Tarleton choral director reflects as he moves forward

By Robert Benton, Texan News Service

Before Dr. Charles Rives final Tarleton campus performance on May 5 as choir director, the day before this concert Dr. Rives and I talked about his time at Tarleton and the future.

“Right now as of today, I have served as college choir director longer than anyone in Texas continually, now they are other people who have lived in Texas for a while and come back but not continually and I think I can say this safely that there has been no college directors in Texas in one place as long as I have”, said Dr. Rives, commenting “So I made that commitment, because I believe in this program, I believe in this university, I believe in my students and to me this is what a person does.”

Looking back Rives, a native of New Mexico and a retired Army National Guard officer whose known as “Chuck” by most in the community, describing the choir and music programs in 1983.

“When I came to Tarleton the program was somewhat smaller, at that time we had 15-vocal majors and maybe 50-music majors total in the department.  We are well over a hundred majors and 40 plus vocal majors now, so there is obvious a difference in the number of people we are dealing with now as compared when I came here in 1983”, said Rives.  “It was a good quality program when I came, there were good students and good faculty even though some of those faculty have retired or accepted new positions and new faculty have come over the faculty quality has remained very high across the board, in a sense that has not changed; although the personalities have changed and the skill-sets that those people have brought have changed too.”

The changes he brought to the choral and music programs the past 29-years were celebrative efforts.

“As far as how the program has changed we have added one ensemble, the Select Women’s Ensemble, and that was done at the request of some of the women in the program who wanted to have a women’s chorus experience, and so I said if you can get enough students to make the class.  They did and we did. So that came from a student need or request and became part of the curriculum.  It now services a chamber chorus to the chamber choir – the top select choir so that has been one change that has happen since I came here, some other things we have done I have initiated the Texas State Music Camp in the Summer, we did not have a summer camp and I think it was the second or third year.  A good friend of mine, Roy Finny, was the director choirs at Belton High School talked me into doing that we could do this and have a really good camp.  I said we need 50 or 60 students to start, and the first year the 46 students were his then it grew and we are running 150 to 200 students each year all-state preparation camp.  And then another (change) we made a collaboration with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra 15-years ago and I initiated that also.  Finally, the quality of the singers we have be able to recruit has gone up also that has been because of additional scholarship resources provided by the president’s office”, said Rives, noting that the Dottavios have been loyal supporters of the choral program.

He also, was Interim Choir Director at First United Methodist Church Stephenville twice for a total of three-years working with a purely volunteer choir allowing him to mentor Tarleton students pursuing church music.

“That is another advantage; it now gives me an insight into that arena that the church has a very unique role.  In fact this year I had one (student) take a church job, we had long conversation about the musical dynamics, and there are political dynamics that go along with that job too.  Get along with the pastor, Pastor-Parish Committee, accompanist and organist there are a lot of aspects there that have just been invaluable in giving my students a little bit of insight and even for me personally to have a better understanding”, said Rives.

Rives teaching career began in New Mexico in grades 6 to 12 in Deming to his high school in Roswell, teaching and directing choral programs for 10-years.  At the university he has taught the methodology courses preparing music educators in Texas.

“It has been invaluable to pass on my experience to my students and give them insight where they need to be and what things they can do as a music educator, so the college experience took to another experience another level and that has enhanced that perspective”, said Rives. “I think the about the main lesson I want those students to understand is to the unique contribution that music make to peoples education, public school or otherwise, certainly in the public school arena.  It is a way for people to fully realize their humanity; its unique in that since, the arts, music in particular curriculum that’s there unique role, part is that curriculum is directed to that aspect.”

The Rives family is a close knit with foundations in faith with music playing a key role.

 “Both of my parents in my family have degrees in music but they never used them professionally, my father went into business and of course my mom was a mom.  But they were great lovers of music they were both singers, my mom played piano and gave lessons, they were active in civic chorus in the community, they (my parents) took me to all the symphony concerts.  My father had an extensive recording collection opera and symphonies and we would listen to them at home, so I had a lot of exposure to music and encouraging me into participating in music activities at both the church and of course in school and so I had a very rich experience in music at home, in public school and of course in my college education.  So my wife had a similar experience, her parents were not college trained in music but very devoted to music and that was very important in their life” Rives said.  “As parents we brought this to our children in my case as part of my profession during my public school teaching, my wife insured that everything was a family activity”, he said, adding his daughter is a physicians’ assistant and works in an Emergency Room, plays piano and guitar while his son is a choir director at Denton Ryland High School plays guitar, saying “I am very proud of that” as both are active in church music programs.

Dr. Troy Robertson inherits the program from Rives in the fall, in the meantime choir will hold a special performance in Ireland this summer.

“People ask me what I going to do when I retire.  I am not leaving when I retire next year, theoretically I am going to teach one class, I am continuing to work at the advising center and help advise students in general on campus which is very import purpose for us to have and I will be supervising student teachers and continue to do that while Dr. Robertson gets his feet on the ground with the choral program and eventual hand that off to him, he will take that over.  So I will have an active role at Tarleton, I am not completely leaving Tarleton and want to complete my 30th year and we will look at that and see what happens after that maybe a 31. I do not know and yes intend to do more church work, more mission work, spend more time with my grandchildren. I have a grand-son and grand-daughter that are precious and want to spent more time with them and have more time for my family activities,” said Rives.  

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