By Lauren Cashman
As Robert Frost so eloquently states, “nothing gold can stay.” This, quite unfortunately, holds true in the case of Mark Robinson, who last Friday announced his retirement after a 27 year teaching career; 23 of which were spent amongst the students of Homer High School, building what is renowned as one of the most successful choral programs in the state of Alaska.
There is no question that Robs, as students have affectionately called him for most of his tenure, has, over the last quarter of a century, developed a program of immense respect and magnitude. Of the nearly 400 students attending HHS, one fourth of them are currently participating in the choir program. HHS consistently sends more students to the varying choral festivals; from the Borough Honor choir held annually on the Peninsula to the All National Honor Choir in Washington D.C.
Robs attributes the success of the program to the desire and drive held within the students he teaches. “I have found that students at HHS will rise to the expectations set before them. They crave [an] intellectual challenge and emotional meaning, and can find that in choir.”
Many individuals, students included, would credit a large portion of the choir’s strength to Robs’ remarkable teaching capabilities. The manner in which he has developed his classes over the course of his career is profound; with an ability to reach out to students that is reflected upon his years of experience. Senior Kirsten Swanson said, “Robs connects with his students. He knows that as time changes, so do the students. He not only allows for that change but embraces it.”
More important than the vast empire that Robs has created is the sense of family that has developed over the course of 23 years. “He didn’t just teach us music, he taught through it. He showed us how to touch the world through a single note,” said junior Cayenna Anderson. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find an individual who passed through the choir classroom at HHS that was not affected by Robs’ charisma and passion for the music that he creates.
The community that has developed around the choir program is one that is unprecedented by any other activity at the high school. Robs has given the students, through music, an opportunity to transcend social barriers and develop lasting friendships through the collective process of creating music. Though there are many varying religious and political views within the students, in addition to a wide spread of interests in sports and other activities, within the confines of the choir room Robs and his student all work towards common goal, accompanied by a feeling of comradery that cannot be swayed by social grouping.
Robs has not only given students the gift of song, and the development of an unprecedented community, but he has also, through the choir’s travels, given his students what can only be considered once in a lifetime opportunities. Within the last four years students have ventured from the farthest reaches of Europe to the stage of Carnegie Hall. When asked, Casey Farrell spoke of how, “He has exposed [her] to the greatest works of music and the best places in Europe.”
Although a new director will be taking up the directing helm next year, Robs said that his goal is “…to assist in the transition process as much as possible.” Whether that be offering insight to the new director or involvement in some of the many activities that the choir partakes in throughout the year, it is hopeful that the choir program will not be seeing the last of Mark Robinson with his retirement.
Not only will he remain a part of the program through his support and involvement, but he will also reside perpetually within the students he has taught. In addition to music making, his classes were filled with equal parts laughter, enrichment, and heartfelt advice. Cayenna said, “one thing I will always remember is when he said ‘the rests in a song are just as important as the words; the rests in life, or the silences, are just as important, if not more important as the loud parts.’”