Peter Kolar, a 1991 St. Lawrence Seminary graduate, works for a major publisher of Catholic music and hymnals. (Submitted photo)
Peter Kolar was always interested in music and, when he entered St. Lawrence Seminary High School as a freshman, he almost immediately became the de facto accompanist for most Masses and daily prayer services throughout his four years at the school.
“Doing so provided me valuable liturgical experience and allowed me to hone musical techniques, especially in the area of improvisation,” he said.
Currently a member of the editorial team at GIA Publications, a major publisher of Catholic music and hymnals, Kolar plays a direct role in shaping the music that is sung by U.S. Catholics. As editor for Spanish and bilingual resources, he serves an especially important and growing segment of the diverse American Church. Kolar is the founding editor of Celebremos/Let Us Celebrate, the bilingual English-Spanish missalette used by parish communities across the nation. Recently, he served as a consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in creating the musical chants of the Spanish-language edition of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. His musical compositions can be found in various Catholic hymnals and missalettes
Attending SLS served as the backdrop for Kolar’s personal and professional life. He refers to his education as a pivotal moment in his life that set him on a trajectory that would not have been possible had he not lived and experienced his formative years there.
“The lifelong bonds with classmates, the plunged-into-the-deep-end of learning personal responsibility, the unparalleled spiritual mentorship and first-rate education received are all singularly responsible for much of who I am and have become in the years since,” he said. “I remain grateful for and indebted to those amazing four years at SLS.”
One of his fondest high school memories includes, of course, a piano. He was preparing a college audition tape and recorded several pieces in the dimly lit SLS Chapel using the school’s grand piano.
“The old piano was in very poor condition and routinely squeaked and creaked while I played. As I was finishing a very difficult piece, which required me to play quite forcefully on the keys, the support bar that was holding up the piano lid snapped off and the entire lid came crashing down in a thunderous boom that echoed throughout the cavernous chapel, all caught on my recording tape,” he said. “I did not submit that version, obviously, but I did have a good laugh, and admittedly, a heart-stopping scare.”
Sunday Masses were a highlight for students as their families often came to visit. The seminary choir led the music and, according to Kolar, the fervent singing and resounding voices in the sacred space have yet to be matched in his life since.
“All-time favorite hymns were the spiritual ‘Now Let Us Sing’ and ‘Sow the Word’ by composer Steve Janco (now-colleague and friend who, by the way, leads a ministry degree program at Alverno College),” he said.
The 1991 graduate belongs to St. Mark Parish in El Paso, Texas, and his ministry is primarily at St. Patrick Cathedral in the Diocese of El Paso.
“The latter ‘keeps my feet wet’ in the trenches, as it were, putting into action the call to discipleship via personal relationships and interaction; not just from behind a desk. Though these constitute different facets of my professional life, both keep me grounded in a Christian spirit of service and love for the liturgy,” said Kolar. “As such, each day is an opportunity to put into practice the very values instilled in me during my time at SLS: a sustaining relationship with God through prayer; living a life of honesty, goodness, and respect, especially for the benefit of my children; and always seeing Christ in neighbor and stranger.”
Kolar holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music composition from Northwestern University. A native of Detroit, he currently resides in El Paso with his wife, Mariana, and two daughters. He remains active in ministry as director of the El Paso Diocesan Choir, collaborating frequently with Bishop Mark J. Seitz.
In 2016, Kolar led musical performances for the Papal visit to the U.S. border and toured in El Salvador for the canonization of Oscar Romero. In August 2019, Kolar’s ministry included providing music for the many victims’ funerals in the aftermath of the Walmart shooting tragedy in El Paso.
“My music was selected to be sung at the Beatification Mass of Stanley Rother in September 2017; in November of that same year I worked with Fr. Ed Foley (Capuchin priest and fellow SLS alum) to provide the music for the Beatification Mass of Blessed Solanus Casey in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan, where the Capuchins are beloved,” he said. “Exactly one year later, I led a group of singers from El Paso to join with choirs in El Salvador, my mother’s native country, to take part in the national celebrations for the canonization of St. Oscar Romero, where we visited and performed by his graveside and at the place where he was martyred. Being so close to holiness was truly transformative. It was music that has always been a constant channel to faith and indeed that which led to these amazing opportunities.”