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A Memorial Day ‘Thank You’ from Luigi Grande, Voice Student and NOVA’s Commencement Singer

A Memorial Day ‘Thank You’ from Luigi Grande, Voice Student and NOVA’s Commencement Singer

NOVA student, Luigi Grande, has years of experience in military services and engineering. He also is following his passion to become a singer. Recently, Grande performed a duet of the ‘National Anthem’ with fellow voice student Melissa Lee for NOVA’s 56th Commencement ceremony.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background:

I am 76 years old, and God blessed me with good health and curiosity of the world. I was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1946. The law there at the time, allowed newborns to obtain the citizenship of their parents. So, I was considered an Italian citizen. I attended Catholic schools in Egypt that were run by the Salesian priests: “Istituto Salesiano Don Bosco.” Between 1960 and 1966, there was an exodus of most of the Italian families to other countries, and so my family and I left for the USA in 1967.

Shortly after arriving in the U.S., I was drafted into the Army in 1968 and then went to the Military Police School. After two years of service, I became a patrol supervisor of six policemen and obtained a full three stripes equivalent to a Sergeant ranking.

After my discharge from the Army, I worked at Engineering Science, Inc., from 1970 to 1975 as an architectural/structural designer. From 1976 to 1977, I worked at Greenhorne & O’Mara Inc, a civil engineering consulting firm While working, I pursued a bachelor’s in architecture from the University of Maryland,and accomplished my degree in May 1977.

I retired as an architect from CH2MHILL Inc., on November 14, 2014, after 36 memorable and productive years of working there. During my retirement, I traveled with my family to beautiful Italy. I also love spending quality time with my grandchildren and pursuing education in the field of music.

My favorite activity is singing Italian Opera as a Tenor, for the last five years, and performing in such places as Strathmore Music Hall in Bethesda, Md.

While I was on duty at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C., I met my wife, Diane. She was working at that post as an artist in the art department. We were married for 47 years. We had two children--a girl, Kerian, and a boy, Justin, and a total of four grandchildren.

My wife passed away four years ago, and so I started singing to help me remember her and focus.

What brought you to NOVA?

I heard about it through the community and knew I wanted to learn music and singing there. I've learned so much that now I will be traveling to Italy for the summer for a program called La Musical Lyrica, in which I will be there for five weeks learning to sing opera. Students from all over the world come to this program. At the end, we will be performing La Boheme. 

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA; ie, professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met:

I am lucky to have professor, Eun-Ah Roh. I am in awe to be able to be back to learning and singing. I love it. The motivation that I have been given by my professor and any opportunity I have to talk about this great professor, I take it. I have been taking lessons with her for five years. She helped me with this new chapter in my life.

I am told by my professor, that I am 76, but I have the voice of a 50-year-old. If you are receptive to the input and you try hard, they will eventually train your voice. I was delighted to participate in the Loudoun Campus Chorus. The other students and I worked with our professor and show her appreciation, so we sang the Korean National Anthem for her.

What would you like to say in honor of Memorial Day?

My fellow service members were basically my brothers. Ft. McNair was a small and closed fort back in the day. We were patrolling the fort 24 hours a day, and you always say, ‘what could happen in a fort’? It’s incredible what things happened in the years I was there. There were even fires in the NCO club.

It was very important that all the guys in the patrol stick together. It was a bonding experience that was really nice to be in.

I want to thank all my brothers and sisters who served and those who are serving. I want to memorialize their efforts. All those times I think about those people that go to war zones. The courage that those people must have is incredible. They put their life on the line. It takes so much courage. They are selfless and they give their lives for this country. They deserve a lot of respect. There are different types of people who put the safety of this country first. I am very grateful for those people.

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the largest public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls nearly 80,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield (Medical Education Campus) and Woodbridge, through NOVA Online and high school dual enrollment. We offer more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs to help our students reach their academic and professional goals through university transfers and access to the most in-demand careers. At NOVA, we strive to ensure that every student succeeds, every program achieves and every community prospers. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, visit our website, www.nvcc.eduor call 703.323.3000.