Lin Warren, the choral director at Hastings High School, will be retiring at the end of this school year. He has spent 33 years at Hastings High School shaping the music program into what it is today. The music program at HHS and community has gone through significant changes since he began teaching at the school in the '80s.
The year was 1984. Hastings High School was located where the middle school sits today and a young Warren had recently received his master of arts in music from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Warren walked into Hastings High School with butterflies in his stomach. He was about to take the reins of a small music program.
"It was a fairly small program so it was a good way to ease into teaching, unlike our massive groups right now, that would be even more daunting," Warren said.
Connie Wiegel and Kari McCord remember sitting in Warren's class in that first year of his career at HHS. They both graduated in 1985. The school had been in need of a choir director for a few years so McCord said that she remembers everyone was so happy to have someone willing to teach them to sing and focus on music.
To top everything off, she remembers Warren choosing the perfect song for them to work on: "Let's begin again" by John Rutter.
"It was just a glimmer of what was to come for the choir department," McCord said.
Wiegel said that what made Warren such a great fit was his ability to bring out the best in the students. She said that he was always a leader, never looked down on anyone, always gave them challenging materials and just took for granted that they would be able to perform it.
Today, McCord and Wiegel both sing in the choir at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, where Warren directs them. Something Warren said that he will continue to do as his musical outlet after he retires. Wiegel said that Warren has not lost a bit of his enthusiasm and professionalism since that first year in his career.
"It's so much fun and you know he hasn't changed at all," Wiegel said. "It's like no time has past, he is still self-deprecating and funny and yet at the same time he's given us hard (choir materials)."
For McCord, Warren's career has really come full circle. McCord and her twin sister were in his very first class at HHS and today, her twins are in his very last class at HHS.
"It is really cool, I am so happy that my kids got the chance to have him as a teacher," McCord said.
James McCord, Kari's son, said that it is a pretty special thing to be part of Warren's last class and he thinks the impact Warren has had on so many students is pretty incredible. James has plans to go to Concordia College in Moorhead to pursue music education, something Warren may have inspired.
"I want to help people in the way that (Warren) has," he said.
Another HHS senior Matt Leifeld said that Warren has greatly impacted him for the better. He grew up on a dairy farm and he never once thought he would sing in his life. Leifeld said that Warren showed him a whole new part of himself that he never thought he had. Now, Leifeld has plans to attend North Dakota State University to study music with a minor in criminal justice.
"I want to keep the legacy going that (Warren) had and inspire people," he said.
One inspiring moment from Warren occurred just before the show choir was about to take the stage in Nashville at the close of this year's season, said Mike Johnson, principal at HHS. Johnson attended the competition in support of Warren's final season with the choir and to support the students. He overheard Warren talking to the show choir when he simply stated, "It's not enough to impress people, it has to be where you're inspiring people."
Johnson said that he thinks that quote from Nashville sums up Warren's career. Warren sets high expectations for students and even higher expectations for himself, Johnson said.
"He is able to get students to do things that they didn't think were possible in a way that they in turn push him to push them further," Johnson said.
Warren said that one of the things he will not miss is the administrative work that comes along with being the head of the music department. However, one things that he will truly miss is the interaction with his students.
"You develop an incredible relationship with kids and that I'm going to so miss," he said.
Not to mention the fact that he attributes working with kids to helping him feel young.
Although Warren will be retiring at the end of the year, he will not be slowing down. In addition to directing the choir at his church, Warren is a licensed real estate agent and he plans to help run tours with Gateway Music Festivals and Tours. He will help with music tour arrangements for high school and college students in cities all over the world.