By Cassy Fiano
Frank DeProspo grew up in Patterson, New Jersey. His mother immigrated from the Philippines in the 1960s, where she married his dad. She was a stay at home mom while his father worked for Nabisco as a baker. After his dad retired, his mother insisted on moving to a warmer climate and they decided to relocate to Palm Coast in 1982.
His mother, who had taught DeProspo to play the piano, was serving as the organist at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Palm Coast. At age 12, he asked if he could replace her, which thrilled her. He became the church’s organist and he kept the job through the years, even as he attended Florida State University, where he majored in pre-med chemistry. He played over the summers each year.
After he graduated, he got a job with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as a forensic serologist and then changed careers to work in information technology. In 1996, he was hired as the music director at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mandarin, helping the music ministry to grow and gain a reputation as one of the best choirs in the diocese; they were invited to play for the Pope at the Vatican. DeProspo is married, and he and his wife Nicole have one daughter, Olivia.
- What originally drew you to music?
Well, my mom, who was a very good pianist, really got me interested in it when I was four. She gave me all these classical pieces to learn. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. When I got the job at Mother Seton, it kept me playing because it gave me a reason to play. That’s really why a lot of kids stop. When you get to those pre-teen years, there’s really no incentive to continue. So working for the church, it kept me playing, because it gave me a reason to do it. Then I was asked to do a show, a little theater production when I was a teenager, and that sparked my interest in playing jazz and show tunes.
- What do you think has been your proudest accomplishment as music director?
It’s very rewarding to see people who wouldn’t normally get up in front of a group and sing and to work with them and convince them they have the ability to do this. So when we took the choir to Italy, it was a group of people who aren’t professional singers, who just worked really hard — and they sang in front of the Pope. Different people from different backgrounds, like a senior executive at a bank or a senior vice president at Florida Blue, are interacting with someone who is a florist at Winn-Dixie and they’re all having a great time together. They’re working together towards this goal of making a joyful sound.
- Why do you think that music is so important in a church?
All throughout the church’s history, music has been so integral to prayer. It’s going off of what, I believe, St. Augustine says: “He who sings, prays twice.” I agree with that kind of mindset where singing reinforces the prayers that are spoken.
- What does music do for you?
It’s a great outlet. It’s a way for me to pray during the Mass. Just sitting there, just playing, just very thankful to God that I have that opportunity to do work with this choir.. And hopefully, I can make a difference in the liturgy, that when people come to St. Joseph’s, they’ll get something out of it. Someone came to me once and said that their husband came to St. Joseph’s and became Catholic because of the music. Stories like that are why I love doing this.
- Do you have a favorite hymn or song to play, and why?
It’s funny, because I like some songs in their entirety, but mostly I like pieces of songs. I’d say one of my newer favorites is the one we did on Holy Thursday, “From an Upper Room.” It has this beautiful feel to it and the music paints the text so beautifully. It’s got all of these running notes, this sense of urgency to it, that really puts you in the frame of the Last Supper and what’s about to happen after the Last Supper in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a powerful song and it blends in another traditional melody of “let all mortal flesh keep silent.” It’s such a powerful song.
Photo courtesy Frank DeProspo
Frank DeProspo with his wife Nicole and daughter Olivia.