Following his career at KO beginning in 1979, Richard Chiarappa, the music director of the string orchestras, is leaving KO and beginning a new chapter of his life in retirement, consisting of composing some new music and spending time with his family.
When he first came to KO, Mr. Chiarappa conducted the mixed orchestra along with vocal ensembles including Madrigal singers.
During his time at KO, Mr. Chiarappa has made a very large impact on the music program in many different ways. “I was given an orchestra with both upper and lower school students, and the distinction between what a sixth grader could play, and a senior was very noticeable and challenging,” he said. After about two years of conducting this mixed orchestra, he told the administration that there needed to be a change. He began to conduct two string orchestras instead, one consisting of Upper School performers, and one consisting of Middle School performers, and he has enjoyed watching the program grow since then.
Another change that Mr. Chiarappa made during his career was creating our alma mater, “Hail Kingswood Oxford.” In 1981, Mr. Chiarappa pointed out to the Head of School at that time that there was no Kingswood Oxford song, just two separate songs from before Kingswood and Oxford were joined together. “I said that we needed our own alma mater, and so I composed it,” he said. To keep both of the school’s songs and traditions alive, he combined the songs together. “I realized that these ideas have been there before me, so let me gather a little from each, and put it together,” Mr. Chiarappa said.
When it comes to the KO community, Mr. Chiarappa has made many strong connections with both his colleagues and students. “I came in two years after [history teacher] Mr. Kyff and [creative arts teacher] Mr. Pierce,” he said. “I enjoyed being able to work closely with Mr. Pierce when it came to the music department.”
Aside from his colleagues, the bonds that Mr. Chiarappa formed with his students is something that they will remember forever. “Mr. Chiarappa has always been encouraging when it comes to improving my playing,” Form 5 violinist Ally Lacroix says. “His passion for conducting and his thorough understanding of music is something I look up to and it is very hard to find in any other teacher.”
Alumni Emma Levinbook reinisces on the many years she was taught by Mr. Chiarappa, along with the impact he had on her. “Mr. Chiarappa was always a kind, dedicated, and passionate teacher. He genuinely cared about his students and empowered them to really work hard and practice their music in order to refine their craft and, at the same time, guided them to find joy and pride in the music they were making,” she said.
Although Mr. Chiarappa will no longer be teaching, he has big plans for the future. “For the last three years I have been writing an opera based on a Mark Twain short story that we will be performing excerpts of this summer at the Mark Twain house,” he said. Along with continuing his work with music and orchestra, he plans on spending more time with his grandchildren and family.
After conducting his final arts night for both Upper and Lower School, students, faculty and parents recognized him for all the hard work he has put into the music department throughout his many years at KO. Even though Mr. Chiarappa will be missed dearly, we look forward to seeing all of his success with his music and opera which will debut on August 30!