“What I would like to express to my students, over 31 years, is that you’ve brought me so much joy and so much pride and love. You are fun to be with, even when I’m mad! I can’t think of a more wonderful way to have spent 31 years of my lifetime.” Joe Piazza, retiring PHS A cappella director
It was a celebration that will long be remembered. In the sanctuary of Berkeley’s First Presbyterian church, two hours of song, tributes and reminiscences capped the career of Piedmont High School choral music director Joseph Piazza, who is stepping down at the end of the school year after 31 years at PHS.
The church — a stand-in for the under-construction Alan Harvey campus theater — was a splendid setting. Dubbed “Grand Finale,” the concert featured Joe on piano leading the school’s choir through a lively assortment of contemporary numbers, including works by Adele, Elton John, Earth Wind & Fire, and more.
In this his final show, the qualities that made Joe such a treasured presence for students and his fellow teachers for so many years were on display — his beautifully arranged vocal harmonies, his wide-ranging musical tastes, his exquisite accompaniment on piano, and his devotion to his students, always letting them shine.
“There is so much laughter and joy in making music and watching these young people grow and become more of themselves”Joe Piazza
After a round of emotional testimonials by students recounting his gifts as a teacher, Piazza warmly praised his students and the Piedmont community, and the assembled crowd returned their thanks with a standing ovation. Then all of his students launched into a song they wrote in his honor.The ever-dapper, ever-composed Piazza was moved. For one sweet moment, with his silver hair framing his youthful, unlined face, Piazza teared up with a mixture of pride, joy and sadness.
There will be a house concert and reception honoring Joe Piazza at the Piedmont Community church May 12 at 2:30 pm. Updated photos below.