It is one thing to be told that your life mattered. It's quite another to have 150 voices sing that message in perfect harmony
It was the late 1960's and Ron "Mo" Molina's professors at San Jose State University thought he was nuts.
Mo had just graduated with a degree in music from the school and been offered a job working at New York's Lincoln Center, one of the nation's premiere performing arts venues.
Mo turned them down.
He instead took a job teaching high school choir.
"I got kicked all over the place by the people at San Jose State," Mo recalls.
Even back then, Mo says, he knew his mission in life was to work with young people. He never regretted the choice he made, nor should he, judging by the scene at Antioch High School this past Saturday.
More than 150 of Mo's former students staged a surprise concert in his honor. Mo had been forced by health problems to retire this past summer after 27 years heading the choral program at the school.
"He is my role model, my hero," says Jason Mullen, one of Mo's former students. "He is who I want to be."
Mo's tenure as choir director was successful by any measure. Mo made music at Antioch a source of school pride and a cool thing for students to do. Mo would regularly field a concert choir of more than two hundred students, or one-tenth of the entire student body. The elite among the, the two dozen Music Masters, racked up countless awards, and would perform hundreds of times over the course of a year.
Still, his students say, it was the lessons in life, rather than music, that they will remember the most. "The values I teach my children," former student Elizabeth Ansari says, "are ones I learned from Mo."
The former students say they began planning the concert the moment they heard Mo was retiring. They felt it was the least they could do to repay him for all he had done for them.
Money raised during the concert, and from sales of a DVD to be made of the event, will go to a fund to send Mo and his wife, Darcy, on a trip to Hawaii.
Contributions to the fund can be made at http://mo-tribute-2013.blogspot.com/?m=1.