Glencoe choir director to retire after 36 years
Next month, Glencoe High School's Vance Sele will put down his baton and walk out of the school's choir room for the last time.
Sele has spent more than three decades at Glencoe, working his entire career as the school's choir director.
On Thursday, May 24, Sele will direct his final concert at Glencoe for the school's annual spring concert. It's the final performance for Sele, who will retire at the end of the school year after 36 years at the Hillsboro school.
"I'll miss the kids," Sele said. "The music I'll miss too, but mostly I'll miss the students as a group and as individuals."
Glencoe High School's spring choir concert is set for 7 p.m., Thursday, May 24, at Glencoe, 2700 N.W. Glencoe Road.
In 1982, having just graduated from Oregon State University, Sele was hired as the choir director for the then newly built Glencoe High School. Sele had no teaching experience, but a passion for music, he said.
Sele began directing choirs at Glencoe and at nearby Evergreen Middle School. Today, he teaches four choirs and two guitar classes at the high school.
"Glencoe is a great school and it's a great community," Sele said. "It has amazing families and amazing kids, young adults, that work hard and are just fun to be with. People often think the grass is greener, and it really isn't. It's really nice here."
Sele's hard work and devotion to his job haven't gone unnoticed. Nancy Upton, a Glencoe choir parent and one of Sele's first students, said she's looking forward to next week's concert, celebrating the mark the teacher has left on the school.
"The spring concert is always so incredible," she said. "All of the seniors put little blurbs in the program (about) what they have taken away from their time at Glencoe, and you need a Kleenex because they're saying how much (Sele) has meant to them throughout their high school experience."
Upton was a student at Glencoe in 1980, the year the school opened. She joined choir right away for her love to sing and was a sophomore at the school when a young, fresh-faced choir director took over.
Sele was energetic and bright with ideas, she said.
Upton's husband — then boyfriend — Kent Upton was in the choir as well. The two looked up to their not-much-older choir director, and enjoyed his vibrant personality and talent for music.
After graduation, the pair stayed in contact with Sele over the years, Nancy Upton said, and became good friends. The Uptons and the Sele's had children around the same time who grew up playing together, and the two families went on annual summer camping trips, she said.
The Upton's four children all attended Glencoe. Each of them sang in the school choir under Sele's direction. This year, the Uptons' youngest child will graduate from the school, singing her final performance with Sele in a symbolic coincidence, Upton said.
"I was in the first year that he taught, (and) my daughter is in his final year," Nancy Upton said. "It kind of makes me tear up."
Sele said while he's sad to leave, the timing for his retirement is just right.
"I've done 36 laps and it just feels like I'm ready to retire," he said. "If it was just about the students, I'd stay forever."
Upton still credits much of her musical knowledge to what she learned from Sele all those years ago. Watching him teach her own children, she said she's seen him grow into his career.
"He's grown so much as a teacher from the beginning until now, and he's taught the kids so much," she said. "They really come out of that choir program a better student."
Upton said Sele makes students feel like they are doing something important.
"He gives you that sense that he really, really believes in the kids," she said.
That's because he does, Sele said.
"I get to stand in front of kids and tell them they're a gift to the world, and they are," Sele said. "Some kids don't hear that from other people. It's fun to be able to say, 'You're an important part of this group, this ensemble, this team and you are an amazing person. You're a gift to us, you're a gift to each other, and you're a gift to the world."'
Sele plans to take the next chapter in his life one day at a time. He plans to spend time with his family, and make his way south to Corvallis for Beaver games. He will continue to direct the Portland Scandinavian Chorus, a Portland based choir which sings in Nordic languages.
"I want to go out while I've still got energy," he said. "This just feels like the right time. All the pieces are fitting together."
Sele hopes that whoever takes over his position will continue to move the program forward.
Upton said it will be difficult to replace Sele at Glencoe.
Throughout his career, Sele said he has tried to live by one simple philosophy. It's one that has served him, and Glencoe, well, he said.
"Am I using people to make music, or am I using music to make people?" Sele said. "I go for the second one."
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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