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HOMEGROWN CHRISTMAS CANTATA

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November 18, 2021 

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Upcoming Notre Dame Christmas Concert on Dec. 8 will feature the first performance anywhere of a cantata composed by 2006 alum.

Notre Dame Prep alum Matthew Croft NDP'06 is conducting the on-stage orchestra for "Merrily We Role Along" in May 2021.


When Notre Dame's band and chorus programs come together Dec. 8 for their annual Christmas program, they will be performing a brand new Christmas cantata composed by alum Matthew Croft NDP'06. It will be the first time the piece, which is called "Dawn is Breaking," will be played anywhere and both composer and his high school alma mater are thrilled about it.

"Dave [Fazzini] and I received access to Matt's cantata that was just recently published," said Joe Martin, Notre Dame's director of bands. "It is an amazing piece and we hope we can give it the performance it deserves during our concert on Dec. 8. Matt is very accomplished and has traveled the world performing and conducting in musical theater." 

In fact, Croft currently is traveling North America as the associate conductor and keyboardist on the “Jesus Christ Superstar, 50th Anniversary Tour,” which ends in Dayton, Ohio, in August 2022.

Croft said he cannot be at NDP on Dec. 8 because of the tour, but knows his cantata will be in good hands.

"I unfortunately won't be there to see the performance as I'll be in Toronto with 'Superstar,' he said. "But I'm sure they'll do a lovely job and it'll be great to have the piece performed live for the first time."

Discovered Broadway and the pit

Croft's stint with "Superstar" is not his first major theater tour. Far from it. Since 2006, he's played, conducted, music-directed and been a part of a music staff for more than 120 shows. Actually, he music-directed his first show - an Actors' Equity Association production of "Hair!" — at the age of 16 and still a student at Notre Dame Prep. 

Croft's work as a professional began in earnest in 2014 when he got a job playing as keyboard 2/associate music director at Meadow Brook Theatre in Auburn Hills - the largest AEA regional theater in Michigan - playing and programming keyboards for their regional premieres of "Lysistrata Jones" and Cole Porter's "You Never Know."

Since then, he has returned to Meadow Brook for multiple shows - vocal-directing its production of A Christmas Carol twice, as well as writing new arrangements for the a cappella singing group featured in the show. He's also music-directed and played "Altar Boyz," "I Love A Piano" and "Forever Plaid." 

Croft is with Motown Records Founder Berry Gordy, Jr., while working as music director/keyboard 1 and conductor for Gordy's 2017 National Tour of "Motown: The Musical."


Croft loves what he’s doing and says sitting with a nine-piece orchestra and 20-plus-person traveling company is something he thinks he was always meant to do — well, at least since high school.

“I realized pretty early on that I wanted to go into music for a career — something that my music teachers at NDP and college as well as my private teachers encouraged me to do,” Croft said in an earlier article published in IRISH magazine. “I originally wanted to study film music, but I discovered Broadway music and pit orchestras, and I immediately knew that’s where I should be.”

He spent a lot of time in his formative years studying classical music, i.e., theory, harmony, composition, conducting, etc., and he played as many shows as he could fit into his schedule in order to gain as much experience as possible. All that work seems to have paid off, he said, but his time at Notre Dame Prep and later at Wayne State University, where he studied music composition and conducting, also played a big part as well.

“I owe a lot of my success in college to my music teachers at NDP,” said Croft, who first came to Notre Dame as a sixth grader. “Joe Martin and Dave Fazzini both were a great help, working with me to develop my skills as a pianist, a composer and an arranger. They also gave me the opportunity to have my compositions played by the band and choir, and to learn how to conduct and lead a group — all skills that have come in very handy in my current career.”

Hanging out in Cleveland

While learning his musical chops at NDP, Croft also worked for an outside professional theater company. He continued to hone his skills while in college, including two years with Meadow Brook Theatre as a keyboard player and assistant conductor. 

“I got involved with a major productions company through my work at Meadow Brook, which was a big break for me,” said Croft, who currently lives in Cleveland with his fiancée. But he still truly believes it was more than just a big break that led to his current success.

“At NDP, everybody was encouraging and helpful my entire time there. They really pushed me to be creative and to work hard.” 

Besides Martin and Fazzini, he also called out former NDP social studies teacher Russ Cannon, who taught him to “really think outside the box” and be an independent thinker.

Croft is conducting his off-stage orchestra for the production of "Amélie" in July 2021.

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.