During his time at The Catholic University of America, senior Matt Fitzsimmons, a trumpet performance major, has had numerous opportunities to perform around the Washington, D.C., area. But none of those experiences comes close to the excitement he felt while performing during Pope Francis’s historic visit to the University in 2015.

“It’s still hard to wrap my mind around it,” Fitzsimmons said. “It was amazing being able to perform at such a high level for something that mattered so much. Once you embody the meaning and purpose behind the music, it really speaks to people in a profound way. And I definitely felt that.”

For Fitzsimmons, who had switched majors from biology to music during his sophomore year, the Mass seemed like a sign that he was on the right path.

“Once you embody the meaning and purpose behind the music, it really speaks to people in a profound way.”
– Matt Fitzsimmons

“It just felt like things were falling into place, like amidst the chaos I knew I was stepping forward into the right direction,” he said. “Sometimes when you’re exploring different career options, doors will open in a certain direction and maybe it’s fate, maybe it’s God, but I think it’s a sign that you’ve got to follow it.”

In the last two years, Fitzsimmons said he has learned how a person can make a living in music while living out their Catholic faith. Following the advice of University chaplain Rev. Jude DeAngelo, he tries to help others by performing during Masses at St. Vincent’s Chapel and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He also performs with a small brass group that visits local nursing homes in Maryland.

Fitzsimmons believes playing music can provide a service by helping people cope with life’s good and bad events. To him, music is “a language that relates to everybody.”

“If you actually listen to it with full attention, music can encompass every emotion you can possibly feel,” he said. “You can feel the heartbreak of a family member dying or losing a relationship, or the triumph you feel when getting a job or making a huge accomplishment. All the extremes are there.”

In the future, Fitzsimmons plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in trumpet performance, perhaps for a military band or orchestra. He said he’s thankful for the many experiences and opportunities he’s received at Catholic University. Thanks to connections he made here, he’s currently working as a classical and new music programming intern with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

“Because I got to take my time and figure out what I wanted to do, and because of the mentors here guiding me, I feel like I have a bigger setup for success than I would have had anywhere else,” he said. “Here it’s like people are lifting each other up and celebrating each other’s successes.”