Bjella leaving after 25 years of service

Samuel Flood

After 25 years of dedication as a professor in the Conservatory, Rick Bjella will be leaving Lawrence for a job at Texas Tech University, where he will serve as the director of choral studies. Bjella currently serves as director of choral studies at Lawrence.
“It is with very mixed feelings that I take this position,” Bjella said. “I believe in this place, and the principles it stands for, so I offered my resignation with a great sense of humility, because I know what this faculty and this student body is capable of.”
Bjella’s announcement comes right on the heels of one of his greatest triumphs here at Lawrence. Just a few months ago, at the America Choral Directors Association conference, the Bjella-directed Lawrence choirs received a five-minute-long standing ovation from more than 3,000 choral directors. Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl said, “When you get a standing ovation from over 3,000 competing directors, you know you’re doing something right.”
During his tenure, Bjella has made many improvements to the choral program. “Professor Bjella single-handedly built this program,” Pertl said. “What began as a good program in the ’80s is now world class.”
The results speak for themselves: the Lawrence choirs’ performance of Handel’s “Messiah” Dec. 12 was a sold-out performance that prompted numerous people to send notes of praise to Bjella, Pertl and other Conservatory faculty.
Reactions to the announcement have been decidedly mixed.
Pertl said that “Professor Bjella’s absence will be felt deeply,” but sent him good wishes in his new position at Texas Tech.
Student responses have run the gamut of emotions. Ange Dvorak, a junior music performance and education double major, said she was “sad that Mr. Bjella is leaving,” mentioning that she particularly was disappointed “because I never got the opportunity to work with him.”
Acknowledging that Bjella must now be replaced, Pertl said there has already been a list formulated of the candidates for a one-year replacement.
Although the replacement had not been announced by The Lawrentian’s press time, Pertl said he expected an announcement to be forthcoming.
Bjella is known as the “energizer bunny” for his boundless enthusiasm and seeming ability to be in 20 places at the same time. Also known as “Papa Bear,” he currently directs the Concert Choir and Viking Chorale. In the past, he has directed the Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Collegium, Chamber Singers and the Choral Society.
“I told my students that I love them in the deepest way, and that they will always be in my heart and soul,” Bjella said.

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