Church music director has the calling

Fiona Smith Sutherland, the new music director at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, has more than a job to do. She has a calling.

“I don’t want the children at church to just sing songs, I want them to know how to read music, and how to produce vocally, so they will have that skill for the rest of their lives,” Smith Sutherland said from her home in Southbury.

She’s been a professional music director at churches for 28 years, since she was 19 years old, when she said she received her calling.

“I’ve been working in church as an organist and conductor and leading choirs,” she said. “I’m very excited to be the director of music at St. Matthew’s in Wilton. They have a fantastic organ there to play, and I’m very excited about the facility. A lot of children are in the church, and I’m excited to get them more involved in the program.”

Smith Sutherland plays piano and organ, starting with piano at age five and organ at the age of 15. “I had to be tall enough to reach the pedals,” she said, joking about why she had to wait.

The St. Matthew’s organ, installed about six years ago, will be a joy to play.

“It is a special organ, and I’m really excited to get to know all the different sounds it can make,” she said.

Smith Sutherland holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sacred music, organ and conducting from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J.

“It’s not just music, it’s a calling. I’ve been called to work in the church, to work with the people,” she said.

She has worked at Christ Church in Greenwich and St. James the Less in Scarsdale, N.Y., among others.

Her first concert will be on Aug. 16, when she will conduct the Music on the Hill Summer Sings program from 7 to 9 at Wilton Presbyterian Church next door at 48 New Canaan Road.

Summer Sings are free, with donations gratefully accepted. Scores will be provided.

“Anyone who want to come and sing can come and sing, it’s a community sing,” she said. “That will be very nice.”

She officially began her job at St. Matthew’s on Aug. 1.

Smith Sutherland has been married 16 years to husband David. They have a 12-year-old son, Drew, who is a singer in a boy’s choir.