2009 Swan Award Winner: Polly Vasché

 

vaschePolly Vasché was Choir Director at Thomas Downey High School in Modesto from 1975 to 2004. During that time the Knightengales and other Downey ensembles appeared on numerous occasions in both concert and interest sessions at ACDA and CMEA conventions. The Downey Choirs travelled widely and hosted a Men’s and Women’s Ensemble Festival for sixteen years. For ten years, Polly also conducted the Chancel Choir at Centenary United Methodist Church in Modesto and was active in the Choral Conductors Guild (CCG).

After graduating from Coronado High School in 1960, Polly earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and a Master of Arts Degree in Education from Stanford University. After working for several years, Polly entered California State University Stanislaus to study music at the age of thirty. She majored in Piano and Vocal Peformance, earning a Bachelor of Arts and a teaching credential in 1975. Gary Unruh was her vocal/choral teacher and mentor at CSUS and later as well. During a sabbatical leave from Downey in 1989-90, Polly studied one semester at Westminster Choir College in Princeton with Joseph Flummerfelt, and one semester at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles with Paul Salamunovich.

A charter member of the Modesto Symphony Chorus, Polly also sang for ten years with the California Choral Company under the direction of William Dehning, including two European tours. For three summers she sang in the Festival of Masses with Robert Shaw in San Francisco, and was a member of the ACDA National Women’s Honor Choir in Chicago in 1999.

ACDA has been for Polly a source of inspiration and knowledge throughout her career. She has served as Northern California Newsletter Editor, California State Co-President during the transition to ACDA state unification, Central Region Representative, Western Division Women’s R&S Chair, and Western Division Honor Choirs Coordinator (Anaheim 2006, Tucson, 2010).

Honors include 2007 Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (Stanislaus Arts Council), 2005 Alumna of the Year (CSU Stanislaus), 2003 Choral Educator of the Year (CMEA), 1996 Stanislaus County Teacher of the Year (Modesto Rotary), 1990 First Distinguished Music Alumna Award (CSU Stanislaus), and 1989 Teacher of Excellence (Downey High School).

Retired since 2004, Polly lives in Modesto with Burt, her husband of thirty-two years. She remains active as a choral adjudicator and guest conductor, sings in the Modesto Symphony Chorus, and currently serves on the ACDA Western Division Board.