Local Musician Writes, Performs NCYC Theme Song

By Mary Knapke

(Catholic Telegraph January 11, 2008)

All children have an idea of what they want to be when they grow up. Nick Cardilino’s childhood dream was to be a rock star, performing his music on stage in front of thousands of people. Last November, Cardilino’s dream became reality when he performed his song “Discover the Way” for 20,000 people at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

Cardilino co-wrote “Discover the Way” with Indiana writer and producer David C. Smith and performed it at the opening ceremony of the 2007 National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) hosted by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM).

While he said the experience itself was amazing, Cardilino also said he was surprised to discover that living out his childhood dream was not the most gratifying aspect of his performance.

It went really well, and I was very excited about it,” he said. But the best part was “being in the arena, in the midst of it, and hearing 20,000 young people not only singing my song, but really praying the song.... It was so powerful.”

Cardilino wrote “Discover the Way” for NFCYM’s conference theme song contest. After praying and reading Scripture, he quickly came up with most of the first version of the song, an up-tempo rock anthem. His collaboration with Smith resulted in completion of the anthem, as well as a ballad version suitable for liturgical purposes. Both songwriters debuted “Discover the Way” at the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry in Las Vegas in Dec. 2006, and both versions were used for NCYC, held Nov. 8-12 in Columbus.

Now, the internet plays a major role in creating a wide fan base for the song. NFCYM posted both versions on its web site so youth ministers could use it in programs and prayer services prior to the conference. Videos of “Discover the Way” performances have been posted on YouTube. The rock version of the song was ranked the number one Christian rock song and the ballad version was ranked the number one Christian pop song early last month on www.soundclick.com. And at www.topcatholicsongs.com, the song is now ranked number four on the list of top 10 Catholic songs of 2007.

Cardilino took an unconventional path to musical success. He has a bachelor’s degree in English secondary education from Miami University and a master’s degree in theology from the University of Dayton. He holds a day job at UD’s Center for Social Concern, where he has worked for 17 years and has served as director for six.

He has no formal music training, but that hasn’t diminished his enthusiasm for creating and performing music throughout his adult life. In high school, he sang at his local parish but didn’t play an instrument until he taught himself to play guitar in college. During his senior year of college, he and a friend decided to write their own music; within a weekend, they had completed the bulk of One More Miracle, a musical about the disciples’ experiences between Christ’s crucifixion and Pentecost. For the next several years, he found it difficult to make time for writing, until a friend named Jim Melko invited him to join a local songwriters’ workshop.

There was really no reason for Jim to have even sent me that e-mail. But he did, and so it’s so providential. So to say, ‘how did you get here?’ — there was no plan for me to get here,” Cardilino said. Correcting himself, he added, “There was no plan that I had to get here. But here I am.”

Now, Cardilino helps coordinate the songwriters’ group he joined a decade ago and has released three CDs: The Workings of Grace, More and Discover the Way. He leads music at noon Mass at Holy Angels in Dayton and occasionally performs his own music in a variety of venues. In addition to his work and music, Cardilino and his wife Anne Marie have three children. Most people might find it difficult to balance so many interests and responsibilities, but Cardilino said he finds it easy.

God gives me the time,” he said. “When you do things that are at least attempts to do things for God, it’s easy.”

Cardilino’s passion for music is driven by his passion for his faith. Because he thinks musically, he said, he often prays musically and perceives powerful messages in the combination of melody and lyrics that music provides.

Music moves me. It moves me emotionally; it moves me in a lot of different ways,” he said. “And so my hope and my prayer is that I can use whatever musical gifts God has given me to move other people and to move them closer in their relationship with God.”

Cardilino’s music is available online at www.nickcardilino.com.