The inspiration for and motivation behind the music department at Yosemite High School the past 11 years, Randy Hyatt, is retiring in June, although he will continue as director of the Oakhurst Community Band "until they find someone better," he said modestly.
He took over director duties of that band in 2003.
Two of Steven and Sophia Ewert's three children have been a part of the music program at YHS for 10 of those 11 years.
"All of them are still involved in music because of the program," Sophia said. "Mr. Hyatt's energy, ideas, and motivation rub off on his students. He encourages them and also pushes them. He has been a positive influence on our children and many other students at Yosemite High."
Trent Ewert graduated in 2008, plays percussion and is involved in church and Christian camp music programs. Evan, who graduated with the class of 2011, plays tuba for the Westmont Orchestra, and daughter Eirena is a senior at YHS this year. She plays the flute, piccolo, and bassoon. Hyatt encouraged and taught Eirena to play all three instruments.
Hyatt has inspired thousands of students during his career. Audra McDonald is the most visible but others include Sharon Leal who has been on Broadway, on several television shows, and in the movie Dream Girls.
"Yvonna Kipacz is a wonderful model, has been on the Guiding Light and countless other programs," Hyatt said. "You do not want to overlook our very own Matt Claiborne who is about to graduate from the Berkelee School of Music in Boston. Matt is writing and arranging music and has talent.
"Mr. Hyatt has done so much for music at YHS and in the community. He was someone that made the idea that I could follow my dreams a reality for me," Claiborne said. "If I worked half as hard as he does, I would be very content with my life."
Following his spring graduation, Claiborne, the son of Tim and Joy Claiborne of Oakhurst will be working in New York City as a creative consultant for a company that creates music for theme parks and cruise ships.
Retirement seems to be only a shift in activities for Hyatt and his wife of 28 years, Jeanette. They work together amidst the big trees at Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park. They both plan to continue working there six months a year.
"We arrive early and hike in the morning or after work. We plan to take more hikes in the local area. We both love gardening," he said.
"I am open to teaching elementary students part-time somewhere along the way," Hyatt said of his plans for the future. "Part-time is the key word. Needless to say, we want to catch every moment of our grandchildren's lives."
The Hyatts have one grandchild and another on the way. Grandson Brenton, son of daughter Heather and husband Marcus Zemlicka, is two. Heather is a sixth grade teacher in Clovis. Daughter Hayley completed Fresno City College and works at the Clovis Costco.
Hyatt's career has taken him from Bullard Talent and Wolters Elementary Schools in Fresno, where he taught elementary school music to Bullard High School where he taught guitar, choir, jazz band and was the assistant band director. At Roosevelt School of The Arts, he taught choir and piano and eventually served as the Assistant Director of the Arts and then Director of the Magnet Program.
At Storey Elementary, also in Fresno, he taught band, strings, and choir and then became the Music Coordinator for the Fresno Unified School District. While at YHS, he served one year as the Assistant Principal in addition to his music department responsibilities.
"In addition to all of the above, I have served at several churches in the Fresno area in an almost full-time capacity," Hyatt said.
Over the years, his students have received numerous awards. While at Roosevelt, his Performing Arts Singers received a gold medal rating in Washington, D.C., and a command performance at the Santa Cruz Jazz Festival. At YHS, the band received a third place in the Selma Band Review, a first in Visalia, and a third in Merced.
Hyatt's mother and his high school band director both inspired him to become a music educator. "My mother promised me she would get me a saxophone if I would not play football. There were two sets of crutches from older brothers in our garage so my mother had an interest in getting me into music. My high school band director, Wally Engstrom from Kingsburg, lit the fire and here I am over 30 years later," he said.
"Seeing the growth and development in student's lives," is what Hyatt will miss most about his day-to-day interactions with students. "I love watching the students become self-confident in their social and musical development. The students keep us young and in touch with reality,' he said.
Disneyland performance Sunday, May 4
End of year concert Thursday, May 8, 7:30 p.m., YHS cafeteria
Spring Concert with middle school students Monday, May 19, 6:30 p.m., Coarsegold Elementary School
Community Band Concert Sunday, June 29, 6:30 p.m.