Mrs. Martha O’Brien | Saint Francis University
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Mrs. Martha O’Brien

  • Martha Obrien Profile Image

    Position: Music Studies, Adjunct Instructor

    Department: Fine Arts, Women's Studies

    Office: Fine Arts Building 208

    Email Mrs. Martha O’Brien


    About Mrs. Martha O’Brien


    • A.B. French, Wilson College, Pennsylvania 
    • Studies in Voice, Non-degree study at Le Conservatoire National de Musique, Paris,
    • Courses in Medieval Art, non-degree study at La Sorbonne, Paris
    • M.A. Music Theory and Composition, Indiana University of Pennsylvania


    After a long career divided between the Fine Arts Department and the General Education Program at Saint Francis, Martha is now semi-retired and enjoying teaching part-time. In her time at Saint Francis, she revived the choral program and directed it for many years, offering public concerts every semester and enhancing the co-curricular offerings of the institution.  For many of those years, the chorus was a "town and gown" group that brought the wider community to campus.

    Martha's strong liberal arts background and devotion to the importance of educational breadth inspired her to serve several terms as Associate Dean and Dean of General Education. In that capacity, she oversaw a major revision to the General Education Program and administered the program for over a decade.

    As a generalist, Martha has both practical and theoretical knowledge of music, theatre, and art history as well as extensive international educational and living experiences, which she enjoys sharing with her colleagues and students. 


    • Academic Profile
    • Community Involvement
    • Research & Travel
    Academic Profile

    Selected Professional Experience

    • 1977-present: Lecturer in/Instructor of Music, Saint Francis College (now Saint Francis University), Loretto, PA
    • May 1997-Dec. 1999: Dean of General Education, Saint Francis College, Loretto, PA
    • March 2005-July 2005: Interim Associate Dean of General Education (part time), Saint Francis University, Loretto, PA
    • July 2005-present: Dean of General Education, Saint Francis University, Loretto, PA

    Selected Campus Service

    • General Education Committee—several terms
    • Readers' Forum and Summer Book Selection group
    • Music Director:
      • Sesquicentennial Opening Mass -- Fall 1996
      • Baccalaureate Mass -- 1997-1999; 2005-2008
      • Alumni Weekend Mass -- Summer 1997
      • Sesquicentennial Solemn Mass -- Fall 1997
      • Sesquicentennial Closing Mass -- December 1997
      • Mass of Thanksgiving for Fr. Gabriel’s inauguration—Fall 2004
    • First-Year Advisor--1997-2005; 2008
    • Faculty Advisor to the B.R.I.D.GE. Project (the university’s Haiti outreach)
    • Day of Reflection Committee—every year since its inception
    • Academic Restructuring Task Force (2006-07)
    • Academic Strategic Planning Task Force (2007-08)
    • Diversity Strategic Planning Task Force (2007-08)
    • Christian Culture Task Force (2008)
    • New Faculty Orientation presenter (2006-08)
    • Distance Education Task Force (2006-08)
    Community Involvement

    Selected Past

    • Johnstown Symphony Chorale--1970s: Member and soloist
    • Music Reviewer--1980s: Johnstown Tribune-Democrat
    • Director of a play for the local Bi-Centennial Festival--1976
    • Board of Directors; Talus Rock Girl Scout Council: Member--1970-76; 1st VP--1976-82; President--1982-88
    • Girl Scout Camp Director (resident and day camps)--1969-73
    • Trainer - special music session--1982: Nuestra Cabana, International Center of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts,Cuernavaca, Mexico
    • Support Staff (mainly informal interpretation) World Conference of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts
    • Founder and Director - Holy Name Women's Choir, Holy Name Church, Ebensburg, PA
    • Seasonal Volunteer: DDC
    • Interpreter and teacher for various mission trips to Haiti


    • Board of Directors, Kindred Journey, Inc. (a mission outreach to Hinche, Haiti)
    • Member: Women’s Choir—Holy Name Church
    • Involvement in planning and implementation of “Peace from Pole to Pole” peace walk (2005-2008)
    • Girl Scout leader (2007-present)

    Selected Performances, Publications, and Presentations

    • On-campus concerts -- at least one per semester
    • Joint concert with Mount Aloysius—April 2008
    • Producer of 3 tapes of Haitian religious music composed and performed by the Petits Frères et les Petites Soeurs de l’Incarnation, including liner notes and/or trilingual booklet
    • Presentation: “Sister Emmanuelle Victor’s Haitian Rhythms”—Festival of Women Composers—Indiana University of Pennsylvania—March 2001
    • “A Feminine Voice in Contemporary Haitian Roman Catholic Religious Music: The Songs of Petite Soeur Emmanuelle Victor, P.S.I.”: The Journal of Haitian Studies, Fall 2004.
    Research & Travel

    Research (ongoing)

    • Oral history with Mme. Catherine de Béchillon, a Holocaust survivor. CDs and DVD of interviews.
    • Translation of part of French text based on aforementioned interviews.


    • Canada -- yearly
    • Europe -- June 1986; June 1990; March 1995; February 1996; June 1996; June 1999; March 2000; March 2004; March 2005; March 2006; March 2008 (France, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Spain, Germany)
    • Haiti
      • September 1991 -- as a parish representative on a visit to our “twin” parish
      • November 1995 -- to plan production of tape
      • November 1996 -- to record for tape
      • March and November 1997 -- group leader for “Spiritual Tourism” trips
      • March 1998&9 -- group leader for service-learning/intercultural exchange trips
      • January 2000--interpreter for workshop given by a group of American nuns for a group of Haitian nuns
      • May-July 2000-- immersion experience in Haiti- activities included: Teaching basic weaving skills, recording for tape, beginning the study of Haitian drumming, improving skills in speaking Haitian Creole
      • May-June 2001—immersion experience in Haiti - Activities included: recording for tape, improving skills in speaking Haitian Creole, continuing the study of Haitian drumming
      • May-June 2002—leader of service-learning/intercultural exchange trip with extension of trip for immersion experience - Activities included: Various activities with trip participants, weaving, teaching block printing, interpreting for a medical mission improving skills in speaking Haitian Creole
      • January 2003—interpreter for a medical mission to Les Petites Soeurs, January 2004—interpreter for a medical mission to Les Petites Soeurs
    • Various places in U.S.A.