Papal Knighthood for Leo Nestor

Composer and conductor Leo Nestor, who is retiring this spring as professor of sacred music at Catholic University of America, has been named a papal knight, CNA reports. Nestor was inducted as a Knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great at the graduation ceremony of the School of Music on May 14. This is in recognition of his lifetime of musical service to the Catholic church.

width="165"Nestor served as music director at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for 17 years. He composed music for four papal visits to the U.S., and he was on the drafting committee for the U.S. bishops’ 2007 document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship.” He is a founding member of the Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians.

Dr. Kevin O’Brien, who was the first to receive the DMA in Sacred Music from CUA in 2011 and is on the faculty of choral and sacred music there, noted the importance of Nestor’s work in revitalizing the sacred music program at CUA in his time as full professor since 2001.

“The resulting graduate curricula are singularly rigorous, with an unabashed view toward the harmony of post-conciliar liturgy, the thesaurus musicae sacrae, and technical excellence, O’Brien said. He sees all this as based on “Leo’s own life in ministry beginning at the dawn of the aggiorniamento.” O’Brien concluded, “His retirement will leave an irreplaceable void.”


  1. I’ll never forget my first encounter with Leo at CSU (not CUA) back in the 80’s. He was perched on the “organ” (IIRC, an Allen toaster) bench, cigarette dangling and cross-legged looking for the world like a skinny mad hatter, wry smile gracing his impish mug. I was preparing for a performance of some baroque flute sonata and Leo’d been assigned as my accompanist. He was unforgivingly gracious and tolerant and the performance was a success. His mastery of the choral art is only matched by his mastery of preparing hearts and souls to work together towards beauty and integrity in his art. Tho’ I haven’t had much contact with Leo over the decades, when I do, that smile and voice make for lovely, lifetime memories.

  2. Congratulations to Dr. Nestor from NPM! He has always been wonderfully cooperative with our programs and supportive of our efforts to enhance congregational sung participation in worship. And he has provided this editor with an occasional–but needed–correction or two!

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