I am fortunate to have had many meaningful mentors, but it was Dr. Dee Romines who set me on my career path. Currently on faculty at Hardin-Simmons University, I knew him as Mr. Romines, director of the Academy choirs at Punahou School in Honolulu, HI.
Choir was my Thing, and it happened at 7:30 every morning. No matter how early I arrived, the choir room door was unlocked, and some kind of record was playing…sometimes Robert Shaw, sometimes Elvis…and he would be preparing for rehearsal in the office. I understand now the ever-present cup of coffee. The choir room was my safest place, my most ME place, and I’m forever grateful that it was always open when I arrived.
Mr. Romines gave me the words to put on what I could already do: rhythmic integrity and exactitude, scale degrees and harmonic function. He challenged me to learn and love Palestrina and Handel and Mendelssohn and Poulenc. He helped me earn my first pay as a chorister, let me accompany the choir (perhaps to the detriment of the choir, but to the benefit of my education), and made me know I had something important to offer. I learned the importance of letting someone know when they perform well; always demanding excellence in rehearsal, after our concerts he would sit and look at us all and say, “I thought you sang well. No really, I did!”
I chose to pursue a music major solely because of the influence of Dee Romines. (I can hear his gentle self-deprecating voice saying “sorry” here…don’t worry, it was the right path.) Clearly, here was a man who worked hard at a profession that fed his passion…maybe I could also. Maybe I could make a living doing what I loved. Maybe I too could provide a safe place, a “most ME” place for a young singer. I hope, somewhere through the past 20 years, I hope I have.
He is Dr. Romines now, and has influenced the lives of thousands of choristers. And Dr. Romines, with me, I thought you did good. No really. Really, I do.
Will you one day be someone’s most meaningful mentor? Plant the seeds today for tomorrow’s choral world. ACDA Mentoring (mentoring.acda.org).
Photo of Punahou Chorale Japan Tour Choir, 1989. Dee Romines, back row, 4th from left. Julie (Schroeder) Parsons, back row, 6th from right.