SMC remembers the inspiration of Pope John Paul II

"Blest too are the sorrowing; they shall be consoled..."

The strain of the song from "Beatitude" filled the Concert Hall as guests, students, & alumni attended the First Annual Spring Film Festival presented by the SMC Opera Theatre. The film clip showed Ms. Sue Ann Pinner, SMC's Artistic Director, singing to the assembled masses on 1989 in the mass held by Pope John Paul II on his first visit to the United States.

It was evident Pope John Paul II loved music as he turned his head toward the singer when the music began. Ms. Pinner, a daughter of a Methodist preacher, recalls the electric feeling as the people opened their hearts and souls to welcome the Pope.

She says, "Being raised a Methodist, I was totally unprepared for the incredible magnitude of love & hope, as voices of prayers and songs rose from the people, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike, who gathered by the millions to see the Pope." It's as if time itself stood still to hear his message. "I felt a strong presence of the Holy Spirit and had goose bumps running up and down my arm." Such was the effect of this divine leader as he reached out to all people, overcoming sectarian differences as he met with a diverse group of religious leaders and different cultural leaders.

Music has a way of transcending cultural and religious differences. As the head of the Voice and Opera Program and a full-time SMC teacher, Ms. Pinner believes in the divine power of singing.

"The very act of singing heals you. Everyone should sing. This is why I teach. I believe that we are all a part of some kind of spiritual evolution and I am just one of [God's] foot soldier that help people find their voice."

As Artistic Director for Santa Monica College Opera Theater Program (SMCOT), Miss Pinner has been helping many of her students earn scholarships and to get into the best conservatories, UC, Cal State and Opera Programs. The SMCOT program is highly regarded and has won many awards over the years. Its reputation has grown even more, especially after winning 6 Emmys on the year 2001 for "Faust." The program, specializes in Television Opera Videos in English. Every performance done by SMCOT has been filmed and the use and presentation of these films have helped students achieve their hopes and dreams. As student train in the program, their first appearances on stage at SMCOT is recorded on film and a video tape copy is given to the student to add to their portfolio upon completion of the program. "We have alumni who have gotten into Boston Conservatory, San Francisco Conservatory, and even one graduating from USC in June with a Master's Degree in Music," say Ms. Pinner.

Helping her students find their voice has a profound effect to other students in other areas as well. Students who have moved on to other professions have gained confidence in addressing an audience, conquering fear, and overall confidence in their ability to express themselves. "My goal is to help my students in any and everyway to achieve their dreams and aspirations. This is their school of inspiration and the achievement of hopes and dreams," states Ms. Pinner.

SMCOT's Film Festival, which will be held annually along with other presentations, will help fund these goals. All monies raised will be used to cover expenses of new productions. SMCOT's next presentation is Mozart's Don Giovanni & Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress which will be held at 8 p.m. on May 14th and 15th at the Santa Monica College Concert Hall. It will be preceeded by a lecture from Dr. Donald Richardson at 7 p.m.