Silvestri makes an impact

Silvestri Photo Headshot

Sarah Miller

History professor Tony Silvestri lives a double life as a celebrated and renowned lyricist and composer.

Silvestri, a well-known face at Washburn University, was recognized for his composition at the 2018 World Choral Fest held in Salzburg, Austria. Silvestri traveled to Salzburg to attend the event and unveil his newest composition entitled, “The Hallstatt Carol.” The carol was based largely on the rich, beautiful history of Hallstatt, Austria, where a small concert was held at the end of the festival. He was rewarded for his astounding work with a key to the city of Hallstatt and an experience he will remember forever.

Silvestri spent nearly a year perfecting the composition, which was to be performed during the fest at a small concert in the historic town of Hallstatt. Hallstatt is one of the oldest towns in Europe, and its history dates back 7,000 years. Silvestri, as a historian, tapped into the region’s rich, expansive history to create a beautiful composition based on the ancient pagan rituals practiced in that area thousands of years ago.

The lyrics, written in both German and Latin, tell the story of the ancient people of Hallstatt giving praise and worship to the pagan god of the hunt as they return to their village.

“The piece merges the men marching with the women singing until it comes together into a raucous, orgiastic, ecstatic experience,” Silvestri said.

The piece will be performed again in Kansas City in the spring of next year.

Silvestri is an accomplished lyricist, composer, musician and artist. The beginning of his journey in the choral world was very much an accident. He wrote the lyrics to accompany a composition as a favor to a friend, and the composition was very successful, as were several others. Silvestri continued to work with other composers and has found great success in the choral world since then.

Silvestri has been a lyricist for over 20 years, working with many renowned composers. According to his website, Silvestri has worked with composers such as Eric Whitacre, Dan Forrest, Ola Gjeilo and Andrea Ramsey. His works have also performed by renowned groups like the King’s Singers, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, the Tallis Scholars, Westminster Choir College and the Houston Grand Opera. On his website, Silvestri has a list of 37 poems that have been written or commissioned by other composers.  

Within the last few years he began to dabble in composing his own works. Silvestri’s first full composition, titled “Each Morning She Walks,” was debuted in the fall of 2016 at Washburn University.

Silvestri has taught history for over two decades in the collegiate and high school levels. He is known for his entertaining and educational history courses. Silvestri has taught many courses in which he asks to students to fully immerse themselves in the history that they are studying. In classes such “Ancient Greece” or “ Traditional Japan” he requires the students to dress up and perform as if they were living in the time and place they are learning about. This has been incredibly memorable for his students but Silvestri captivates his students even with a simple lecture. Its safe to say that Silvestri has a way with words that has translated well into both his academia and his choral passions. Chase Sachs, a former student of Silvestri who graduated Washburn in 2015, remembers his lectures fondly.

“He puts so much work into his lectures.” Sachs said. “ He focuses on the art of rhetoric, and the way he tells a story really manages to captivate and draw you in.”

Not only is Professor Silvestri admired for his interactive and engaging classes. Many people also admire his willingness to go above and beyond to help his students succeed, not only in his class, but in all aspects of their lives. Sachs described a time when he would visit Silvestri’s office to get face-to-face feedback on his papers and Silvestri was always happy to meet with him. Sachs believes that this made him a much better writer and the skills that he learned from Silvestri have benefited him even as he continues his education as a graduate student. Another former student Wesley Lawrence, who graduated Washburn in 2012, cited Silvestri as role model in his personal life.

“Professor Silvestri is so intensely caring and thoughtful of other people, but he knows when to be firm with his students.” Lawrence said. “ He always seems like he is genuinely interested in you as a person. He’s just a great guy and I’ve always looked up to him because of that.”

It’s no doubt that Silvestri has achieved amazing thing in his life thus far, but he is always working and has some projects that he is working on currently. He has a collection of his own poetry coming out this fall, and he continues to work on his composing, with hopes of debuting new compositions soon.

Silvestri is always trying new hobbies and pursuing new opportunities in his personal and professional life. He has touched and inspired so many people through both his music and his teaching. His composition work has given him many wonderful opportunities to travel the world and make amazing music.

“I’ve gotten to meet so many amazing people through my music,” Silvestri said. “I’ve traveled to Japan, Austria, England, Germany and all across the United States. I’ve heard the most amazing music performed in the most amazing spaces on Earth. All because I said yes to a friend who needed a favor.”

Silvestri found a new talent and passion, seemingly by stumbling upon it. Ultimately, he has one piece of advice for anyone looking to try something new.

“The best advice I can give to anyone is to just say ‘yes.'”