IUP at Bocelli concert with Baunoch in foreground

It was a once-in-a-lifetime invitation and opportunity for 60 students and three Indiana University of Pennsylvania music faculty.

Students and faculty in IUP’s Department of Music were the invited local chorus to sing with THE Andrea Bocelli—the international superstar—at his concert in Pittsburgh, the first stop on his current tour schedule.

It’s been a whirlwind.

View of the full stage with Andrea Bocelli singing, orchestra playing behind them, and the IUP student chorus singing

In mid-March, a representative of Bocelli’s tour production company contacted Joseph Baunoch, professor of voice at IUP, with the invitation.

“The initial email about the possibility of IUP performing with Mr. Bocelli said this: ‘We have heard wonderful things about your ensemble and would like check on your possible interest and availability for our upcoming concert,’” Baunoch said.

“Later, I found out from the tour producer that the West Coast concertmaster for Mr. Bocelli, Charles Stegeman, who is also the concertmaster of the Pittsburgh ballet and opera and professor of violin at Duquesne University, made the recommendation. The tour producer said that they like to keep the choirs and orchestras local whenever possible.


From left: Joseph Baunoch, professor of voice at IUP; Craig Denison, director of choral activities at IUP; and Zach Cheever, associate director of bands and director of IUP’s Marching Band

“Of course, we said yes. The choir included nearly 60 students and a few faculty members, including myself, Craig Denison, director of choral activities, and Zach Cheever, faculty member, associate director of bands and director of IUP’s Marching Band. The students truly stepped up to the occasion and worked so hard to prepare 11 songs ranging from opera to popular music over a three-week rehearsal time,” Baunoch said.

"To say that singing with Andrea Bocelli and the Pittsburgh Opera Orchestra was something that I will remember forever is an understatement,” he said. “Thousands in the audience cheering us on—it was a rush. I was proud to share the experience with my students who represented us so well. They sang their hearts out! A defining moment in my career and the young careers of our students," Baunoch.

IUP student Dylan Rausch, a second-year graduate student in the master of arts program in music performance from Yankton, South Dakota, was part of the student chorus.

“Getting to sing with Andrea Bocelli last night was a dream come true. The whole process from start to finish was thrilling. Hearing the orchestra filling the arena along with the singers’ soaring high notes really reminded me why I am doing music,” Rausch said.

Students' view from the stage during the concert

Several members of the IUP community attended the concert, including Matt Baumer, professor of music history and chairperson of the department.

“As an audience member, I was so proud to see our students jump into this incredibly professional and complex production as if they’d been doing it for their entire lives. Joe Baunoch and Craig Denison obviously prepared them very well, and they sang beautifully,” Baumer said.

Curt Scheib, dean of IUP’s College of Arts and Humanities, was also part of the audience.

“What an exciting opportunity for our students to participate in this significant concert attended by thousands of appreciative audience members,” Scheib said.

“I am so very proud of the students and appreciative of the work of IUP faculty Joe Baunoch and Craig Dennison to pull everything together. They were accompanied by Zach Cheever, so the Legend was also represented in this proud moment for IUP! It was a wonderful evening in every way.”