Richard Haack, principal of the Western Conservatory of Music in Langley, earned a “Teacher of Distinction” award from the Royal Conservatory of Music. (Western Conservatory of Music/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Langley teacher’s 49 year music career recognized by Royal Conservatory of Music

Richard Haack, co-founder of Western Conservatory of Music, earns ‘Teacher of Distinction’ award

Langley City resident Richard Haack, principal of Western Conservatory of Music (WCM), has been awarded with a “Teacher of Distinction” honour by the Royal Conservatory of Music.

The Royal Conservatory is one of the largest education institutions in the world, aimed at developing creative and musical growth in individuals to benefit humanity.

This national award is their most prestigious teaching honour, recognizing leaders in music education. Haack was nominated by anonymous students who wanted to show their gratitude for his encouraging and innovative efforts.

“I asked, but have not received a reply,” Haack laughed, referring to his inquiry on who it was that nominated him. “I feel awkward asking students, but there must be a printout somewhere with all of the nice things people said about me.”

Humble and overjoyed about the recognition, which he deemed unexpected, Haack said his job has allowed him to make an impact in many different lives.

“I’ve been teaching here a long time and 35 years worth of students have been contacting me. I am touched and moved… really, I am,” Haack added. “I am very privileged to have made these connections.”

Haack has a 49 year music teaching career, notably co-founding Langley’s WCM in 1981 and the Fraser Valley International Kiwanis Music Festival, which has since grown from 2000 to 6500 participants over the past two decades.

“That’s something that will be in the community for a long time,” Haack said enthusiastically about the festival, though his students have made it clear many of his educational contributions will be here to stay for a long while.

Haack moved from Saskatoon to Vancouver to take a teaching position with the Vancouver Music School, but wanted his own school where he could call the shots and develop his own curriculum.

With Langley’s significant family population, he said the city was an obvious choice to set up shop and call home.

Through his classes, Haack has taught everyone from young children just starting their musical journey to beginner and professional adults – even other teachers, by helping them brush up on their skills.

Haack even learned to read braille so he could offer music lessons to visually impaired students and arranged affordable trips for children to visit the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, who may otherwise not have been able to attend.

“I want all students to love music – and it’s not about winning scholarships or moving up the fastest, I want them to have knowledge they can carry with them and play for their children,” Haack explained. “I want to give them the tools because we can’t forget to pass on music.”

His conservatory students have won numerous awards, scholarships, and medals in exams and festivals. Haack has been the Royal Conservatory Langley Centre representative for 25 years and is also an advanced specialist in piano theory, harmony, and history.

Haack will receive his award at the Vancouver Celebration of Excellence ceremony, held at UBC’s Chan Centre on Nov. 3.

Read More: B.C. husband and wife duo to play Langley’s Bez Arts Hub

When asked if the honour might act as a swan song to his teaching career, Haack said absolutely not.

“I’m turning 65 and have been teaching for 49 years; my brother just asked ‘are you going to retire’ and I said ‘are you joking?’ I’m not retiring any time soon.”

Only two teachers in the province of B.C. are given this award each year.

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