Rhoda Tuit Retires After 30 Years with SMC Music Department

After 30 years of merrymaking in the music department, Rhoda Tuit has written the perfect postlude to her career at SMC.

"'Read, write, sing, and play.' That's my motto for retirement," says the long-time chair of the music department. "But mostly focus on play."

True to her word, Tuit kicked-off the celebration with a first-time indulgence. "This year I bought season tickets to the Dodgers," she says. "I'm a baseball nut."

One of the highlights of Tuit's musical career was the chance to perform at Dodger stadium in 1991. "I got to play on the organ there for the seventh inning stretch and I sang ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game' for 48,000 people. It was a real hoot!" says Tuit. "That was the most fun thing I've ever done."

Another peak came for Tuit in 1991 when she traveled to New York City on her first sabbatical to study jazz improvisation. She earned a second sabbatical in 2001 to study digital keyboards, which enabled Tuit to develop the high-tech digital keyboard lab at SMC.

"I believe so strongly in sabbaticals because they're all about growing," says Tuit. "You're getting out there and beating a path to do something new."

Music has provided a source of never-ending fun and inspiration for Tuit. Recalling her days as a music major at Fullerton College she says, "I really liked my experience there because it was so grassroots. There was a lot of experimenting going on and we had more freedom to create and do new things."

Tuit says that level of creative freedom is somewhat unique to community colleges and is the reason she wanted to work at SMC. Getting her feet through the faculty doors of SMC took time and effort, however. "I wrote letters to 27 community colleges and did everything I could to make a contact with someone," says Tuit.

Choosing a major and a career in music can be an attractive option for students, but Tuit warns it isn't for the faint of heart. For the student who is vacillating between music and a more predictable choice, Tuit advises, "Don't do it unless you absolutely have to, because you need that much passion to make it. If it's just this nice idea you think you might want to do … forget it."

Joan Mills headed the music department in 1979 when Tuit arrived at SMC. Tuit humbly credits Mills for making the department what it is today. "We have a huge piano program that's quite amazing, over 20 sections of classes on six levels," says Tuit. "I think it may be the largest community college piano program in the world…and she's the one who built it."

With over 55 teachers and an abundance of classes to manage within the department, Tuit was thoughtful in offering words of advice for the next incoming chair. "Get as much sleep as you can," she says.

As for Tuit, with the bulk of her work behind her, she says, "I'm looking forward to being a part-timer… and playing."

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