May 12, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterThursday night's 2014 Spring Showcase Concert at Central Wyoming College marked Professor Robert Hussa's last performance as director of the collegiate chorale.
Hussa has been a member of the CWC faculty since 1980, longer than any other instructor.
Over the decades he has taught nearly every class in the music department, from introductory courses to music theory classes and saxophone lessons. Hussa has been in charge of musical direction for 20 stage shows, and he even has conducted for CWC's concert band.
"The department is small, so we cover for each other when we have to," Hussa said. "I did music history for a year when a colleague was on sabbatical. ... They're all fun."
In addition to the collegiate chorale, he has led the master chorale, jazz choir and various vocal ensembles including the Central Wyoming A Cappella Chamber Singers, or CWACCS, which featured community members and students in a 12-16 person performing group that competed internationally.
"That probably was the greatest thing I did," said Hussa, who also sang for the CWACCS. "We started that in 1990 and kept it going until 2004."
He recalled a trip to Europe during which the CWACCS had the opportunity to sing in a cathedral in Paris.
"You have to observe silence in the sanctuary, (but) our guide got permission for us," Hussa said. "We sang in there, a cappella, in a circle, and the tourists that came in were just amazed that something live was going on in there. It was really cool."
They also participated in the International Choral festival in Missoula, Mont., performing in front of 9,000 people during the event's final concert.
"That was a gas," Hussa said.
Other notable memories include his collaborations with other schools, communities, states and countries. Hussa said the never-ending progression of new and varied projects help him stay engaged over the past 34 years at CWC.
"One thing that's been great here is that I have not been limited as an instructor or musician - I haven't been limited by anyone else," he said. "If I can figure out how to pay for it, I can do it.
"We've attempted all kinds of different things we didn't think we could, and we did. We did them. I think that speaks to the school giving that opportunity for people (to) initiate projects."
One of his most significant undertakings at CWC was the production of "The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace" five years ago. Hussa said the audio-visual piece left local audiences "dumbfounded."
"It's something you have to experience to understand," Hussa said. "That's something people don't realize -- those live music experiences you have, those are one-off experiences in your life. You never get them again. (And) that is, I think, the essence of a music department, to provide those experiences for the participants and the performers, but also for the audience."
Now, he plans to leave that responsibility in the hands of his to-be-named replacement at CWC. Hussa will remain a member of the local Arts in Action group, and he will continue working as a music technician through his company, River Sounds. But he doesn't plan to conduct or perform in Riverton anymore.
"I'm done," Hussa said. "That's somebody else's job."
He's not sure if he's mentally prepared for retirement, but he says he is excited to start focusing on other endeavors.
"I'm certainly not going to sit on the porch and rock," Hussa said. "I'll keep working."
He'll stay in Riverton, too, though Hussa said he had no intention of settling in Fremont County when he took his job at CWC. In fact, he didn't even think he would be hired when he sent in his resume.
"I applied completely with the idea that I was not going to get it -- that I wasn't qualified, or they wouldn't hire me," Hussa said.
A lifetime later, he can look back on a career in front of 200 distinct choirs with singers ranging in age from 13 to 83. Some stayed with him for decades, while others left after a semester.
"We've seen lots of singers come and go," he said. "All kinds of singers ... from beginners to people with degrees."
He still believes what he said in 1980 when he first was interviewed for an article in The Ranger: Anyone can sing.
"It's a great way for people to express themselves and to find out about themselves," he said.
Hussa earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Idaho then taught public school for several years in Douglas before earning his master's degree at the University of Wyoming. He started the jazz choir there and was assistant conductor of the concert choir while also teaching theory as a graduate assistant.
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