High School Choir

Students: What you need to know and do

If accepted:

  • Music will be distributed prior to the first rehearsal
  • You will attend all scheduled rehearsals
  • You will rehearse your music and come prepared to each rehearsal
  • You will perform at the Honors Concert

2020 High School Honor Choir Conductor is Polly Vasché.


Polly Vasché earned two degrees at Stanford University and worked in Tokyo, San Diego, and at Whitman College (Walla Walla, WA) before changing careers to major in piano and vocal performance at California State University, Stanislaus. In June 2004 she retired from Thomas Downey High School (Modesto), where she had taught five choirs and handbells, piano, and guitar since 1975.

The Downey Choirs have appeared on numerous occasions in both concerts and clinics at conventions of the American Choral Directors Association and the California Music Educators Association. Downey hosted a Men's and Women's Ensemble Festival for 16 years, and Polly has served as California State ACDA President as well as Women's Choir Chair for ACDA Western Division (California, Hawaii, Utah, Nevada and Arizona). She is currently Coordinator of the three ACDA Western Division Honor Choirs performing at the Convention in Anaheim in February 2008.

A charter member of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Polly sang for 10 years with the California Choral Company, including two European tours. When Polly was a member of the ACDA National Women's Honor Choir in Chicago (1999), Gwyneth Walker came from her home in Vermont to help teach her newly commissioned work, “I Thank You God.”

Polly’s awards include 2007 Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (Stanislaus County Arts Council), 2005 Alumna of the Year (CSU Stanislaus), 2003 Choral Educator of the Year (CMEA), and 1995 Teacher of the Year (Modesto Rotary).

Polly lives in Modesto with her husband, Burt, who also retired in June 2004 after 35 years as an English teacher at Downey.

Her favorite quote on music education is from Shinichi Suzuki:

“Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth, and learns to sing it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart."