At just 18 months old, Bridie Schnore often lulled herself to sleep singing "Jingle Bells." By age four, her parents were convinced she was destined for musical greatness: She sang along with German and Italian arias during her mother's weekly vocal lessons.
"She was always very linguistic," said Bridie's mother, Mary Beth, noting that her daughter also spoke in full sentences at 14 months old.
Bridie started violin lessons at age five. She learned technical competence before gradually learning to read music. Today, the 18-year-old is an accomplished violinist and a freshman music education major at The College of Saint Rose in Albany.
A Glenville native, Bridie practices her Catholic faith through service and music.
Gifts from God
"Music is a way of praising God. When you sing, you pray twice," she told The Evangelist, quoting St. Augustine. "I just use the talents that God gave me."
Bridie aims to become a college professor of music and work with others who feel the same way. Already, she has taught weekly violin lessons, helped conduct the chamber orchestra at her high school and aided the second-grade catechist at her parish, St. Joseph's in Scotia.
Bridie's violin career took off around sixth grade, when she was accepted into the prestigious Empire State Youth Orchestra as a string ensemble member for two years.
She then moved to ESYO's repertory orchestra for three years and ultimately played for its youth orchestra, the most advanced group.
During her junior year of high school, she played "Scheherazade" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City.
"It was really beautiful there," Bridie said. "I was really grateful to play where so many people have played."
She filled her time at Scotia-Glenville High School leading orchestras and singing in a select choir and drama club; she's also played at Masses at St. Joseph's.
Bridie's love for violin intensified when she attended a month-long music camp sponsored by the New York State Summer School of the Arts and staffed by the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Play all day
"That's when I knew I wanted to play every day of my life," she said. "I want to teach people about music because music's been really important in my life. It's another way of helping" people.
Saint Rose was a natural fit - and a familiar one, as she knew many of the professors from their collaboration with ESYO.
Bridie's choice of college also pleased her mother. Music students perform on Fridays, and Mrs. Schnore has already been in the audience.
"I miss Bridie terribly," Mrs. Schnore said. But "I love that she's only 20 miles away."
Bridie is taking classes in music theory and learning how to play other instruments in addition to taking courses that are core requirements. Music students must practice their main instruments two hours a day; other instruments, half an hour each day.
Bridie and 10 other students were chosen to attend a 10-day mission trip to Washington, D.C., in January. They will live in a homeless shelter and work with So Others Might Eat (SOME), an interfaith, community-based organization that helps the poor and homeless.
The students are already learning about "food deserts" - parts of the city where healthy, fresh food is hard to find - and possible solutions.
"What inspired me was the SALT program I did in high school," Bridie said, referring to the Albany Diocese's Service Action Learning Teams, which engage Catholic teens in community service and social justice. "I wanted to do something where I could see the impact I have on people."
Upon returning from SALT, Bridie's knowledge of and passion for Catholic social teaching impressed her mother.
"She cried all the way home," Mrs. Schnore remembered. "It was emotional being exposed to so many people [who need help]. She said, 'Mom, it was so sad.' She got a lot out of that program."