Princeton Profiles: Penna Rose, leaving beautiful sounds in the stones

For 25 years, Penna Rose has been leading Chapel Music and the Chapel Choir while providing a nurturing environment for students.

Close to 90 years of music reverberates through the stones of the Princeton University Chapel.

Penna Rose, director of Chapel Music under the Office of Religious Life, says the voices of past students live within the walls of the chapel, completed in 1928. For 25 years, Rose has ensured the legacy continues.

Rose leads the 80-member Chapel Choir, which comprises undergraduate and graduate students along with a few faculty, staff and community members.

“The students come from everywhere. They come from every discipline,” Rose said. “They come because they love singing. They love the space. This [chapel] is their home.”

The Chapel Choir performs at Opening Exercises, the Baccalaureate ceremony and the Service of Remembrance. The choir also sings at Sunday morning services throughout the year and at concerts in December and in the spring. In addition, the choir sponsors a variety of events in the chapel, such as an annual presentation of a silent movie with organ accompaniment.

Every other year, the Chapel Choir participates in an international tour during which it performs with other choirs. This past academic year, the choir performed in Portugal.

“One of the most interesting things about Chapel Choir tours is that Penna makes them a cultural exchange,” said Eliza Davis, a former Chapel Choir president and graduate of the Class of 2017 who majored in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. “It’s a really amazing experience because we always get to spend time with these other choirs and make connections through music.”

Rose was inducted as an honorary member of the Class of 2017 during the senior Step Sing in June. During the induction, Rose was cited as “filling our undergraduate lives with heavenly sounds and angelic music.” She was also noted as being a “mentor and great friend to many.”

“I think that Penna really does emphasize making the music mean something to you,” said Eric Fung, a chemistry major and member of the Class of 2018. “She is definitely a mentor figure. Not just to me but to everyone else in the choir.”

Rose is dedicated to sharing her passion for music with the students, and also feels that she gets something in return.

“Every year I learn something. That’s why this job is important for me to keep doing because I am renewed every year,” Rose said. “It’s the best job in the world. The students are absolutely remarkable. They are smart. They’re funny. They’re fabulous.”