In 1860, Bishop James Whelan, O.P. of Nashville had a dream of starting a school for girls where the Catholic faith could be taught in the context of a strong academic and cultural formation. At his request, four Dominican Sisters came to Nashville to begin this new endeavor. In the autumn of that same year and on the cusp of the Civil War, St. Cecilia Academy opened its doors to its first students.

Although the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia now teach in 51 schools in 31 different dioceses in the United States and beyond, St. Cecilia Academy retains a special place in the history and heart of the congregation. As the oldest school in Nashville and the city’s only all-girls Catholic high school, the legacy of St. Cecilia Academy is unique, rooted in a vibrant Christ-centered environment marked by academic rigor and a nurturing community spirit.

With St. Cecilia as its patron, the fine arts has always held a central place in SCA’s liberal arts curriculum, and in 2019 the school finished a beautiful new fine arts center featuring professional studio space for the visual and performing arts. When visitors walk into St. Cecilia Academy, they comment on its joy and home-like environment. We like to think it has to do with the Dominican Difference, a difference that flows from the person of St. Dominic, who founded the Dominican Order in the heart of the Church for preaching and the salvation of souls. What is that difference?

  • It is an academically rigorous approach to educating students in truth and charity within a nurturing community marked by grace, friendship, freedom and confidence.
  • It elucidates the rich harmony of faith and reason, encouraging students to contemplation of the simple splendor of reality through the pursuit of truth wherever it may be found.
  • It emphasizes that true learning leads to wisdom and that a life of virtue grounded in friendship with Jesus Christ, who is Truth, leads to happiness, fulfillment, and joy.

After completing an extensive strategic plan process during Covid, St. Cecilia Academy will launch a new junior high program and become a 7-12 girls college preparatory academy in 2022-2023.