Evangelizing through music
Catholic musician Anna Nuzzo
by Jeannie Ewing
Her voice has been described as pure, tender, and angelic and her songs as anointed, healing, and inspired. Anna Nuzzo is an international Catholic recording artist, songwriter, and pianist, and she is as unassuming as she is musically gifted. I noticed her warmth and hospitality, partially credited to her Italian roots, the first moment I crossed the threshold of her home in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I didn’t feel as though I was a mere acquaintance, but rather a friend she welcomed with laughter and lively conversation.
For Anna, music is a natural aspect of her Midwestern life as a wife to Mike and mom to Drake and Luke, both in college. In fact, she grew up with a love for singing and a desire to teach herself how to play piano. Today her talent spreads to the Holy Land, all over Europe, the Caribbean, Canada, and across the United States. In this interview with Catholic Digest, she shares her incredible journey of singing for her local church to international professional performances and attributes her music ministry’s broad reach and appeal to her Marian consecration.
Q: Let’s go back to the beginning. When and how did you get involved with singing and music?
A: My love of singing began during my Catholic elementary school years at St. Mary’s Parish in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The music director, Theresa Setter, noticed my natural singing talent and formed a small singing group that included me and a few other girls. We sang regularly for Masses and also recorded a church album. In high school, I began serving as a cantor for weddings and funerals. During my college years and beyond, I also sang in a local quartet called IV HYMN (to represent “for Him”). We sang for weekly Masses, some special events, and also recorded an album.
Q: Please tell us about the inspiration that kick-started your music ministry.
A: In 2012, a group of women at my church, St. Anne’s in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, decided to offer Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory book study program with the goal of individual Marian consecration. We were one of the first groups in the country to do this.
After coming home from that very first group meeting, I felt drawn to sit at my piano and write a song based on Fr. Gaitley’s Marian consecration prayer, which I had just learned. So I prayed for the intercession of our Blessed Mother to help me turn this beautiful prayer into a song, tweaking the words of the prayer and then composing the melody. It happened very quickly, because I discovered I had written an entire song in less than an hour.
Because my heart was so moved at this burst of inspiration, I sat at my piano and cried, then immediately called my dear friend Margie who was in that women’s group with me and told her that I had just written a Marian consecration prayer song.
I had never written songs before that one. Songwriting had never even crossed my mind before that moment. I wasn’t a composer. I was a church singer who just liked to play piano for enjoyment. That was my identity. Up until that point, I had been singing in church for Masses, weddings, and funerals, but I never imagined I’d be writing my own songs. Our Lady had different plans.
After writing that first song in 2012, other songs began pouring out of me, and I recorded my first professionally recorded album of my own music in 2014, releasing Be Love: Songs of Faith, Hope & Love. That same year I came out with a second CD, Believe: Inspirational Songs & Stories with Fr. Domenic Roscioli. In October 2015, my Divine Mercy Chaplet CD was released. Sometimes God moves very fast.
Q: Talk a little bit about the process you use for song writing.
A: I believe the Holy Spirit and/or Mother Mary puts an idea in my head for a song. Sometimes I’m meant to turn an existing prayer into a song (the St. Michael Prayer, for instance). Sometimes there’s a theme or message that I’m inspired to turn into a song. Prayer songs come easier to me, because the lyrics are already there. Writing lyrics is harder for me. It takes much more time to come up with the right lyrics for a song.
Most of the time I write my songs at the piano. But once in a while, I come up with a melody and some lyrics in my head without the piano. Then I rush over to a piano if I can, or I record a voice memo in my phone to work on later. I often record songs in progress on my cell phone so I don’t forget them. I can feel it in my heart when a song is complete. Until I get that sense, I keep working on it.
Q: Where have you traveled to share your gift with others?
A: I’ve been so blessed to sing across the country and also internationally for many incredibly inspiring events. Some personal highlights include the 2019 Epiphany Vigil Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and a Christmas concert tour and pilgrimage in the Holy Land with a choir and my son Luke accompanying me on guitar. I was also honored to sing for the 2016 canonization Thanksgiving Mass of St. Stanislaus Papczynski in Rome, and at Carnegie Hall with John Angotti. There are many others.
Q: Do you have any interesting stories?
A: In 2016 I was hired to sing at a Totally Yours Marian Conference in Chicago. I was standing at my CD table, when all of a sudden, I started to smell the most beautiful and strong floral scent I had ever smelled! There were no real flowers in the entire convention hall, only artificial. But next to my table, there was a speaker’s table with a three-foot Rosa Mystica statue on it. No one was at the table, yet that’s exactly where the magnificent smell came from.
Just then, a group of about 10 Filipino ladies started to walk by, commenting on the floral scent, too. We all became so excited that Mother Mary was making her presence known to us. We started crying and exclaiming about our joy and thankfulness, and we began taking photos of ourselves with the statue. This lasted for several minutes. I have not smelled it since.
Shortly after this conference, I sang for a special event in Plum, Pennsylvania. A couple of days later, the event coordinator who hired me asked me what rose perfume I wore, when she smelled the fragrance. Apparently, it was as I first walked into the church during our initial meeting, then the next day when she picked me up and I got into her car. Well, I told her I was not wearing any perfume. I didn’t bring any with me.
It was then we both realized that Mother Mary was with us. I couldn’t smell her this time, but my friend could, and tears of joy poured forth at this beautiful realization.
Q: What’s had the most powerful impact on you since you have shared your gift of music?
A: I’ve received emails from many people from all over the world who have told me how my music has helped them get through a difficult time in their life. When I hear how inspiring my music is to them and that it helps them pray more and deepens their faith, I feel blessed to know that I have helped others receive God’s healing love.
Q: How does your music ministry affect your family life? How are they involved?
A: My husband, Mike, has been extremely supportive of my music ministry. In early 2019, I was sharing with him about the guilt I feel when I am away. He told me that I need not feel that way, because he believes God has anointed my music and wants me to share it around the world. We both believe this is my calling and God’s will. At this point, both our sons are away at college, and the Lord is filling up my calendar with many blessed events. Both of my sons are proud of me and support my music ministry, also.
Luke, 19, our younger son, participated in all of the concerts during our Holy Land pilgrimage in 2017 by playing guitar. Our largest crowd there was about 10,000 people in Manger Square in Bethlehem, which was televised live. He has played guitar for some of Fr. Michael Gaitley’s retreats and other concerts and retreats, too. I’ve really enjoyed our experiences together and watching him grow as a performer.
Q: What lessons have you learned since your music has become so widely known and loved?
A: When my first album was getting released in 2014, I was feeling very vulnerable. I didn’t know if people would like my music or feel moved by it, but I had to trust that this was God’s will for me, as I believed that in my heart. Well, I learned that when you give God a little, he reciprocates one hundredfold. We cannot outdo God’s generosity. It was through my Marian consecration that I stopped being nervous for solos, because I learned this isn’t about me. This is all about glorifying God. I’m just an instrument for evangelization, trying to bring people closer to God and his healing mercy.