslaved people in Colombia. In addition to the corporal works of mercy, he formed a choir of Africans who sang liturgical music so heavenly that Spaniards wept and Muslims converted.
Bl. Rafal Chylinski (1694-1741) was a Polish cavalry officer who became a Franciscan priest. He played the harp, the lute, and the mandolin.
St. Rafael Guízar y Valencia (1878-1938) was a Mexican bishop who played the accordion and spent his seminary years composing music, directing the choir, and leading a band called The Mystical Roosters (Los Gallos Misticos).
Bl. Ranieri Scacceri (1115-1160) was an Italian traveling musician, living a worldly life funded by his lyre and his voice, until a deep conversion led him to a vow of poverty and ultimately life in a monastery.
Servant of God Rosa Giovannetti (1896-1929) was an Italian cellist who toured Italy giving concerts, cared for migrants and refugees, played piano, and loved swimming and boat racing.
Bl. Rupert Mayer (1876-1945) was a talented German violinist who played the violin as he prepared his homilies, but gave it up when he entered the Jesuits. He vocally opposed the Nazis, was imprisoned, and died shortly after his release.
Ven. Satoko Kitahara (1929-1958) was a rich young Japanese convert who began her work with slum children by giving them piano lessons and finished by moving into the slum to live with them.
Bl. Solanus Casey (1870-1957) was an American Capuchin priest who played the violin “with more love than skill,” bringing out his instrument to play (quite badly) to cheer up the other friars or while alone in the chapel. His squeaky efforts delighted the heart of God.
St. Teresa of the Andes (1900-1920) was a Chilean girl who left behind a world of sports, parties, and popularity to become a Carmelite. She played piano, guitar, and harmonium.
St. Tutilo of Saint Gall (850-915) was a German monk known for his skill as a boxer, poet, composer, painter, and sculptor. He played trumpet and harp, sang, and studied various academic disciplines as well.
St. Venantius Fortunatus (535-605) was an Italian convert to the faith and a wandering bard for many years before becoming a priest and then a bishop. He wrote poetry and songs, including some of the first known Marian poems.
St. Victoriano Pio (1905-1934) was a Spanish Christian Brother, a talented musician and choir director who was martyred in the Spanish Civil War.
Bl. Volodymir Pryjma (1906-1941) was a Ukrainian husband and father, a trained Byzantine cantor and church choir director who was martyred by Communists.
Ven. Zeinab Alif (1845-1926) was kidnapped from Sudan and sold into slavery, ransomed from slavery, and became a Poor Clare, famous for her skill as a vocalist but particularly as an organist.