Kean to retire with final show

Patricia Rocha, Reporter

By Patricia Rocha



After 19 years at Bakersfield College, choir director Ronald Kean is going out on top. After a total of 30 years teaching, a successful performance over spring break at New York’s infamous Carnegie Hall, and an upcoming finale performance, Kean is excited to retire for new adventures.

His final performance will be held on May 4, where Mozart’s requiem “Melody of Peace” and Kean’s own “American Mass” will be performed.

“It’s kind of funny because ‘requiem’ is for the dead, but that’s not why I did it,” he joked. “It’s a great work that brings a lot of people together.

“That says a lot about who I am in terms of trying to connect people through great music, truly great music.”

He also described his own musical work, based in the Catholic tradition of mass. He spoke about how he uses this piece to merge American hymns and spirituals with a traditional liturgy. “I think my calling is to make connections to many cultures through music,” he said.

In the past he noticed how little cultural differences were presented to choir students and wanted to remedy that with his own teaching.

“I sought out experts in the field of world music, there were very few, and in a few years I became what other people thought was an expert,” he said. “I never considered myself that but the country did. I was the chair for a while.”

With a lot of personal history in each of his pieces, he is glad they’ve been so well received before, and that these will be in his final choir director performance.

“I hear from people all over the country and from all over the world who perform this, how there’s a connection made that is unique,” he said.

He also noted how churches don’t often sing these hymns anymore and these songs bring people back to their youth.

“I just got an email from a fellow in South Africa who wants to perform it, the full version of it, with orchestra,” he said. “The University of Oregon just performed it in January. I’m just hearing reports from all over the place from people who are moved by it.”

He says after his amazing career and this extraordinary year with the choir, now is the perfect time for him to retire with his wife.

“It’s time for a new adventure,” he said. “Both of my daughters told me, ‘You don’t want to stick around long enough for your students to start snickering behind your back’ and there’s a lot of truth to that.”

He says he will stick with his musical roots by continuing to compose pieces and judge choir festivals, while also working a new job at his favorite winery in Paso Robles.

“If you’re passionate you’re passionate,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you’re doing.”