Thomas Davies impacted generations of Cal Poly students during his time as a choir conductor. Emily Merten / Mustang News

After 34 years of teaching and conducting, Thomas Davies, the director of choral activities and vocal studies, has just ended his time at Cal Poly in June. During his time at Cal Poly, Davies was the conductor of three student choirs: University Singers, Polyphonics and Early Music Ensemble.

Looking back, Davies said his close relationships with students and faculty made his work worthwhile. He said although a lot changed in the past three decades, the passion and drive in his students remained consistent.

“It has really come to me in this last year what an influence you can have as a teacher on a person’s life,” Davies said.

According to Davies, more than 90 percent of students in the choir program are not music majors. They come from all over campus, often quarter after quarter, to take a break from the books and sing.

“I get to know them really really well by the time they come in as 18-year-olds and leave as 22-year-olds,” Davies said. “There’s a big change.”

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History senior Rebecca Willis has been in University Singers since her freshman year. Her last concert at Cal Poly was Davies’ farewell spring concert, “With Thanks to All.” Willis said she is glad she celebrated Davies’ work at Cal Poly the same year she is graduated.

“I’m glad I get to commemorate that,” Willis said. “It feels special because he’s a big part of my Cal Poly experience. It’s kind of nice to say goodbye at the same time, especially for my parents because that’s a big part of their life together as well.”

Willis’ parents are Cal Poly alumni, as well as alumni of the choir program. As students in the late 1980s, Karen and Dave Willis’ relationship bloomed in Davies’ choir class. Years later, Davies attended the couple’s wedding.

Willis followed her parents’ footsteps and joined Davies’ choir upon coming to Cal Poly.

“[Davies] genuinely gets to know his students, loves them and keeps in touch with them,” Karen said. “I feel like that’s one of the reasons we have such a large alumni gathering that’s also coming to honor Tom and sing.”

More than 100 alumni gathered to commemorate Davies’ work and sing with the student choir group at his farewell concert June 11.

The farewell concert will not be the end of choir for Davies, however. He will continue to conduct a community choir in San Luis Obispo.

Davies will also travel to England and Wales with his choir students this summer. The choir will sing in castles and renowned venues in the United Kingdom. The choir has been to Hungary, Czech Republic and France, along with other countries.

“Those are things that are very memorable: taking the students to other places where they get a chance to sing in very beautiful locations,” Davies said.

Davies will then hand the conducting baton to Scott Glysson, who will conduct the choir starting in the fall.

“I am looking forward to watching the program grow more and more in years to come,” Davies said.

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