Jun 4, 2013 - By Andrea Novotny, Staff WriterPat Dalton of Riverton High School, who is retiring this year after three and a half decades in music education, says he wanted to be a choir director since his sophomore year in high school.
Growing up in Powell, Dalton said he was an all-state athlete who enjoyed track, football and basketball, but his passion was always music.
He was inspired by his own high school choir conductor, Joe Penney, who "made music important and inspiring."
"I wanted to be like him," Dalton said. "To this day I ask myself what he would do and how he would handle a situation."
Dalton says he used Penney as a reference throughout his own teaching career.
After graduating from college, Dalton began teaching vocal music and guitar in Rock Springs. He moved to Fremont County three years later to head the seventh- and eighth-grade choirs at Riverton Middle School as well as the senior, concert and jazz choirs at Riverton High School.
During his 32 years in Riverton, Dalton also taught beginning guitar to high school students, and he briefly instructed a sixth-grade exploratory choir class.
Importance of music
Dalton said he thinks music is an important part of the public school curriculum, for its educational and social benefits.
"It gets kids together as a group, and they grow as a group," Dalton said. "Kids that can have very little in common develop friendships."
His students also learn discipline, Dalton said, as well as an appreciation for the arts.
"(They get) the opportunity to experience something that they won't experience anywhere else," Dalton said.
He has coached many talented students through his career in Riverton, developing a jazz choir that consistently ranked in the top three or four high school groups in the state.
But Dalton said one of the most rewarding aspects of his job was working with students who weren't the top vocalists. He said those students often were the ones who approached him later in life to tell him how meaningful their choir experience had been.
"(I had a) special group of kids each year," Dalton said.
He directed his final choir performance at this spring's RHS graduation.
Dalton said he expected his approaching retirement to hit home about 10 minutes after the event, but instead the end of this school year felt like the beginning of every other summer vacation.
"Each year is like starting over," Dalton said.
He said he wants to find a job that is new and different now that he is retired, but he said he's not sure what he'll do yet.
"For now I'm just waiting to see what comes up," Dalton said.
He'll look back fondly on his years spent teaching --Dalton said he made many friendships while working in Fremont County School District 25.
"It's been a fantastic experience," he said. "I can't even imagine having done anything else."
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