How Cynthia Fruth Became One of the Few Female Music Directors in The Catholic Church
Dallas is home to one of the richest religious music scenes in the country. Over the summer, we'll be attending services, both big and small, of many denominations, as well talking to musicians, directors and pastors.
Raised Baptist and currently Lutheran, Cynthia Fruth has performed at many different houses of worship, including Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Catholic, and a Jewish synagogue in Charlotte, North Carolina. Over the years, music has taken Fruth to a wide variety of destinations, including to her current full-time position as the Music Director at St. Patrick Catholic Church, which she accepted in 1998.
St. Pat's offers a variety of services, including ones with children's choirs, services with contemporary music and a Spanish mass. About once a month, they have a mass that features the native music of some of the church's refugees, who mostly have come from Africa and Southeast Asia. On Sunday July 7th, we atttended the traditional service at 10 a.m.
Everything about the mass, which lasted almost exactly an hour had very soothing, relaxing vibes of unity. With no fancy lighting or overwhelming instrumentation, the congregation, accompanied only by an organ or a piano, sang along to the traditional hymns, which could be found in the hymnals in front of the pews.
Fruth has a lot of control of which hymns are performed at mass, and she tries to make sure that the music helps emphasize the message of the mass, especially for holidays like Christmas and Easter. She's very proud of the church's hand-bells and children's choirs, which many churches don't have, and the fact that her choirs consist of all volunteers, which motivates her to work even harder to become a better teacher.
"I challenge them to offer the best offering to God. It is not just 'Oh, let's just get by,'" Fruth told me. "We have an especially good music program because it is of the people and I'm proud of that."
Before arriving where she is today, Fruth, who's one of four children, grew up in Camden, South Carolina. Fruth began playing the piano by ear at the age of five, after listening to her older sister play, and eventually started piano lessons in third grade.
Her next-door neighbor was friends with the organist at the local Episcopalian Church, which Fruth would sneak over and attend, eventually leading her to fall in love with the liturgy scene. One day when she was in ninth grade, the shy Fruth knocked on the organist's door and asked for lessons. Within three weeks of her first organ lesson, she was a substitute organist at her Baptist church. Then, at the age of 16, she had the opportunity to become the lead organist for her Baptist church, which had a congregation of about 2,000 members.