Sing Your Heart Out

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Scott Tuomi’s Journey to Earning Distinguished Teacher Award

In 1987, cassette tapes still outsold CDs, downloadable digital songs were barely a glimmer in a programmer’s eye, Whitney Houston’s second album was the first time a woman singer debuted at number one on Billboard Charts, and Scott Tuomi started his career at Pacific University. A professional signer and voice teacher at the time—and now the Director of Choral Activities and a professor in the music department—Tuomi was first asked to perform a solo tenor performance at Pacific University in the spirng of 1987. Soon after, he was asked to be a voice teacher and started teaching Studio Voice. Thirty-seven years later, Tuomi has seen countless performances, and has created and stored memories with students, staff, and audiences—and recently was awarded the Oregon Music Education Association’s John C. McManus Distinguished Teacher Award.

   His most memorable experience at Pacific, he says, have been working with Pacific’s Chamber Choir. “For me,” he chimes in, “it has been some incredibly powerful performances by the chamber singers.” He recalls, “I have to admit that, even in this last year, some of the most powerful things that have happened have been the post COVID performances when people could come back together and sing together.” In addition to the emotional and sentimental experience of singing together again as a group after the pandemic, Tuomi mentions that touring with the Chamber Singers has been a source of much joy.

    “Taking the chamber singers on tour to Ireland, Taiwan, Europe, and Canada. Some of those have been incredibly powerful performances. Being able to tour with them and just go visit the world together has been wonderful.”

   Generating a sense of community and solidarity among students, staff, and faculty is something truly essential to Tuomi, who expressed that students and professors don’t get to sing together as often as he would like.

   “Professors are always welcome to join the concert choir and sing and so we’ve had some [faculty singers] before in the past,” Tuomi says. “We’re about to do a ‘Celebrating Black History’ concert on February 24 and I think, hopefully, several professors are going to sing in that.”

   In addition to building relationships and community, Tuomi focuses on how his art and performances can create change. “I believe that we as artists can fully participate in activism through our art,” he says. “I think that I would encourage students to reach out and find ways to do it. You can do it in visual art, we certainly see it in theater and dance. My wish for students is to pursue that and find ways.”

   Recently, Tuomi was presented with the Distinguished Teacher Award, which is an acknowledgement of lifetime achievements in music education and efforts to consistently supporting the arts in Oregon. Tuomi expressed that receiving that receiving the award was a significant moment in his career, adding that he was, “absolutely moved and humbled.” Receiving the award also outlines the respect that the Oregon music community and music educators have for Scott Tuomi and what he continues to do with creating music. — Luciana Linares


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