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Beloved Music Professor Retires After 34 Years

After 34 years at Cal Poly, Thomas Davies, beloved member of the Music Department, retired in June 2017.

Davies had served as the director of choral activities and vocal studies for the Music Department since 1983.

In this position, Davies conducted three choirs (PolyPhonics, The University Singers and Early Music Ensemble) and taught courses on conducting, literature and rehearsal techniques.

Thomas Davies, retiring director of choral
activities and vocal studies for the 
Music Department

“I will miss it dearly," Davies said. "I love Cal Poly. It's been a great place to be."

During his time at Cal Poly, Davies has earned the respect and admiration of his students, who awarded him the Distinguished Teacher Award for 2010-2011. He has been commended on his teaching style, always making an effort to connect with the students on a personal level.

"One of the things that I value about this job is really getting to know a number of the students," he said. "I will get to see a young person start here at the age of 18 and see them graduate at the age of 22, and I've been with them the entire time."

On Davies' office door is a token of gratitude left to him by the graduating class of 2011. It is a certificate that reads: "Most Likely to Rock Out with his Bach Out."

That kind of welcoming environment has always been a part of Davies' teaching philosophy — to create a "family" setting where students can come when they are feeling stressed.

"More than 90 percent of the students that participate in the choral program are not music majors,” he said. "I know for some students, the choir is literally what got them through their education. When a major course was really coming down on them hard, they were able to come over here and sing for an hour a day."

Davies believes having a safe haven where students can immerse themselves in an art they love, even if it's not what they're primarily studying, is a benefit of a liberal arts education. 

"That's the general thing about liberal arts — you come in contact with a wide base of things," he said. "You are required to investigate so many areas, and place the pin down on that thing you love."

Although Davies is moving on from Cal Poly, he will continue to serve as the musical director and conductor of the San Luis Obispo Master Chorale, a community ensemble that performs major works for chorus and orchestra.

Davies' final concert was on June 11 at 2 p.m. in Harmon Hall of the Performing Arts Center on Cal Poly's campus. The concert included important milestones in Davies' tenure at the university. Participants in the program included current students, alumni and faculty.

As Davies reached his final days at the university, he reflected on what made his time at Cal Poly so meaningful: the students.

"The opportunity to be here on this campus with bright students, who really care for one another and care for the university, has truly made a difference in my life."

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