Coach Caruso directs choir programs while Lisa Riffel on maternity leave


Elena Valdovinos

Matt Caruso is adjusting well to both directing the choral programs and coaching the football team at Lincoln. This past year was his first season as head coach of the football team.

Elena Valdovinos

Lisa Riffel, Lincoln’s choral director, left for maternity leave earlier this year. A new figure is stepping in for her, and he’s no stranger to Lincoln. The temporary choir director is Lincoln’s head football coach, Matt Caruso. 

Abby Snyder, a junior in Cardinal Choir and Chamber Choir, is adjusting well to working with Caruso.

“I really love Ms. Riffel, she’s one of my favorite teachers, so my immediate reaction was I just felt really happy for her,” said Snyder. “There was a little sadness because I knew that she wouldn’t be teaching us for a while, but mostly just happiness for her.”

Now, Snyder enjoys learning choir through a different perspective, and appreciates the lessons she’s learning from Caruso.

“I think he’s a great teacher, and I think he was a really good option for when Ms. Riffel went on maternity leave,” said Snyder.

Coach Caruso has fostered a love for both athletics and music since his childhood. Growing up in New Jersey, he was always a singer and pianist, and tried out both soccer and football before high school. Now, at Lincoln, he has the opportunity to teach choir programs while simultaneously coaching the football team. 

This isn’t his first time being involved with both sports and music. In high school and college, Caruso played for the football team while also being a part of the choir. He says he’s struggled while learning how to manage both passions in his life.

“I learned a lot of time management when I was in high school because both were very intense programs,” said Caruso. “Even though they didn’t always overlap, it was enough when I was in high school, when I was a teenager. It really taught me to have to prioritize and make those choices so that when it came college I was already prepared for that. […] I already had that experience having to choose between two very different things.”

In college, Caruso directed the campus a capella group and was in their select choir from day one. On the football team, he played defensive back. He says there are similarities between singing and playing sports.

“I wasn’t very good at either one of them, but it was very fulfilling for me,” said Caruso. “I always knew that as a musician, I’d be a better director than a singer. As a football player, I knew I’d be a better coach than a player.”

Now, Caruso hopes that students who have multiple passions will be able to learn from his experiences. He leaves a message for both his athletes and new students.

“[I want] those kids that want to do both to pursue both, because the avenues are there,” said Caruso. “There is a way to do both, you don’t have to choose, especially as a teenager. That’s the one thing that I would want to tell students is that if you happen to be like me and you have an athletic love and a performing arts love you can do, and you should do, both.”