Holy Cross Music Professor Organizes Conference on Medieval Studies at Cambridge University

Conference brings together preeminent scholars in field

This month, 100 scholars from around the globe convened for an interdisciplinary conference on medieval studies at Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. The conference was organized by Daniel J. DiCenso ’98, a visiting professor in music at Holy Cross, and James Wade, a professor at Penn State University. DiCenso is completing his Ph.D. in musicology at the university.

With sessions on music, literature, history and religion, “Knowledge and Learning in the Middle Ages: A Conference Celebrating the 800th Anniversary of the University of Cambridge,” was one of a number of events taking place throughout the year in celebration of the university’s founding.

Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the 2009 Fund which is supporting the university’s anniversary celebrations, DiCenso says he was able to attract the finest scholars in the field of medieval studies.

“Every session involved hearing from the best,” he says. “But more than that, top scholars mixed with visiting graduate students and other audience members. The conference was truly an exchange of ideas — not only between the top scholars giving lectures, but between all levels of those interested in the Middle Ages.”

A highlight of the conference, says DiCenso, was the keynote address delivered by Margot Fassler, Robert Tangeman professor of music history at Yale University.

“Professor Fassler’s paper about the use of medieval chant in present-day Coptic and Roman Catholic religious communities drove home the point that while the Middle Ages were very long ago, so many medieval practices continue to influence our lives today — from the way that we worship in communities to the ways that we express ourselves and our histories through song,” he says.

DiCenso is the first student from Holy Cross to have won a highly-competitive Gates Cambridge Scholarship, a full-cost award given to students from outside the United Kingdom to pursue graduate study and research at the university. In the fall, he will be teaching both medieval music courses and popular music courses at Holy Cross, and apply for post-doctoral research positions and tenure-track jobs.

“It’s been a privilege to be back at Holy Cross for two years,” he says. “I think that what’s most wonderful about teaching at Holy Cross, apart from the students, is to be a part of an institution worth believing in. Holy Cross is about opening minds to new possibilities — asking questions, not giving ‘answers.’ ”