Listen As Students Surprise Retiring Teacher With An Emotional Musical Sendoff

Thanks to the pandemic he didn't get the chance to take a final bow, so his kids planned an extra special salute.

The sudden closure of schools across the country because of the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for students who saw their school year cut short, and events like prom, musicals and traditional graduation ceremonies cancelled.

But it's also been tough on teachers especially those who are retiring at the end of the school year. They didn't get to say goodbye to their students, and in the case of teachers involved in drama and music, didn't have the pleasure of experiencing what would have been a farewell concert, play or musical.

Kids in schools across the country aren't about to let their teachers go without a final bow.

16 students who would have participated in Otto Layman's final high school musical recorded a tribute video.Santa Barbara High School Theater/Facebook

At Santa Barbara (CA) High School, Otto Layman is retiring after 24 years as a teacher and head of the theater department. Students who would have performed in his final musical collaborated with Music and Vocal Director Sio Tepper to perform "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" as a tribute to Layman, his career, and his incredible influence on his students' lives.


Each of the students sang along to the same piano track and sent their recordings back to Tepper, who had the tedious job of lining up the 16 different audio tracks. Tepper chose "Somewhere over the Rainbow" because the Wizard of Oz is one of Layman's favorite shows and there's an inside joke involved: apair of ruby slippers are hidden in the set of every SBHS production.

"When it became apparent that we would not be able to have the [musical] at all, I felt the need and desire to do something else creative in Otto's honor," Tepper wrote on the SBHS Facebook page. "While we certainly did not get to have the big ending that we had been working towards, this was a way for the cast and I to have some kind of creative outlet and closure."

Mr. Layman has received lots of accolades for his groundbreaking work with his musical theater students.Montecito Journal

Layman wrote "I didn't foresee my career ending this way…but I am extraordinarily proud of our body of work, at our transition to one of the great musical theatre schools, the talented and fiercely bold students, the group of designers and directors I have had the honor of calling my friends."

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