Joseph Libio

An interview with Father Alphonse Stephenson, Director of the St. Peter by the Sea Orchestra

The annual Christmas Concert featuring Father Alphonse Stephenson and the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea was held this year on Sunday, December 3rd in the Hennessy Center. I had the opportunity to speak to Rev. Alphonse Stephenson before the concert. Rev. Alphonse Stephen-son is the conductor and director of the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea. He was a chaplain of the Air National Guard at age 39 and retired as a Brigadier General. He went into music at age 27 and was also ordained in 1975. I had an excellent interview with Rev. Alphonse Stephenson, who on top of all his work and responsibility has a tremendous sense of humor. He began our interview discussing how he got into music and how he balanced being a Priest, his service in the military and his music at the same time.

Q: How did you get started in music?
A: “My mother and father forced me.(laughing) My grandma had a piano in her house so I just went and started to play it. I was very fascinated that the tubes were going up and down when he played and then when I wanted to pursue it my mother and father had me make the tubes go up and down by themselves.”

Q: How did you balance your work as a Priest, your service in the military and your love of mu-sic?
A: “It’s a balancing act. If you’re going to do a lot of things, do them all but do them at one time and don’t mix the two. Live in the moment, don’t think into what is going to happen in 5 years, that’s not going to matter, all that matters is the now.”

Q: How did you become the conductor of the St. Peters by the Sea Orchestra?
A: “I founded the orchestra. When the job opened I applied for it and of course I got it.(laughing) I never had a board of directors. My board of directors were my parents so I was never forced out. Boredom is a good thing. I felt bored at one point after my experience on Broadway so I went and did something and founded the orchestra.”

Q: What gives you the greatest satisfaction at the end of a concert?
A: “My greatest satisfaction is the people that didn’t want to be here at the concert and when it’s over realizing it wasn’t so bad. There is going to be people here that were somehow forced to come and I want them to come out of it saying wow that wasn’t bad at all and that’s most satisfying.”
The St. Peter by the Sea Orchestra, with Father Alphonse performs each year here at Dominican College as part of the College’s Christmas concert. If you haven’t had the chance to come out to see them, you should put it on your calendar for next year, it will definitely get you into the Holiday spirit.