Baldwin auditorium to be renamed after iconic choir director
At the start of nearly every spring concert that Regis Shalley directed, young voices began to sing “100 Pipers” as the curtain opened.
And at Christmas concerts, “Little Drummer Boy” always was a time for former choir members to join the Baldwin High School performers. Sometimes, as many as 300 people crowded on the stage.
Shalley, a longtime Baldwin choir director, retired in 1981. Yet his students continue to talk about the traditions at concerts he directed, and the difference he made in their lives.
Preserving Shalley's legacy is a goal of many alumni, who have been raising money for several years to rename the Baldwin High School Performing Arts Center in his name. Shalley died on March 6 and his wife, Antoinette, died on July 4.
“His impact on his students was so strong and so meaningful,” Whitehall Mayor James Nowalk said of Shalley.
Nowalk also serves as president of the Baldwin-Whitehall Friends of the Theater Arts, a nonprofit working to bolster theater and musical performances in the district. Shalley “instilled in us a love of music and not just a love of music but a love of excellent music. Music became a big part of our lives because of the music that he gave us,” he said.
The Baldwin-Whitehall School Board voted Nov. 6 to move forward earlier than anticipated with renaming of the performing arts center after Shalley, and lowered the price for naming rights for the Friends of the Theater Arts, set in 2009 at $175,000, to $87,500.
The initial agreement called for the school district to build an orchestra pit in the performing arts center during high school renovations, if Baldwin-Whitehall Friends of the Theater Arts raised the $175,000 to help finance it. For that, the group was to get naming rights.
Board member Kevin Fischer, though, who worked on the renovation project and is leaving the board at the end of this year, said he wanted the renaming to occur during the current board's tenure. He made the motion to move forward with the renaming now.
“What an honor it is to have that legacy that was his whole career be permanent,” said Shalley's daughter, Kathy Peterson, 63, of Pleasant Hills. “He loved all of those students and he so loved working with all of them.”
The Friends of the Theater Arts has raised $40,000 toward the total, Nowalk said, and will donate an organ to Baldwin High School this week that sat in Shalley's living room and often was played by Antoinette Shalley.
Shalley loved music all of his life, his daughter said.
He played the trumpet in and conducted dance bands with the Army Air Corps Special Services while he was in the military during World War II. He later attended Duquesne University's School of Music, where he met his wife, and received his doctorate in musical arts at the University of Cincinnati.
Dan McGinnis, 72, of Indian Wells, Calif., said he doesn't know where he'd be today if it wasn't for Shalley.
Shalley, who taught for 28 years at Baldwin High School, conducted the Highlander Choir, Baldwinaires and boys and girls glee clubs.
McGinnis, a 1959 Baldwin graduate, was a student of Shalley's in his early years, when he was trying to build the choir program at Baldwin.
When the choir lost competitions, McGinnis said, Shalley stressed that there were lessons in that.
“He really cared for his students. He urged us to go to college and pursue whatever we wanted to do,” McGinnis said.
McGinnis graduated from Duquesne University's School of Law and worked in sales for nearly 30 years, and he started a rock ‘n roll group with three other Baldwin alumni and recorded three songs. The group had regional hits in the Pittsburgh area.
“If I hadn't have met him, I don't know where I would be or what I would have done with my life,” McGinnis said. “He was a friend to everybody.”
There was just something special about him, he said.
“I never saw him get upset or angry. He just had a way of controlling people in other ways,” McGinnis said. “He was so poised. His devotion was fantastic.”
Shalley made singing fun, said Chris Young, 61, a 1970 Baldwin High School graduate.
“He had such an attention to detail with his music,” Young said. “He was a very caring, loving person who wanted to help all of his students be the best that they could be.”
Choir drew everyone, said John Slater, a member of the Baldwin High School class of 1971 who participated in the Baldwinaires, choir and men's glee club.
“Choir was the class where everybody just regarded each other as friends,” Slater said.
“He was just a tremendous guy,” Young said.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or email@example.com.