Alice Lipson, Orphenians Director, Retires

Leah Bitsky ’12
A&E Editor

At Staples Orphenians’ 50th Anniversary Concert on Sunday, Jun. 6th, Conduc- tor Alice Lipson’s eyes closed as she conducted a performance of a song played at her daughter’s graduation.

This was the last time Lipson would lead them in chorus.

After 22 years as the beloved director of Staples’ chorus, a ca- pella choir and Orphenians, and outstanding role model to over a generation of Staples students, the ever-youthful and inspiring Alice Lipson has decided to retire at the end of the ’09-’10 school year. Her curricula vitae led her to not only develop her “passion for music,” but also become who Alan South- worth ’10, president of choir, con- siders “one of my biggest musical influences and inspirations.”

After graduating from high school, she paid her own way through the Hartt School of Mu- sic in West Hartford, CT, studying hard. She graduated in 1975, re- ceiving the coveted Music Educa- tor of the Year award.

When she was first hired to be Choral Director at Staples, Lip- son said she was ready to take on the job, but a bit nervous because she knew the previous director had an enormously powerful rep- utation.

“Everyone was just worried because here was this young, long-haired little girl coming in to take over for Dr. George Weigle,” Lipson commented.

As it turned out, she had no reason to be nervous. Within only a couple of years, she was able to establish herself and her own in- imitable style as Staples Choral Director. She has conducted the

choir each year in the acclaimed Candlelight concerts, as well as leading the Orphenians in con- certs abroad, local charity events and caroling.

With so much experience at Staples, it is certainly no accident Lipson turned out to be such a great music teacher.

“My greatest achievement at Staples,” according to Lipson, “has been the small impact that I have made in the lives of many stu- dents. That to me is an incredible accomplishment.”

The impact she has made can be felt by all members of the Staples Choir, no matter how long they have known her.

“I was only able to have Ms. Lipson for one year, but through her guidance, kindness and out- standing knowledge of music, I have improved as a singer and more importantly, as a person,”

Michael Sixsmith ’13 said. Some believe that her teach-

ing is influenced by her great pas- sion for music. Rosie Lesser ’10 said, “She is so passionate about music. It makes you realize that what we do is bigger than us; it’s about making something amaz- ing.”

“When we’re singing in class, you can see in her face that she’s so into the music as if that one song were the most important thing in the world,” added Karin Schultz ’12.

Her love of music shines through to the classroom environ- ment as well.

“She doesn’t just tell us what we do wrong but she makes sure to tell us all the things we do right as well,” said Schultz.

“She brought a sense of com- munity to our classroom,” Court- ney Dionne ’11 said. “We may be

different outside of Choir, but we all have respect for each other in- side the classroom.”

Though the wisdom Lipson has imparted onto her students has been crucial, she believes that she has done what she came to Staples to do.

“It’s time for someone new and young to take over the reins of this program and to do bigger and better things.” she said.

Re-enter Justin Miller ’01, Staples alumnus. Among his ac- colades are conducting the West- minster Chorus and winning the Choir of the Worlds in 2009. Lip- son could not be happier that he is taking over as Choir Director

Though Lipson is pleased, some of her students are less than glad to see her replaced.

“Ms. Lipson’s replacement has some big shoes to fill,” Lesser exclaimed.

Miller is excited to return to Staples to do what he loves, but he is aware he could never take Lip- son’s place.

“Ms. Lipson is not someone who can really be replaced. I’m not really taking over for her, I’m just allowing segue into a new era of music at Staples,” Miller said.

Miller went on to say he was going to have to be on top of his game to keep the music at the high level Lipson has established.

While Miller continues the tradition of excellence Lipson has begun, she does not plan on stay- ing away forever. “I’m not separat- ing myself from this place entirely. I’m invested in this program too much to just walk away. I’m defi- nitely going to visit,” Lipson said, though her new duties as a grand- mother may be keeping her busy.

“I am just so excited and de- lighted to be a grandma,” she said. In addition, she plans to do more things for herself, including getting in better physical shape, taking singing and dance lessons, and enrolling in courses at Nor-

walk Community College. So before Alice, Lippy, Ms.

Lipson, or whatever her fans choose to call her, leaves the Sta- ples community she has so greatly influenced— her legendary long, white hair swinging behind her — she gave a final piece of advice to all her students she will miss so much.

“I would just like the stu- dents to know how much I have enjoyed my work, and that every day was different, and every day I had the pleasure of working with them. You should always remem- ber singing makes you healthier; you should always sing, and to al- ways remember…” Lipson paused, her eyes sparkling behind her glasses.

“…It’s about the music.”