New talent to mentor choir

After only serving as the Diamond Bar High School choir director for a little over a year, Vince O’Connell will be replaced by Chaparral Middle School’s choir teacher Richard Langham.

For  many students in the department, the change was unexpected.

“It was March when we found out, but we were not sure if it was just rumors at first or [if it] was actually true,” junior Hannah Lee said.

Over the past few years, there has been a trend of teachers coming in and out of the program. After the retirement of longtime director Patty Breitag, her replacement, Anastasia Glasheen, lasted just two weeks before being dismissed by the school. After the choir worked under a long-term sub for much of last year, O’Connell was hired during the spring semester.

According to Lee, this instability has pushed choir students to become more independent, but the introduction of O’Connell to DBHS was a welcome change. “There was a shift to Mr. O’Connell, who is so incredibly enthusiastic about our program and has literally lived and breathed show choir,” Lee said. “When we found out that he was not coming back next year, we were really shocked and upset.”

Although the reasons behind why O’Connell will be leaving remain unclear, some students look forward to the upcoming change.

“Right now, only Marquis and Solitaire are really representing choir during concerts, so I think the other two choir groups need to be showcased more,” junior Adam Lin said.

Langham has an extensive background in choir. He not only has earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from USC and a master’s degree in choral conducting from CSULA but also has sung with both the Long Beach Camerata Singers and the Con Anima Chamber Choir. Langham has been directing school choirs for 16 years.

“I feel that with his previous experience, we will be able to raise the musicality and caliber of our choirs, as well as bring a different style and perspective to our show choirs,” Lee said.

Langham’s previous post at CMS helped shape the music department there.

“I’m proud of the program that I’ve developed there, which started as one choir of 40 students and is now three choirs of 150 students,” Langham said by email.

Langham looks forward to making improvements to the current DBHS choir program.

“My hope for any music program is that it provides students with a well-rounded music education, which includes the development of instrumental/vocal skills, challenging and engaging repertoire, a variety of high quality performance opportunities, rigorous musicianship and ear training and exposure to many functions of music in human culture,” Langham said.

Lee and others in choir have not been deterred by the changes in directors in the past year.

“We’ve had so many changes that I feel like there’s been so much growth in such a little period of time,” Lee said. “I’m optimistic that what happened happened for a reason, and next year, we’ll continue to grow as a department.”