When Sam Tsugawa went out for what he thought was dinner with his wife Saturday night, he ended up getting a little more than he bargained for.

More than 150 Springville orchestra alumni had been practicing for months to perform a concert in his honor that night, and made sure he was surprised when he got there. 

If he wasn't surprised, he did a good job of faking it, grinning as he was ushered down the main aisle to a standing ovation from both the orchestra and the hundreds of people who made up the audience. 

Former orchestra members traveled as far as Logan and Arizona to perform, attend and conduct at the event. Everyone was in on it except Tsugawa, whose retirement this year inspired the event.

For the last 27 years, Tsugawa has been the orchestra director at Springville High School, and also spent time directing orchestra at Springville Junior High. He just announced his retirement this year.

He made a lasting impression on many that he taught, with graduates from as far back as 1991 being represented in the orchestra, joining students who have yet to graduate, and almost every age in between. 

Students remembered a few of Tsugawa's most memorable quotes, including, "Do what I meant, not what I said."

"He always had a sense of humor," said Katie Garner, who graduated in 2002. "But he knew how to get us to walk the line."

His high expectations helped many who learned under him to mature faster, Garner said, because they knew there were consequences if they didn’t follow through on their responsibilities.

“The only reason you didn’t show up to a concert was bodily fluids, or death,” said Garner, a violinist. “Otherwise, you were expected to be there or get flunked.”

Kjersti Christensen, a 2008 graduate, had heard the idea thrown around by several people that Tsugawa’s alumni should put on a surprise concert for him, but she was the one who decided to make that idea into reality. 

Christensen fondly remembers a fiddling class that Tsugawa started that sparked her still-active love of fiddling. She went on to be a music educator herself and currently teaches private violin and voice lessons.

“He loved us as people, not just as stupid kids in high school,” Christensen said. “I think that’s why so many people responded to this. People love and respect him because he expected quality or nothing.”

Katie England covers politics, county government and southern Utah County for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2599 or kengland@heraldextra.com.

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