Oakcrest High School's administration didn't have to look far in replacing beloved longtime vocal music teacher Charlie Bass, who retired at the end of the past school year.
In June, they hired 2006 graduate and former Bass student Richard Tinsley to fill his shoes and lead the decorated program into the future.
At first, Tinsley said, he wasn't sure how he would feel about returning to his alma mater, but it quickly became clear he made the right choice.
"As soon as I got back in the building and started talking to people, I was like, 'This is comfortable, this is home,'" he said. "This worked for me."
Following his graduation from Oakcrest, Tinsley attended Atlantic Cape Community College, where he fulfilled his general education requirements. He transferred to Rowan University, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in music education in May.
A lifelong drummer and singer, Tinsley taught percussion at Oakcrest through his college career and helped Bass out during choral concerts.
Tinsley was one of two former Oakcrest students and three overall who were considered for the job. He and the other alum both came strongly recommended by Bass, but it was Tinsley who was ultimately selected by the school.
It's his combination of fundamental musical knowledge, technological know-how and rapport with the kids that make him the ideal man for the job, Bass said.
"He has a sense of and the ability to work with technology, he has the background, and I think he made a great fit because he really excelled in all those areas," Bass said.
Bass was best known in the choral community for his ensemble choirs, which he established in 1989 when he joined the school. He split his students into six ensembles, like the gospel choir and R&B vocal groups O Boys and O Girls. Tinsley has no intentions of changing the format, he said, but he has modernized their repertoires to align them with his students' musical interests. He has likewise brought the subject matter of the music composition class, which he teaches, more in tune with current popular music.
The transition has been easy for the school's choir students, many of whom knew Tinsley through his involvement in past concerts. Senior Alita Bowman was a student of Bass' for three years. She and her fellow students were worried about losing Bass at first, but when they learned his replacement was Tinsley, they were relieved.
"We were actually rooting for Rich to get the job - Mr. Tinsley - because we've just known him and how how he is and how he acts," the 17-year-old said. "We just like him."
During his 24 years with the school, Bass packed the choir room and his office with trophies and awards his students earned. Now, the walls and shelves are bare, and Tinsley is eager to start filling them.
But while Tinsley plans to make Oakcrest High School's vocal music program his own, there is one aspect of Bass' tenure he hopes remains intact.
"He was always a person that everyone looked up to and thought they could talk to," Tinsley said. "Not just me - everyone. And everyone needs that person that can be a positive role model. He was that for me, now I want to do that for them."
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