A music legend returns

Thursday, October 22, 2009
Dr. Russell Robinson

A Cassville High School music legend will return home next week in what is expected to be a festive homecoming for a man who is held in high regard by his former students.

Dr. Russell Robinson, who served as Cassville High School's choir director and music teacher from 1972 to 1981, will guest direct at a special concert on Monday, Oct. 26, beginning at 7 p.m. in the CHS gymnasium.

Before the concert, choir boosters will host "Dinner with the Doc" from 5 to 7 p.m. in the CHS commons area. Area residents, including Dr. Robinson's former students and colleagues, are encouraged to attend.

Since leaving Cassville, Dr. Robinson has gained national and international prominence as an educator, composer and conductor. He has been a member of the University of Florida faculty since 1984, where he is a professor of music, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in choral music and music education.

Dr. Robinson is a published author, composer and arranger with over 250 publications. His conducting venues have included performances at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the National Cathedral and the White House.

In recognition of his strong connection with Cassville, Dr. Robinson has written a piece that he is dedicating to past and present members of the Cassville Middle School and Cassville High School music program. This original composition will be performed by a mass choir at the Oct. 26 concert.

Robinson has many fond memories of the time he spent in southwest Missouri and describes Cassville as the place where he learned to teach.

"Your first year of teaching is really on-the-job training," said Robinson. "The students, administration, parents and community were so patient and supportive when I was finding my way as a teacher.

"Plus, Cassville was one of those unique places where a majority of students starting in elementary school end up in middle school and high school, so what you sow in beginning bands and choirs, you reap in middle school and high school," continued Robinson.

During his first few years at Cassville, Robinson worked with Dr. John Knight who went on to get his doctorate at Louisiana State University and eventually joined the faculty at Oberlin.

"John was a great role model for me," said Robinson. "We are still colleagues and see each other from time to time at national conferences."

Under Robinson's tenure, the Cassville music program experienced rapid growth. His first high school choir at Cassville had 17 members, and by the time Robinson left in 1981, the choir program had an enrollment of over 100 students.

"That's when I fell in love with choirs, and they have been the focus of my teaching, writing and conducting career ever since," said Robinson.

When asked to look back on his years at Cassville and list his favorite memories, Robinson lists many individuals, including administrators James Ford, Jerry Marple, Eunice Thomas, Don Trotter and Paul Watson and fellow teachers Jo Anne Ellis, Colleen Slinkard, Becky Henningson, Raymond Lassiter and J.C. Duncan.

Robinson also provided a long list of students he remembered at Cassville. This list included: Jon, Jay, Holly, Rachel, Sherry and Julie Edmondson; Randy Cowherd; Laura and Dean Ellis; Larry Vance; Jan Barnes; Greg and Shelly Roark; Lane Shumaker; Gail and Brent McGruder; Valarie and Janell Lee; Patty Weigel; Jon Horner; Monta Rae Gilkerson; Michael LeCompte; Jill Holman; Alan and Cynthia Cannady; Elvis, Sandy and Connie Dudley; Stacy and Randy Rose; Symbra House; Sarah Beeson; Doug Hopkins; Rebecca Miekley; Mike Schlichtman; David Nokes; Ginny Barber; and Greg and Jeff Simpkins.

"I know I'm forgetting to mention a lot of former students, and I'm sorry," said Robinson. "I had the greatest students when I was in Cassville and their parents were so supportive of the music program."

As a young, single teacher, Robinson said there were several key individuals in the community who befriended him and helped guide him as he embarked on his teaching career. Those special friends included Bill and Adella Horner, Max Fields, Bill LeCompte, Evan and Marcia Hutchens and Bob Mitchell, who Robinson described as "a great newspaper man who would always tell it to me straight."

"I also have to mention my great friend for the past 35 years, Phil Hutchens," said Robinson. "We've remained very close over the years and have been through a lot of life together."

While Robinson is back in Cassville, he and his wife, Brenda, will be staying with the Hutchens.

The Oct. 26 concert is free and open to the public. Community members are also invited to attend "Dinner with the Doc."

For more information about either event, contact Mary Richmiller at mrichmiller@cassville.k12.mo.us, Gail Shumaker at shucrew@mo-net.com or call the CHS office at 847-3137.

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