Retiring Missouri choral director headed to Hawaii

Monday, May 31, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 7:46 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 1, 2010

JOPLIN — Charles "Bud" Clark's former students include performers in Branson, opera singers, his wife and the man who helped him get a job that inspired his upcoming move to Hawaii.

"Some people talk about the dream, and that's all it is," Clark said. "We're going to do it."

Clark has had a career of 21 years teaching vocal music at Missouri Southern State University and has spent a few weeks each summer for the past five years in Hawaii serving as a director for Honor Choir USA.

Clark was initially approached by a former student, Steve Whitesell, who now owns Honor Choir USA, about the need for directors who worked well with high school students. Prior to working at Southern, Clark had 18 years of experience in the public school system.

"The moral of this story is always be nice to your students," Clark said. "You never know how they'll repay you."

Clark said Whitesell showed up in Clark's office "with two guys in suits."

"I thought it was the IRS," he said jokingly.

Since then, Clark has spent part of every summer in Hawaii with his wife. He said it took him all of two seconds to accept the offer.

"I just can't say enough about what (a) fine musician (Clark) is," Whitesell said. "He was popular with the students, and that made him attractive to us. We had a few that didn't fit that bill too well, and we didn't invite them back."

Clark auctioned off most of his belongings, has sold his house, , is packing his office and is preparing to move to a beach-front property on the island of Oahu. The Clarks are renting a portion of a home from a couple whose sons, coincidentally, attended Missouri Southern. Clark said finding the home was happenstance and that he, his wife, and their new landlord knew it was meant to be.

"You're literally 30 steps to the waterline," Clark said.

He'll work for Honor Choir USA part of the year, work as a church music director and hopes to get involved in the tourism industry as well. His wife Christy, who currently works at Neosho High School, is hoping to find a job as an elementary music teacher.

"We'll both get a job handing out towels on the beach," he said. "We don't care."

Clark is in the process of packing his office and tactfully not mentioning to his co-workers where he's headed.

"I don't talk about it much," he said. "They just roll their eyes, especially if I wear a Hawaiian shirt to work."

Clark said traveling in Europe with Southern's Chamber Choir and directing its performance in Notre Dame Cathedral were the highlight of anything musical he's done.

"That's a choral director's dream," he said.

Of his retirement from Southern, Clark said it was a good time for him to go, and he hopes the job will be taken by someone younger with new ideas. He also wanted to go out with a winning team.

"You see a lot of teachers go out to pasture," he said. "I don't want to ever not enjoy it."

Although Clark's last concert has already passed, he's still in rehearsals with current students who will make the trip to Hawaii to tour the islands with Honor Choir USA's college group.

Music education senior Lauren Alumbaugh has been Clark's student for four years and will make her first trip to the islands this summer for her last performance with him.

"I'll really miss his interpretation and sensitivity to the music," she said. "He really encouraged us to feel the music and not just sing what's on the page."

Clark will be rehearsing until the day before he has to drive his car cross-country to Los Angeles and send it on a boat headed to Hawaii. He'll be busy until he leaves but isn't too worried about anything right now.

"I'll be in Hawaii," he said. "How much stress or strain can there be?"

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