Retired Rochester Community Schools teacher Timothy Lentz spent more than three decades sharing his love for music and theater, both with students at the district and at the Michigan Opera Theatre, where he serves as archivist and director of the Dance and Opera Resource Library for the Detroit Opera House.
As the vocal music director and theater coordinator for Rochester Adams High School, Lentz helped to start the district's summer music theater program and pushed for the construction of an auditorium at Stony Creek High School, where the program operates.
"My predecessor got the idea to do the summer program, and when I took over being director at Adams, it clicked," he said. "Adams didn't have an auditorium at the time, so we had to do it at Rochester High."
A bond issue to construct an auditorium at the high school failed. A second push to have one built at Stoney Creek also failed. Finally, after scaling back plans, the pitch was passed by the public by only three votes.
Founded by Lentz in 1973, the district's Summer Music Theater Program has served as a musical bootcamp of sorts for dozens of professional performers who went on to star on Broadway, off-Broadway and national touring productions. Lentz started the program while serving as the vocal music director and theatre coordinator at Adams High School.
"We have had some heavy hitters," he said. "Some of my former students are out there doing some special stuff. Hundreds are fine arts and performing arts teachers. John Rapson is performing off-Broadway in 'Sweeny Todd,' and Steve Czarnecki is the lead understudy in 'Les Miserables.'"
Among his teaching credits, Lentz has been a state finalist for the Michigan Teacher of the Year and was listed in the "Who's Who Among American's Teachers" seven times. He has been recognized by the Rochester Hills City Council, the Rochester Jaycees, the National Honor Roll, the Michigan School Vocal Music Association, and was supervisor of the East State Solo and Ensemble Festival for two years.
Outside of the district, Lentz has been a bass soloist at the Meadowbrook Congregational Church in Novi, and produced several productions at Wayne State University and for area dinner theaters, as well as played parts on his own.
Lentz holds advanced masters and PhD degrees in music from Wayne State University, however, it was his undergraduate studies in mathematics that landed him at the school district.
"My dad was an engineering type dude, and I was always involved in math and sciences. It was my junior year in high school that music caught my eye," he said. "Mechanical engineering seemed a natural at the time I was at Michigan State, but it was kind of gruesome... I got lousy grades in engineering, but an A in choir. By my junior year, I knew it wasn't for me."
In 2006, Lentz retired from teaching and accepted a position with the Michigan Opera Theatre, where he was tasked with starting the library for the Detroit Opera House from scratch. His knowledge of the theatre is evident, as his chronicling of its history and founder, David DiChiera, won a first place feature writing award from the Detroit chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
"Some great things were happening at the Opera House," he said. "In the summer of 2006, (DiChiera) brought me on here, and brought me in the library space that was an empty room... and so it began."
Photo: Laurie Tennent