Father Eugène Merlet (1925-2013) founded Pro Musicis in Paris in 1965 and introduced it to the United States in 1969. He was a Capuchin Franciscan priest, accomplished organist and charismatic person. The life of Francis of Assisi—who considered artistic talent a special gift from God and welcomed troubadours among his friars as messengers of peace—inspired Father Merlet to dedicate his life to music and the needs of others.
In pioneering the concept of a classical music award combined with a social mission, Father Merlet enabled exceptional concert musicians to experience an ineffable shift in relation to their talent. Beyond aiming for a career in music, he invited them to discover the joy of placing their social conscience at the center of their activities.
Common to all Pro Musicis artists is the conviction that their early experience playing community service concerts transformed their relationship to their art. By sharing their gift with those suffering from illness, disability, incarceration, loneliness or poverty, they experienced the depth of their own feelings about music.
“The task before us is a great one—to make alive for all humanity the experience of beauty, the revelation of insights that words cannot grasp. With every concert we sponsor, every artist we encourage, every person with whom we share, Pro Musicis is responding to the world’s profound thirst for beauty, and the peace, truth and freedom which it inspires.” — Father Merlet
Acclaim for Father Merlet:
- 1966 Pope Paul VI commended him during audience at the Vatican
- 1988 Mayor Edward Koch proclaimed June 13 “Pro Musicis Day in New York City”
- 1998 Pro Musicis honored him with Francis of Assisi Award
- 2001 Jacques Chirac, President of France, promoted him from Chevalier to Officer in French Legion of Honor