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Around Town . . . with Robert Airoldi: South Valley singers say goodbye to Phil Robb, longtime choir director

Published in the January 4-17, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Robert Airoldi

Robert Airoldi

One of the highlights of the Dec. 18 “Holiday Stocking Stuffers” concert performed by the South Valley Symphony was a choir from Gilroy, San Martin and Morgan Hill performing the inspiring “Gloria” by Antoni Vivaldi on stage behind the orchestra. The lyrical music was especially poignant for many of the singers. It was the finale of Phillip Robb’s career directing K-12, college and adult choirs in Gilroy and Morgan Hill for the past 39 years.

“About four months ago, I decided that it would be kind of fun to have one last performance,” Robb told the audience. “And what better way to do that than with Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria.’
His choral programs consistently received high commendations across the United States and abroad. In 2013 when he retired, the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Trustees honored Robb by naming the music building at Gilroy High School after him.

Robb was also the director of the Gavilan College Choir for 14 years and the choir director at Gilroy First Baptist Church for four years. He was the choir director at Gilroy Presbyterian Church for 19 years and is currently in his 14th year at Advent Lutheran Church in Morgan Hill.

Robb said it’s been a great life and he’s enjoyed it.

“It’s all been one joyous experience.”

We wish you well in your retirement years, Phil.

• • •

Last month, students and staff of the Charter School of Morgan Hill came together to give back to the community, and used the opportunity to create a unique learning experience. Families donated more than 1,800 cans of food and 150 bags of rice. In true project-based learning fashion, the students turned them into sculptures. All of the collected items were donated to Reach Out, an organization that distributes food to needy Morgan Hill, San Martin, and Coyote residents. Each grade level participated, and used STEM skills to complete the project. To quote CSMH staff member and parent Diana Gill, “[the school is]… proud of the way our community (staff, students and parents) worked together to make this project possible for the students to exercise their planning, design, math and engineering skills and to also give back to our larger community.”

• • •

Friday Jan. 13 will be a lucky day for students at Live Oak High School when they welcome representatives from the anti-bullying group Rachel’s Challenge to campus. Live Oak is working with Rachel’s Challenge to stimulate academic achievement and social-emotional learning by focusing on the connection between students, faculty and staff. Using the remarkable story of Rachel Scott, the first victim of the Columbine High School tragedy, Rachel’s Challenge awakens individual hope, desire and purpose; which in turn promotes safer, more connected school communities.

“It’s important to all of us here at Live Oak that our students feel safe and have a safe environment to learn in,” said Live Oak Principal Lloyd Webb. “We brought Rachel’s Challenge to campus once before in 2012, and I very much value the message, how it further improved an already great atmosphere, and because tensions in the nation are so high, we are using this opportunity as a proactive measure.”

All Live Oak students will attend an assembly during the school day to listen to and be inspired by Rachel’s story. Webb told us the school invites parent members of the Live Oak community to a free, special evening assembly 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at gymnasium to learn about Rachel’s Challenge.

• • •

We were sorry to learn that legendary film actress Debbie Reynolds died Dec. 28, the day after her actress daughter Carrie Fisher died from a massive heart attack. She was not just a super talented movie star, but she has a local connection to our region.

Reynolds knew the South Valley area well. In her later years she loved visiting our region of Santa Clara Valley, staying at the Country Rose Inn bed and breakfast, which used to be run by Rose Hernandez. Reynolds first stayed at the pleasant San Martin home turned into a bed and breakfast in 1993, when she visited here to do a benefit concert for a hospital. She enjoyed her stay so much that she would often come here for a week to just enjoy the peaceful quiet of the country far from the Los Angeles star-struck scene.