Honoring JoAnn Wich: Former Choral Director at Hopkins School 

Hopkins School mourns the loss of JoAnn Wich, a cherished member of our community who served as Choral Director for three decades until her retirement in 2014. JoAnn passed away peacefully in Waterford, CT on April 27, 2024, surrounded by her family.

During her 30-year tenure at Hopkins, JoAnn transformed the Concert Choir into a flagship program, orchestrating concerts at renowned venues and annual holiday performances at Trinity Church on the Green in New Haven. She was also instrumental in showcasing the talents of her students on the world stage at venues such as Carnegie Hall as well as through European tours, where the Hopkins Concert Choir not only sang for the Pope but also earned what her family referred to as “local celebrity status” in the small Bavarian village of Oberau.

JoAnn’s family credits her late husband, Bill Wich, with connecting JoAnn to Hopkins as he  served as an instrumental music teacher in the late 70s and early 80s. JoAnn was proud to continue the exceptional work done by Herb Richmann, who ran the Concert Choir at Hopkins until his retirement.

“By knowing the power of the kind of music that feeds our humanity, JoAnn gave generations of Hopkins students and colleagues the gift of not just what to sing or how to sing, but a profound sense of why to sing,” her family remembered in her obituary. “She taught her choristers that the ‘beauty of the sound comes from the generosity of the heart,’  helping students with a wide range of ability find their joie de vivre and find their ‘place’ at Hopkins,” they added. 

Before joining Hopkins in 1984, JoAnn studied at the Yale School of Music, where her talent as a bassoonist caught the attention of Robert Bloom, a distinguished professor and renowned performer. However, it was her captivating vocal performance of an aria from the Messiah at St. Thomas’s Church that deeply impressed Bloom, leading him to encourage her to pursue singing wholeheartedly.

Throughout her illustrious career, JoAnn's musical gifts and extensive training were evident in her contributions to the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, Bridgeport Symphony, and as a dedicated teacher at Beecher Road School in Woodbridge. She balanced her work life with nurturing her two sons, Scott Wich ‘89 and Stefan Wich.

In Their Own Words: The Hopkins Community Pays Tribute 

Since news of her passing, heartfelt tributes have poured in from alumni, faculty, and students who shared special words and memories underscoring the impact she left on those she mentored and worked beside. Below are a few posted to social media this week:

Isabel Bailin Schultz ‘13
“I’m heartbroken to hear that Mrs. Wich, the absolute best choir teacher, has passed away. Since 7th grade, she has been my greatest advocate. She was fierce and kind and passionate beyond words. Her voice was spectacular and she taught with such gusto. She helped me find my voice and for that, I am so grateful. There are no words for a loss like this. I miss you already, Mrs. Wich. Say hi to the Antonelli’s for me! You are loved and your vivacious presence and catch phrase “oh goodie!” will be greatly missed. Thank you for everything.” 

Connor Hartigan ‘19
“I’m deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mrs. JoAnn Wich, who for decades served as the choir director for my middle and high school, and who was my first advisor when I arrived there in seventh grade. Mrs. Wich made a big, daunting place for a twelve-year-old feel like a new home. Her kindness, care, and wisdom shone through in all the Tuesday and Thursday morning advisor group sessions I spent with her. How she adored her little advisees, and how we loved her back! Even after her retirement, she remained by my side throughout my high-school years, and was right there at my graduation in 2019. Rest in peace, Mrs. Wich. May God raise you up on eagle’s wings and hold you in the palm of his hand, and may choirs of angels lead you to paradise.”

Emily Stagg ‘03
“You know that whole thing about ‘thank a teacher who changed your life path for the better,’ or ‘think back to school and remember your favorite teacher,’ or ‘if you could go back and tell one teacher the impact they had on you, who would it be?’ I found out today that mine has just passed away. Luckily for me, I got to tell her face to face what she meant to me in 2012, when she came to my Another Octave: Connecticut Women's Chorus concert to see me sing. She also came to our church with my parents in 2019, five years ago to the day. That is all to say, rest in peace Mrs. JoAnn Wich. Choral music is a part of my identity, and you are a fundamental part of how that came to be. You showed me how ‘music is more than just notes on a page,’ and that’s one of the most essential things that I believe now. I’ve tried to impart it to many others along the way. Many of your tricks and teachings echo in my head to this day—you can ask my current chorus director, who knows I raise my hand every time I make a mistake. Not to mention that you were the perfect combination of sweet and tough when working with rascally middle and high schoolers. You were hilarious, and also dead serious when you needed to be, and we all respected the heck out of your sub-5-foot self. You loved each of us fiercely, at a time and place in our lives where we needed to be loved. Mrs. Wich, as a teacher, a musician, and a human—you were the very best.”

A Lasting Legacy
On April 25, 2014, JoAnn directed her final Spring Choral Concert, marking the end of a remarkable chapter at Hopkins. The event, attended by alumni and faculty, was a testament to JoAnn's special legacy. A week later, the Hopkins community celebrated her 30-year legacy with heartfelt speeches, music, and memories. Read the full story and view photos of JoAnn’s retirement sendoff here.

In recent days, JoAnn’s family has reflected on the Hopkins legacy she left behind, which transcended performances and achievements. 

“Rather than point out every weakness and condemn every shortcoming, she endeavored to build up her students by always ‘trying to catch them doing something right.’ Each September she would tell those new to Hopkins: ‘There is something extra special that the School saw in each of you. It is my job to find out what gifts you bring!” And she did exactly that until her retirement in 2014.”

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be given to Hopkins School in memory of JoAnn Wich, and will be directed to the multiple funds that are established in her honor. A private family interment ceremony will take place in the coming days, with a larger celebration of life being planned at Hopkins School this summer.
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