Gratitude and Love for GHS Choir Director Patrick Taylor

By Victoria Liu, GHS class of 2023

Once every few million years, somebody like Mr. Patrick Taylor, Director of Choirs and Program Associate of the Music Department at GHS, comes along. His greatness was manifested through the roaring applause and standing ovations during the annual spring Choral Pops Concert on Wednesday, May 24, which marked Mr. Taylor’s last concert after 24 years of teaching at GHS. 

Patrick Taylor Director of Choirs, GHS Music Department.May 24, 2023 Photo: Victoria Liu

Five days before the concert, Mr. Taylor anticipated the end serenely.

“I’m starting to embrace the weirdness of this being the last concert, and it’s not normal for me to say goodbye to… all the students,” he said. “It’s the last time I get to make music with you guys, so that’s extra sad. Mostly, I’m feeling the same sense of excitement I always feel at concerts, but I can tell by next Wednesday I’m going to probably start to feel a little bit wistful about all the endings.”

And before he knew it, “next Wednesday” arrived. The concert commenced as usual, with the four choirs—Concert Choir, Witchmen, Madrigals, and Chamber Singers—each performing their own beautiful pieces. The Class of 2023 then sang a song composed by Mr. Taylor himself, along with lyricist Kate Quarfordt, “Something Is Holding Me Here.”

He spoke to me about the origins of his song: “Many years ago, I wanted to write a song for the seniors at [Wilton High School, where he taught prior to GHS], and I said to my students, ‘Does anybody want to take a stab at writing some lyrics?’ And this girl stepped up and wrote… a very elegant and eloquent set of lyrics.” 

The performance of this song at the final concert of the year has been a tradition since around 2010 at GHS. Mr. Taylor adds: “I didn’t expect it to be a tradition, but then 10 or 15 years ago I asked, ‘Hey seniors, wanna sing this song?’ They all liked it… next thing you know, everybody wanted to do it. I’m not normally the guy who wants a tradition to be something I wrote or became the center of attention on, but I do think that piece has a strange way of eliciting emotions, especially in parents as you guys sing it, because they are sad to see you go, even though you might not know that.” 

Although Mr. Taylor had some suspicions that there was going to be some kind of tribute at the end of the concert, he did not suspect the sheer amount of choir alumni and former colleagues who would make an appearance in the audience. But, most importantly, his family, including his mother, who flew in from South Carolina with a broken back, was there to support him in the final concert of his career. 

Patrick Taylor with two choir members. May 24, 2023 Photo: Victoria Liu

Tributes were given (in order) by Orchestra Director Bethany Fuscaldo, Electronic Music Teacher Barbara Freedman, Band Director Michael Breaux, several choir students, GHS Principal Ralph Mayo, Ms. Laura Newell, First Selectman Fred Camilo, Selectwoman Lauren Rabin, and Connecticut State Senator Ryan Fazio. Finally, a photo slideshow of Mr. Taylor through the years was presented. The concert concluded with a 15-minute long medley of songs from The Hunchback of Notre Dame

After 24 years of teaching at GHS, Mr. Taylor recounted some of his favorite memories: “We did some really important major works, like Mozart’s Requiem, and Beethoven’s Mass in C, we had Rob Mathes write a piece for us… it’s the concerts that were really exciting and where the kids were so proud of themselves.”

Patrick Taylor, Compass Yearbook.
Patrick Taylor, Compass Yearbook.

For Mr. Taylor, one of the most rewarding moments in teaching is when a piece finally clicks: “I’ll miss the excitement I see on kids’ faces when we get it—when we finally get a piece and it sounds great and everybody knows it sounds great. There’s always a day when we get over the hump. It’s very satisfying ‘cause it’s usually at the end of a long, tedious process of note learning. 

One of Mr. Taylor’s proudest accomplishments is being a part of creating the spaces we have today. “The choral program built and built and got bigger and bigger to the point where we needed better facilities, so they built a new auditorium.” 

“When I leave here, it is incredibly satisfying to know that for the next 100 years, this performing arts center and these rehearsal spaces will be something that I had a really big part in creating.”

Above all else, the best part of his career was simply how he was able to influence the lives of so many students. 

“My main accomplishment is just the thousands of kids that I’ve taught here and thought ‘for the rest of their life, they’re gonna feel like they can be a singer.’ And that’s pretty cool. Most people don’t sing and that’s sad. Or at least they can… but they don’t know it. You just gotta learn that you are better than you think you are. And to not judge yourself… you know the old thing that says ‘Dance like no one’s watching’ or ‘Sing like no one’s listening?’ There’s a lot of truth to that. Just let yourself go.”

So, thank you Mr. Taylor for all that you’ve done. I’ve made so many incredible memories in your class and I will treasure every moment we’ve shared. You’ve helped me become a happier, more confident version of myself, and I cannot thank you enough for that. I wish you all the best in your retirement.