There were many reasons why David Judd felt 2017 was the right year to retire.
He said having a choir and band receiving third and first in state respectively felt like the right timing, 68 felt like the right age and 45 years of teaching felt like a good career.
“Not very many teachers can say to their student ‘I had your grandpa as a student,’” Judd said. “That’s when you know it might be the right time to retire.”
It was Judd’s third, and he says final, time retiring from music education. He previously retired from W.F. West High School in 2001, Onalaska High School in 2012 and now from Rainier High School in Rainier, Ore.
“It’s been a real blessing to be able to do music all these years,” Judd said. “I hope it’s not over.”
Originally from Eastern Oregon, Judd spent much of his school career there and then graduated from a private high school in the Seattle area. He hails from a musical family, and brass instruments were his favorite. He said he loved band and choir in school and knew fairly early on that music would be his career path.
He attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, majoring in music. As a Whitman senior, Judd visited W.F. West High School for a band concert. The high school had an opening for a choir teacher, and though the 22-year-old Judd did not think he was qualified for the position, his instructor did.
“My college professor took me around to all the administrators and said, ‘This is the guy you want,’” Judd recalled.
The match did end up being a good one, as Judd taught at W.F. West for 30 years, retiring in 2001. Judd does credit part of his longevity in Chehalis with meeting his wife of 42 years, Vicki. The couple raised four children in Chehalis, all of whom Judd taught at one time or another.
“Our roots just were here,” Judd said. “I like Chehalis and I like W.F. West and I loved teaching there. It was a great fit.”
After retiring from W.F. West in 2001, Judd pursued a career in house painting. He had painted houses with his father every summer since the eighth grade and intended to make it a full-time job after retirement. He said he enjoyed the change but did not enjoy the work during the cold winter months. Two years into his retirement he got a call from Onalaska School District about a sudden opening for a choir/band teacher and whether he’d help, even for six months, to keep the program going.
“I thought, ‘It’s warm in the classroom and there’s people and I get to work with kids and music,’” Judd joked.
Judd took the position with Onalaska, agreeing to six months. After the six months were over, he was enjoying himself so much he agreed to stay a bit longer. He stayed in Onalaska for nine years before retiring from there.
He finished his sixth year as band/choir teacher at Rainer High School. The first year of his employment in Rainier, Judd commuted from Chehalis while Vicki stayed on as a member of the pastoral staff at Bethel Church. His second year, the couple moved to Longview. Judd said when he first started in Rainier the music program needed major improvements and he felt honored to be able to work to make it better.
“We’ve elevated it to where the music is really good and the discipline problems are gone because they all know they’re good and they all want to be there,” Judd said.
While Judd’s career may have taken him away from Lewis County in recent years, he continued to have a musical influence on Southwest Washington. In 2010, he became the conductor for the Pacific Northwest Chamber Orchestra. When former conductor Dee Morton left the position, Judd was one of three people to apply for the opening. He had never conducted an orchestra before and wasn’t sure if it would be the right fit but he said he really wanted to try. He said being able to lead the chamber orchestra fulfilled a childhood dream of his to someday conduct some of the symphonies he grew up listening to as a child.
“I’ve been blessed in a lot of ways but very few musicians get to do choir, band and orchestra,” Judd said. “To be able to have done all three has been awesome.”
Chamber orchestra flutist Tara Attaway said Judd’s decision to retire was her second time having to say goodbye to her music mentor. Judd retired from W.F. West when she was a junior there and then she has been with the chamber orchestra for 10 years.
“It breaks my heart,” Attaway said of Judd’s departure. “He took this orchestra to where the violins give me chills now. We’ve had to reorder ourselves and learn a new director but I think he had to learn a new directing style. So, we all learned from each other.”
It is the collaboration that Judd said he enjoys the most about working with musical groups. He said the chamber orchestra is especially fulfilling to work with because it comprises musicians who are there because they love music and they love to perform.
“The camaraderie is like no other,” Judd said. “A good performance is a blessing to the audience and it’s a blessing to the people performing. It’s a double whammy when it comes together just right.”
Oakview Elementary sixth-grade teacher Rachel Morris, who has played cello for the orchestra for five years, said Judd’s career as a music educator was a good match for the chamber orchestra. She said many of Judd’s students and former students sought out the group for the chance to work with Judd. But she said the orchestra also attracts a fair number of teachers because they enjoy being part of the group that ranges in age from retirees to kids as young as eighth grade.
“It’s a nice opportunity for kids to learn from people who have been in their shoes. There’s a lot of mentoring that goes on in the orchestra,” Morris said. “It’s fun. It’s an opportunity to get to know people from all walks of life.”
Joshua Friedlander, of St. Martin’s University, will be taking over the conducting duties for the chamber orchestra.
Judd said the decision to retire this year felt like the right timing, especially since Vicki is also retiring this year. The couple purchased an RV, which is now their primary residence and Judd said they look forward to using it to visit their two sons in Chehalis and daughters in Lacey and Oak Harbor.
He said they also enjoy camping, fishing and hunting, and look forward to being able to do those things during the times of year when teachers typically do not have time off. He said eventually he would like to organize some sort of Christmas time choir or sing-along opportunity for the community.
He has conducted the Messiah sing-along at the Chehalis Seventh-day Adventist Church for the last few years and previously conducted the Singing Christmas Tree at Bethel Church and said he envisions something along those lines.
Other than enjoying time with family and traveling, Judd said he has no plans for retirement at this point. Right now, Judd said the plan is to say his goodbyes, take a bow and finish on a high note.
“We don’t know what our future holds other than we’re ready for whatever opens up,” Judd said. “We don’t think it’ll be sitting around all day in rocking chairs.”