GLEN ELLYN – Longtime Glenbard West choir director Richard Whitecotton is being remembered for the passion he instilled in his students.
Whitecotton, who was head of the music department at Glenbard West High School from 1961 to 1999, died Nov. 5 at the age of 81. He also served as organist and choir director at several local churches, including First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn and Grace Lutheran Church of Glen Ellyn.
A visitation service for Whitecotton will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Nov. 10 at Hultgren Funeral Home, 304 N. Main St., Wheaton. A private burial is planned on Nov. 11 at Lily Lake Cemetery.
Donations can be made to the Dr. Richard Whitecotton Music Scholarship Fund, c/o Amy Bendigkeit, 360 Forest Ave., Glen Ellyn, IL. 60137. Information and a guest book is available at www.hultgrenfh.com or by calling 630-668-0027.
Whitecotton graduated from Wheaton College in 1958 with a degree in music education, received his master's degree from Northwestern University in 1968 and earned his doctorate in education from Northern Illinois University in 1991. In 1957, he married Shirley Watson, whom he met in the concert choir at Wheaton College.
McAninch Arts Center Director Diana Martinez, a Glenbard West graduate, said she wanted to sing in the high school choir, but didn't have the voice or confidence for it.
"He set me up with private voice lessons so I could learn to sing," Martinez said in an email. "He went out of his way to reach out and be inclusive and supportive. He taught me how to work for something you want and instilled confidence through the gift of music. Looking back on it, I realize how incredibly generous that was to give his time when he had dozens of great singers and didn't need to go out of his way. He could have said, 'Sorry kid, try again next year.' He was a great educator and an inspiration to all of us who learned from him."
Glenbard West 1982 graduate Glenn (Sutfin) van Zutphen had similar remembrances about Whitecotton. He was a member of both the Glenbard West Choir and the youth choir at First Presbyterian Church called the Messengers. Whitecotton directed both choirs.
"I think all of us who sang under him absorbed his passion for music and for singing," van Zutphen said in an email. "He taught us the importance of singing in tune, starting and stopping precisely together, and blending our sound. Musically, the choirs were excellent and taught us all not only to read choral music, but to have a feel for how the parts should fit together."