Humans of the ISM | Sarah Paquet and Timothy Cahill

Music, Religion and the Arts, Student Life, Visual Arts, Yale Divinity School, Yale School of Music

“I’m assistant conductor at Yale Glee Club this year. Last Friday we traveled by train to the Yale Club in New York City, which is kind of a tradition that’s been in place for many years. It was a great concert, and on the way back, the Glee Club basically took up an entire empty train car. The conductor of the train was so excited to have us there, and he thought it would be hilarious if he took a video for his friends and family of the Glee Club singing, and him pretending to conduct them because he’s a train conductor. So he took this video, and the publicity chair of the Glee Club posted it to Facebook, and suddenly it had all these views and it went viral…the Glee Club was invited to perform on Good Morning America, which didn’t work out because the train conductor couldn’t be there. It was just a great little moment of holiday cheer to participate in. Obviously all of the Glee Club students were super excited about it, and also the train conductor was super excited to share it with all of his friends and family. It was great!”

Originally from Traverse City, Michigan, Sarah Paquet (M.M. ’16) is in her second year of the choral conducting program at the ISM. In addition to conducting the Glee Club, she serves as  Chapel Choir director at Marquand, and will earn her Masters of Music in 2017.


Timothy Cahill, M.A.R. '16. Photo by Tara Jamali, M.A.R. '17.

Timothy Cahill, M.A.R. ’16. Photo by Tara Jamali, M.A.R. ’17.

I spent twenty-five years writing about art and making art squarely within the tradition of late modernism, and it never felt like enough. For all that time I had no faith life. I wasn’t an atheist or agnostic; it was worse. I could feel spirit crackling all around me and I just didn’t pay attention. About six years ago that began to change. I came here to more fully understand the relationship between the arts and matters of the sacred. I mean, I knew there was a connection, but couldn’t articulate the connection. Now that I’m in my fifth semester here (because of going part time), I’ve begun to know something about that. Art exists for itself, but artists – they are human beings first, and their first duty is to their humanity. When an artist is making art, it’s about the work of art – the artist isn’t trying to save the world – but any of us, whether we’re artists, scholars, bricklayers, or candlestick makers, have our humanity to answer to as well, and the beginning and end of that humanity is what we call God, the Infinite, the Unknowable Source. Our meaning and our purpose lie finally in our relationship with that which is bigger than us and with creation – the world, people, love. That is what has come out of my time here: to be able to say this with some sense of confidence and without embarrassment. I’ve long resisted the idea of art for art’s sake – I think that’s too simplistic, too extreme. But even more now is my conviction that artists can’t exist only for their art’s sake. That artists have a deeper responsibility in terms of their own humanity, as we all do. Does that mean that artists owe us something through their art? Not necessarily, no. But when I look at artwork that plainly has abdicated its humanity, its compassion, its mystery, and exists strictly for some sort of an effect – iconoclastic or transgressive or ironic – then I lose interest in it. I’ve lost interest in it and its capacity to say something of value.

I’d never looked at Humans of New York – I’d heard about it as a phenomenon, but I’d never seen it, so I went there today. And I saw that some of the excerpts were really long, and some were one line…and it’s like, well, I never feel more vulnerable or less myself than when I’m being photographed. I look at people’s faces all the time because I was and still am a photographer, and I love people’s faces, and what that man does on that site is really a very interesting, lovely thing, because he gets all those interesting, expressive faces. My face feels more like it hides what’s inside me than reveals what’s inside me.

Timothy Cahill is an M.A.R. student in Religion and Literature, and also serves as the Visual Arts Editor of Lettersan online publication that promotes writers and visual artists whose
 work concerns matters of religion and spirituality.


All interviews and photos by Tara Jamali, M.A.R. ’17.