Twenty-year-old Brendon Mezzetti is mastering the musical world at his fingertips and offering his growing talents to the liturgical service of the Catholic Church in Alaska.
Mezzetti grew up performing in the Alaska Children’s’ Choir and local small theatrical venues. A Suzuki-trained pianist since age eight, his command at the keyboard was initially harnessed while participating in community theater as a pre-teen, where he was casually tasked with transcribing a 256-page score to accompany a stage production. He dove in, and has accumulated honors at every level. The same determination has brought him to the role of organist, cantor and musical director of the Sunday evening Mass at St. Andrew Church in Eagle River.
Clair Shirey, a St. Andrew’s parishioner, led the parish’s Schola Cantorum choir, which further fostered Mezzetti’s vocal work and liturgical ministry. Four years of study under Shirey framed his sensibilities.
He is currently a sophomore at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, as a vocal performance major and is also studying sacred music under Grant Cochran and preparing a Verdi Requiem. He credits many mentors with giving him both the structure and the freedom to develop his gift.
Mezzetti credited Gary Marks, former music director at Anchorage’s Holy Family Cathedral, for introducing him to the organ.
“He taught me so much for free — he just gave me tons of lessons,” Mezzetti recalled.
Marks invited him to play during Summer Sounds, a musical day camp hosted by the downtown cathedral in 2011. With this vital structure intact, Kevin Barnett, an Eagle River composer and jazz musician, then taught him to simplify complex pieces in order to develop his style.
These days, he can often be found dressed in his signature navy blue mock turtleneck and dark slacks, honing his offerings at the organ of his childhood parish alongside his younger sister Natalie. When asked what it’s like to play for one of the largest Catholic churches in Alaska, Mezzetti didn’t skip a proverbial beat.
“Stressful,” he said.
His joyful resolve seems to buffer that stress well, and he and his sister are quick to add that prayer is a constant in their routine. They grew up in the Eagle River parish and Mezzetti remembers his mother depositing him in the choir five years ago.
“My mom just brought me here.” His shrug belies the determination which has kept him there, as well as the near-constant acclaim his musical efforts have been met with outside of the church. He toured the northern hemisphere with the National Youth Orchestra in 2013 and has won top honors in multiple string competitions. Following a hand injury that threatened his musical career, he welcomed the challenge of adapting to other instruments with the same verve he found as a violinist, which earned him local and worldwide recognition.
He emphasized the joy he finds in worshipping through music.
“I am so unworthy to be playing for God, this is just where I bury my one talent,” he said, while noting that his mother’s review of his work is often a driving force, inspiring him to improve each week.
His mother composed the music for the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) liturgical text which Mezzetti currently plays during the Mass at St. Andrew.
Both Natalie and Brendon appreciate the sacred possibilities in every instrument, and describe their style as aspiring to express beauty and reverence, but not restricted to the organ alone.
Natalie, 17, noted that the excitement of the parish’s newly ordained priest, Father Arthur Roraff, has meshed well with the homeschooled duo’s ambitions for their roles at the parish.
“We have so far to go, with the choir, and are really looking forward to expanding and including the youth,” she said.
Natalie composed a Gloria to be sung during the Mass. She is also an aspiring poet who has set her lyrical style to music, which her brother transcribes. They maintain a YouTube channel with original vocal compositions. Both Mezzettis encourage prospective choir members to join them.
Natalie said they hope to form a lay apostolate with those who share their passion “for singing — an essential part of being human.”