1996 Swan Award Winner: Richard Hansen
His teaching career spanned 35 years, beginning in 1948 in the gold country at Amador County High School in Sutter Creek, CA. “In those days we taught multiple assignments. I taught music, English, and P.E.; coached J.V. baseball and was junior-senior class advisor.”
In 1951, Hansen was hired at Acalanes High School as the music teacher, starting with 13 members in the school band and 40 in the chorus. In 1952, under his direction, Acalanes was the first Contra Costa County school to present a musical. While teaching at Acalanes, he earned his MA in Education from UC Berkeley in 1958.
In 1960, a second music teacher was hired, and Hansen chose to continue with choral music. By the mid-1960’s enrollment hit a high of 335 students per day. One-third of the student body was enrolled in music. Hansen was always quick to point out that building the music program was a team effort with LeRoy Roach as instrumental music director
While Hansen’s days were often busy (he never wasted a minute of rehearsal time), there were several highlights during his teaching career:
Winter 1960 Acalanes High School sings for the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley.
March 1974 MENC National Convention comes to California (Anaheim) for the first time in 16 years. California is represented by an All-California night, featuring an all-state honor choir of 275 singers, organized by Richard Hansen and conducted by Howard S. Swan.
Summer 1974 Acalanes High School Music Department tours and performs for the Spokane World’s Fair (Expo 74).
Winter 1975 Acalanes High School District Music Festival is held at the Oakland Auditorium, Bicentennial Concert, including all of the music students in the school district.
His professional affiliations were abundant. While teaching music, he held various positions with the California Music Teachers Association (CMEA) as Bay Section Choral Representative (1967) and Choral Representative to the State Board (1972). In 1969, he was appointed to the California Statewide Fine Arts and Humanities Framework Committee. He was a lifetime member of ACDA.
In addition to his work at Acalanes, Hansen contributed to the life of his community when he became the director of the Oakland Orpheus Men’s Chorus in 1965. He was active in the Lafayette Kiwanis, and served as President in 1982. Throughout his life, he was active in the Lutheran church. He started as choir director at St. Luke’s Lutheran in Walnut Creek, and then moved to Our Savior’s Lutheran in Lafayette. He held this position until his retirement.
Hansen’s job as Rally Committee sponsor at Acalanes led logically to the position of Director of Student Activities. Then he became principal, a position he held for four years. His final assignment moved him to the District Office, as District Administrative Assistant, responsible for the Energy Program, GATE, and Safety.
Upon his retirement in 1983, Dick said,
“No matter what my assignment was, it has been a privilege to work in this district. I met dedicated people who work hard to give the kids the best. I will remember most the experiences with kids – what happens within the classroom walls – the relationship with students, some of whom still keep in touch. Unique in this district is the tremendous community involvement which has been present from the very beginning. I never had what I would call an easy year, but the problems became challenges. Present problems will be overcome because of the spirit of the people who work in the district.”
Following his retirement, he and wife Betty traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Pacific Islands. They kept busy during retirement by bowling with the Danville Seniors, attending concerts, plays, musicals, and babysitting their 5 grandchildren.
Betty Hansen, Dick’s wife of 68 years, retired from Las Lomas High School in 1983. She passed away, at the age of 90, in December 2013. Following heart surgery in 2008, Dick suffered a debilitating stroke, causing severe nominal and expressive aphasia. He lived in the Renaissance Memory Care facility of the Commons at Elk Grove until his death. Dick died peacefully on Saturday, September 5, 2015, surrounded by his family and loved ones.
His two daughters, Kathryn and Susan, graduated from Las Lomas High School, attended UOP, and entered the teaching profession. Both married teachers, Kathryn to Timothy M. Smith (Professor of Music, Emeritus CSU East Bay) and Susan to Douglas Bartsch (Visalia School District and Fresno-Pacific). Dick leaves behind an extended family of 5 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren: Wendy and Jason Youngsmith and their daughters Olive (2 yrs.) and Maggie (3 mos.), Devin and Amy Smith, Nick and Jenn Bartsch and their sons Carter (3 yrs.) and Hunter (1 yr.), Stephanie Bartsch, and Whitney and Alan McFarlane.
Music’s legacy continues through our role models, and we celebrate our California choral history through the Swan Award. Each generation adds its unique touch and the spirit of choral music continues through the lives and voices of those who sing.