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2024 Yamaha "40 Under 40" educator Dr. Richard Hutton

Dr. Richard Hutton

Assistant Professor of Choral Music Education and Assistant Director of Choral Activities
Boise State University
Boise, Idaho

Boise State University embraces innovation in an interdisciplinary way — something they call “Blue Turf Thinking” (named after the famous blue turf at its football field). Dr. Richard Hutton, Assistant Professor of Choral Music Education and Assistant Director of Choral Activities, wholeheartedly believes in “Blue Turf Thinking” and finds creative and compassionate avenues to teach choral music.

“I am inspired by the pure transcendent joy of music, and I’m driven to empower my students to develop their artistic and creative capacities, enable them to be a part of a musical community and provide opportunities where they will experience the power and value of music,” he says.

Hutton has found deep community and enduring friendships through choir, so he provides opportunities that foster those bonds in his ensembles and showcase it to the wider community through activities like Friday night talent shows, neighborhood caroling or Valentine’s Day singing telegrams. He emphasizes that anyone who wants to be a part of the choir program will be welcomed. “The successful choral program gets everyone involved,” Hutton explains. “One of the things I love about choir is that anyone can join and find a sense of belonging. No instrument needs to be purchased and no prerequisite needs to be fulfilled. I have the joy of recruiting even those kids who will say, ‘Oh, you don’t want to hear me sing.’ To which, I tell them, ‘Teaching you to sing is our superpower!’”

Prior to Boise State, Hutton taught at a high school where he offered a choir designed for students who required special education services. Most of the choristers were a part of the comprehensive life skills (CLS) program for students who take one or two elective general education courses where they can integrate with mainstream students. “Rather than having a few CLS students in a variety of choirs, I worked with administration to offer ‘Cougar Choir’ so students from my advanced choir could come alongside a larger number of CLS students in a supportive peer tutor relationship, which fostered an environment where everyone thrived.”

The structured routine of Cougar Choir included greeting and goodbye songs, songs that incorporated American Sign Language, songs with movement and dance, and songs that required Orff instruments, boomwhackers and desk bells. “When I moved on from secondary to higher education, this group of students was the hardest to leave,” Hutton says.

The music department faculty at Boise State demonstrate care for students academically and personally. “Students experience a supportive yet challenging environment and get to enjoy a large university experience in a city with a vibrant arts scene,” Hutton says. “One of our goals is to prepare students for successful careers in an increasingly interconnected global community. I am proud to equip future choral music educators with the tools to make an impact in the lives of students across the Treasure Valley and beyond.”