Long-time Mineola resident Joan Katinas is a woman of many talents. Originally from County Meath, Ireland, Katinas’ life journey has led her to become a wife, a mother, a singer and a volunteer to those needing assistance. On Sept. 13, 2016, Katinas also became a proud citizen of the United States of America.
At just 19, Katinas left her parents and six siblings in Ireland to become a nanny. It was a difficult transition made much easier when she met her future husband, Eric, just one brief week after arriving in Connecticut. “We met at a neighborhood party and he asked me out. I didn’t find out until years later that after our first date, he told his mother that he had met the girl he was going to marry,” said Katinas.
So began a marriage that is now 22 years and going strong. In her job as an elementary school teacher, Katinas found great fulfillment as well. With a move to Mineola, the couple saw their family grow to include daughters, Rebecca, 19, Chloe, 17, and Hannah, 11. They fell in love with Mineola and it was there that Katinas found her calling. “I believe in the Irish tradition of humility,” she said. Being able to offer help to people in your community is the closest thing to my heart. It brings me joy.”
Music has been a source of fulfillment in the Katinas household. “My father was offered a chance to train as an opera singer,” Katinas said. “But he turned it down because of his family obligations. I grew up with music all around us.”
She started singing in choirs at 7-years-old, even going on to compete at the National Competitions in Dublin. During her time as a Connecticut nanny, Katinas had the opportunity to sing with the Connecticut Choral, performing at Carnegie Hall. “Can you imagine what that meant to my dad? Carnegie Hall was a dream come true for him,” she said.
In 1991, Katinas saw an ad for a local chorus known as Greater Nassau Chorus (GNC). She went down to their rehearsals in Baldwin to investigate.
“From the first moment, I was hooked,” Katinas said. “It was an all-female chorus singing a cappella barbershop harmony. The sound was so amazing. I’ve been a very happy tenor there for 25 years.”
With pride, Katinas reports that GNC has gone on to many accomplishments, including being the New York/New Jersey Regional Champions of Sweet Adelines International (SAI) for 12 times and finishing in the top 10 at the SAI International Competition eight times. This year, the group heads to the international competition again in October in Las Vegas.
Daughter Chloe is following in her mother’s footsteps. “I grew up watching GNC from fourth grade,” said Chloe. “I love the people, the music, everything about it.” A junior, Chloe is in both the Mineola All Treble Chorus and the A Cappella Choir.
Becoming an American citizen was emotional for Katinas. A permanent resident for over 20 years, she still felt strong ties to Ireland. But then her dad passed away 9 years ago. To compound her sorrow, she lost her mom just three years ago.
“It was a very profound decision for me to become an American citizen. I took it very seriously. You pledge allegiance to one flag, to one country. I’m very aware of taking the privilege of being a citizen seriously. I know what people have given for this country,” she said, adding that her pride and joy is a framed, folded American flag.
Katinas and her daughter recently united on stage with their respective choruses at Greater Nassau Chorus’ annual show which was held at Mineola High School. Mineola’s All Treble Chorus and A Cappella Choir each performed but the icing on the cake was when they all joined together with the Girl Scouts Chorus of Nassau County to perform a rendition of “Feelin’ Groovy.”
“Music brings people together,” said Katinas. “I feel like this has been a historic year for me and through my music I can celebrate everything I feel about becoming a new American citizen.”
–By Merrill Weiner