Longtime area director of choirs ready for some rest

When Jeff Sandquist steps on the stage at Leach Theatre for tonight's annual Rolla Junior High and High Schools' spring concert, it will be a bittersweet moment.
After 30 years in education, 24 of them at Rolla High School (RHS), the vocal music director and music department chair for Rolla Public Schools is retiring.
"It is time for me to step back," Sandquist said. "I want to carve out a life of my own."
Over the years, his teaching duties have included directing a myriad of junior and senior high school vocal groups as well as serving as the artistic director of the Rolla Choral Arts Society. In short, Sandquist is the voice of all things vocal in the area.
"I have always been around music since an early age," he said. "My mom was a music teacher and an organist and I got into band when I was pretty young."
RHS Principal Jim Pritchett said Sandquist will definitely be missed.
"What has impressed me with Jeff is that his work in the schools is not just a job but rather a lifestyle," Pritchett told the Daily News. "His choirs do so much not just for our schools but for the community as well."
Whether it has been the Rolla Community Choir, children's choir or Rolla Men of Song, Sandquist has been impressed with the growth of these groups through the years.
"I have always said that Rolla is a place where there is a lot of unrealized potential. My thing has been to provide people here with a lot of the opportunities that they would have in larger communities, and I think we have been pretty successful in doing that," he said.
Those opportunities have translated into numerous recognitions and accolades from around the state.
"Our kids here at the high school are capable of performing at a very high musical level that is comparable with some of the larger schools in suburban Kansas City or St. Louis," he said. "Every year that I have been here we have had students in state choir or district choir, and we have had some kids even recognized in some national honor choirs."
Pritchett noted that he has been amazed at the number of requests the RHS choirs get to perform around town.
"They get so much exposure," he said.
While Sandquist said he likes all of his singing groups, he admits he has a soft spot in his heart for the children's choir.
"It is an amazing thing to work with them. I really cherish my time with them each week. When you start in third grade, it sets you up for a potential lifelong pursuit of music," Sandquist said. "I have kids in my high school groups now that have been singing with me since grade school."
While Pritchett said it will be hard to find a replacement for Sandquist at the high school, he is grateful that the musical genius will still be "on call" in the area.
However, Pritchett conceded that the musical maestro deserves some rest.
"We wish Jeff the best," he said. "He deserves some time to himself and to open a new chapter in his life."