top of page

Leon Griesbach

Founder of the Psalterium Institute

Director, Psalterium Chamber Choir and Boy Choir

I have been involved in singing in one way or another since childhood when my family spent many car rides singing together. During these formative years I also sang in the Boy Singers of Maine and began singing in my church choir at the Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul. I remember being moved by many musical experiences to such an extent that even as a nine-year old chorister, certain pieces brought me to tears. The solemn Holy Week liturgies at the Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul along with the building's architecture, the pipe organ, and history of excellent music also made a significant impression on me (and continue to do so).

My interest in music quickly broadened, and by the time I was in high school I was taking private lessons for piano, organ, drums, and vocal performance, and was singing in the University of Southern Maine Chorale, and the Schola Cantorum at the Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul under the direction of Scott Vaillancourt.

While studying organ performance at the Catholic University of America, I continued to sing in several choral ensembles, was the assistant conductor of the University Chorus, and was a paid singer at Saint Peter's on Capitol Hill. I met several musicians/mentors who were deeply influential figures in my life. High points of my time in DC include beautiful liturgies at Saint Peter's on Capitol Hill, learning from and spending time with Dr. Kevin O'Brien, many fruitful hours of rehearsal in many different ensembles, and discovering the depth and expressive power of my voice for the first time with Mr. Russell Penney. 

The dearest and most influential person during this period was Dr. Leo Nestor (1948-2019) whose musicianship, passionate commitment to beauty, and love for the Church were infectious and inspiring. He generously agreed to teach me privately, allowed me into several choral music classes generally reserved for graduate students, shared freely of his knowledge and experience as a church musician, and gave much needed encouragement. He was a mentor of the highest order.

In 2008, I graduated from CUA, moved to Maine, and became the director of music at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. While at the cathedral, I met and married my wife, Cassi, and we settled down to start a family. Since that time, we have been blessed with children, friendship, exciting opportunities, and a host of cherished colleagues.

One of the most important times in my career was the five years we spent living in Rome, Italy where I was the Director of Liturgical Music at the Pontifical North American College. In this position I led the seminary’s 45-voice male voice choir in liturgies and concerts at the seminary, St. Peter’s Basilica, and throughout Rome including Mass with Pope Francis during his historic visit to the College in 2015. I also conducted a schola cantorum in performances in the Sistine Chapel, San Giovanni in Laterano, San Pietro in Vincoli, San Salvatore in Lauro, and numerous other of the ancient churches in Rome. 

My experiences in choral music over the last 30 years have all formed me deeply. Every time I hear a powerful performance, see a brilliant work of art, find myself in an awe-inspiring structure, or in other situations where beauty is apparent, I am most often brought back to moments as a boy chorister, weeping because something is so beautiful it hurts. The “wound” is reopened, you might say.

This is why I founded the Psalterium Institute: to “wound” the heart of each singer and listener in this same way. To ignite in each heart a desire that takes them on a life-long journey punctuated by moments of deeply consoling beauty.

bottom of page