Dr. Michael Crawford has been in the music field for 48 years, 11 of them at Richland as choral director. Over the last few years, he began to think about retiring. Now, that time has come.
Crawford’s official retirement date is Aug. 31, but he will continue working this summer doing administrative work – scholarships and recruiting.
This week, Crawford will be 70, and that’s what inspired him to retire.
“I’m pleased with what we’ve built [at RLC] and so it’s time to do something else,” he said. “I have a church choir that I direct. I want to do more adjudications, festivals and workshops because I’ve done quite a bit of those over the years … now I’ll have more time to do that.”
Crawford works closely with Derrick Logozzo, director of instrumental music, who along with him are administrators/teachers. Crawford’s official position is associate dean of performing arts/choral director.
“What I love to do is be the choral director,” he said. “I’d rather do that all day long.”
Crawford said he has seen so many changes in the music department over the years, such as increasing enrollment, the quality of performers, more students coming to Richland and tremendous support from the administration to upgrade facilities and equipment.
In the last couple of years, Crawford said, the music department has added Jordan Kuspa and Omar Surillo, who both graduated from Yale University with master’s degrees.
“They’ve brought a young energy and a great perspective,” he said. “Jordan has done great work expanding the string orchestra and he also teaches composition. Omar is working more with the music technology program.”
Crawford said if there is one thing he has loved about being choral director, it’s the challenge of taking somebody from Point A to Point B – singers and musicians in general, especially at this level because this is such a diversity of backgrounds.
“If you would look at my chamber singers, which number about 40, you would see everybody from 18 years old to 70 years old, with a variety of backgrounds,” Crawford said. “I’ve taught on all levels—elementary school, high school, junior high, at a four-year college, and I’ve had a professional group.”
After having done community college work for 25 years and now on the cusp of retirement, Crawford has come to one important realization: “I’m in the right place. That’s what I’m best at.”
Crawford has received an Administrator of the Year Award for 2013 to 2014 and an Excellence in Teaching for Associate Faculty Award for 2015-2016.
Crawford’s family is in tune with him retiring. His wife of 45 years died two years ago, but he has his daughter, Stefanie and her husband, his son, Sean, and his wife, two grandsons and a granddaughter on the way in July.
Crawford said he plans to do some adjudications on cruise ships after he retires.
“I’ve probably done 30 of them in the last 20 years, but most recently, I haven’t been able to because I’ve had so many things going on,” he said. In a couple of weeks, he’s doing a program called “Festivals at Sea,” which includes bands, choirs and orchestras on cruise ships to do festivals.
“You don’t get paid, but you don’t pay for the cruise,” Crawford said. “That’s pretty nice. I’ve gone as far away as Hawaii and Alaska, East Indies, a lot of Caribbean.”
Crawford says after he retires he will miss working with students and the faculty the most, seeing incoming students with no idea of what they want to do and then seeing them transfer to a four-year school.
“It’s really satisfying now for me to go to the Texas Music Educator’s Convention and see my students who are now out teaching,” he said. “When our kids go out to four-year schools, they compete and do as well or better than the native students. That’s not always the case at community colleges.”
For Crawford’s first day of retirement, he said he has received this advice from more than one person: Don’t make any big decisions the first year.
“Maybe that’s the only thing that I have a little bit of misgiving about because I’m so detailed … this concert is coming up and I have to do this and then I have to do that … and so when it’s all done, I’ll have all this time.”
But, Crawford has no doubt he’ll be able to fill it with lots of things, even though he knows it will be an adjustment.
Crawford has some advice for music students: “Find something that you love to do every day and do it as hard and as fast as you can.”
“The worse thing to happen is, if you’re 21 years old, to wake up at age 40 and think, I wish I’d tried to do that,” he said.
Crawford said the great thing about music is, if you end up not doing your day job as a musician, you could still be involved with music as much as possible – sing in the church choir, the community choir, play in the orchestra – whatever you can.
“Do your day job – it really doesn’t work the other way around,” he said.