Valerie Yova: Orthodox Music Ministry

Yova conducting a singalong for St. Nicholas Family Night, St. Athanasius Parish

I was raised in a parish in the Romanian Episcopate (OCA), a child of first generation Americans of Romanian parentage. I sang in the choir from early on (my father was the choir director until he became a deacon), taught music at our Vatra summer camp from the time I was 16 years old, majored in music in college and grad school, pursued a career in opera for a bit, and settled down for 14 years in the Detroit area. I was Music Director at the Romanian OCA Cathedral during that time, and very involved in starting a pan-Orthodox music ministry and mixed choir there. I’ve worked (for pay) in all three of the major archdioceses in America (Antiochian, Greek, OCA). Some of you may know me from my involvement with PSALM and my role in PSALM’s first national conference in Cicero, IL in 2006. I am currently in a full-time position at St. Athanasius Antiochian parish in Santa Barbara/Goleta, CA. This is one of the parishes of former Evangelical Protestants who converted en masse to Orthodoxy and came into the Antiochian Archdiocese in 1987.

St. Nicholas Family Night

My personal mission these days with regards to my role as a church musician — what drives me, keeps me going?

  • Helping the American Church find the form of musical expression that is going to be most appropriate for our language and culture. The verdict is still out. I think we have a long way to go. I use the best of all of the Orthodox traditions of music, and I use LOTS of music composed by American Orthodox composers, as in: composed FOR English and IN English by someone who speaks English really well! It really does work best, in the same way that opera sings best in the language for which it was written.
  • Helping facilitate worship that is prayerful, engaging and purposeful, that has the power to enlighten and “convert” all of us over and over again.

How do I do that? Perhaps that’s a topic for another blog entry!

St. Athanasius Church Choir

Valerie Yova is the Parish Administrator and Music Director at St. Athanasius Orthodox Church in Goleta, CA.

Author: Synaxis

Synaxis is a blog of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.

2 thoughts on “Valerie Yova: Orthodox Music Ministry”

  1. Ooh, ooh. Val is our choir director here in Santa Barbara and her leadership is tremendous. I think the biggest testimony to her ministry is how wonderfully prayerful the music is, and how the hymns come home with me, with all of us, and resurface as hums and melodic passages as we’re driving, or as the kids are playing with blocks or legos… The music sinks into our hearts and becomes a part of us. I hope Val’s influence spreads far and wide in the years to come…

  2. I grew up in an Orhtodox tradition where the choir sang pretty much the same thing every week and the congregation just stood or sat and listened. To be introduced to the concept that the role of the choir is to lead the congregation in prayer was a revelation (and surprise) to me. It has changed my view of my role and ministry in the church, and I have been blessed over the last 22 years (for the most part) to be singing under directors who espouse and practice this same vision. One of them was Valerie, by the way. I hope that this becomes the norm for liturgical music.

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