2013 Swan Award Winner: Rich Messenger


r.messengerRichard Messenger is a graduate of Hastings College (Nebraska) and did graduate work at the University of Iowa and at California State University, Fullerton. He taught at the high school and community college level in Iowa for seven years before moving to California in 1976 to study with Howard Swan at CSUF. In addition to Dr. Swan, he counts as mentors Daniel Moe, Deral Johnson, Weston Noble, and John Alexander. He is retired from the position of Choral Music Director at Irvine High School (Irvine, CA) where he taught from 1977 – 2010. He has served as an adjunct professor of music at California State University at Long Beach and at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa. In 2000, he became the Director of Music at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach.

Under his direction, the Irvine High School Chorale performed in festival choirs at Carnegie Hall in 1995, 1999, 2005, and in 2009. In the 2005 appearance, they were selected to give the featured choir performance at which the choir premiered “And the Night Shall Be Filled With Music”, written for them by composer Peter Boyer. The IHS Chorale was invited to return to give the featured choir performance at a festival at Carnegie Hall in 2009. In the summer of 2003, the Chorale accepted an invitation to perform the music of Eric Whitacre in Berlin, performing under the composer’s direction. Irvine High School choirs appeared onstage with Pacific Symphony Orchestra at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on numerous occasions. They appeared in concert with Robert Guillaume at Disneyland and with Tom Hulce (“Amadeus”) and Rosemary Clooney at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Irvine High School choirs presented six major concerts annually and appeared at approximately twenty-five business and community events each year throughout Southern California. In 1999, 2000 and again in 2003, Irvine High School’s music department was honored with a GRAMMY Award designation as a “Signature School”, recognizing it as one of the top music programs in the United States.

Messenger’s Irvine High School choirs commissioned new works from renowned composers Peter Boyer, Brent Pierce, Eric Whitacre and John Rutter. His church choir commissioned a new anthem from composer Bradley Ellingboe in 2007 and from David Brunner in 2012.

Richard Messenger is a member of American Choral Directors Association, National Association for Music Education, Southern California Vocal Association, and the National Association of Church Musicians, an organization for which he served two years as president. From 1983 until 1997, Messenger served as Assistant Conductor and Director of Operations for the Pacific Chorale. During his tenure with Pacific Chorale, he produced concerts at the Orange County Performing Arts Center and coordinated concert performances with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Long Beach Symphony, Pasadena Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He organized Pacific Chorale tours to Europe, China, and to the Baltic States and Russia.

Mr. Messenger has twice been elected as Southern California representative for the California chapter of the American Choral Directors Association and served as the chairman of the ACDA High School Repertoire and Standards Committee for the state of California. He is currently serving on the interim board of directors for the newly-created Southeastern Section of the California Music Educators Association. He continues to be called upon as a clinician and adjudicator for middle and high school choral festivals.

In 2004, Messenger was selected as Irvine High School’s Teacher of the Year and was also named “High School Teacher of the Year” for the Irvine Unified School District. He was a semi-finalist for the Orange County Department of Education’s designation as 2005 Teacher of the Year. In the January, 2005 issue of OC Family magazine, he was featured in an article entitled “10 Teachers Making a Difference”. He has been recognized as Secondary Vocal Music Arts Educator by the Orange County Music and Arts Administrators and in 2009 received that organization’s “Irene Schoepfle Award for Distinguished Contributions to Orange County Music Education”. In 2010, Messenger was given the “Award of Excellence” by the Far Western District of the Barbershop Harmony Society and was honored by Pacific Chorale with its inaugural “John Alexander Outstanding Choral Educator Award”. In 2011, he was recognized as Outstanding Music Educator by the California Music Educators Association.