Polly Vasché


Polly Vasché taught vocal music, handbells, piano and guitar at Thomas Downey High School in Modesto (CA) from 1975 to 2004. During that time the Knightengales and other Downey ensembles appeared in numerous concert and interest sessions at conferences of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) and the California Music Educators Association (CMEA). The Downey Choirs hosted a Men’s and Women’s Ensemble Festival for many years, and traveled throughout the state on annual tours visiting outstanding high school choral programs. For ten years Polly also conducted the Chancel Choir at Centenary Methodist Church in Modesto.

A 1960 graduate of Coronado (CA) High School, Polly earned two degrees at Stanford (B.A. History, M.A. Education), and worked in Tokyo, San Diego, and Walla Walla (WA) before entering CSU Stanislaus to study music at the age of 30. Majoring in both Piano and Vocal Performance, she received a B.A. in Music and a teaching credential in 1975. On sabbatical leave from Downey in 1989-90, Polly studied one semester each at Westminster Choir College in Princeton (NJ) with Joseph Flummerfelt, and at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles with Paul Salamunovich. For three summers she sang in the Festival of Masses with Robert Shaw in San Francisco, and for ten years in the California Choral Company with William Dehning, including two European tours.

In addition to her formal education, professional conferences and colleagues have been the prime sources of inspiration and knowledge for Polly throughout her career. She began as Northern California Newsletter Editor in the 1980’s, serving on the board which envisioned and established the ECCO conference. As Northern California ACDA President she assisted in the transition to state unification with the Southern California Chapter in the early 1990’s. Various state and division board positions followed.

Honors include 2018 ACDA Western Division Conference Honoree, CA ACDA Howard Swan Award, CMEA Choral Educator of the Year, CSU Stanislaus Alumna of the Year. Polly lives in Modesto with her husband Burt (Downey HS English, retired), without whom she could not have accomplished most of the above.

After retiring, Polly was appointed to five consecutive Western Division Boards as Honor Choirs Coordinator for conferences in Anaheim, Tucson, Reno, Santa Barbara, and Pasadena. She serves as choral clinician in the Bay Area, Sacramento, and the Central Valley, and recently helped found the Modesto Symphony Orchestra Youth Chorus.

A Favorite Quote:

Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth, and learns to sing it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline, and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.

      -Shinichi Suzuki