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Some retirements are quiet departures. Some are not.

Larry Wyatt and Walter Cuttino are singing their way to new lives of retirement

The end of this academic year brings two momentous departures from the School of Music. Professors Larry Wyatt and Walter Cuttino are retiring from their long and storied years here at the University of South Carolina.

Larry WyattLarry Wyatt has been director of choral studies since 1987, building on the work of his predecessor Arpad Darazs. He directs the university’s premier choral ensemble, the Concert Choir to great acclaim, and he began the doctoral and master’s programs in choral conducting, which he supervises. Wyatt, one of the most published active choral director-authors in professional journals, was interviewed and published in “In Quest of Answers, Interviews with American Choral Directors” by Carole Glenn, published by Hinshaw Publishers. He edits a series for American Voices for Alliance Music Publishers. Active as a community and church musician, Wyatt has held church music director positions for 32 years and almost as many years as a community chorus director.

Wyatt is well-known to have commissioned and co-commissioned works of importance. The three largest works include The Passion of Our Lord According to St. Matthew by William Averitt – a two-hour oratorio performed as a headliner concert at the Southern Division American Choral Directors Association’s 2010 convention in Memphis; The Martyrdom of Polycarp by movie and television composer J.A.C. Redford – co-commissioned by The Arpad Darazs Endowment and First Presbyterian Church where Wyatt was director of music at the time; and Tayloe Harding’s War Prayer with text by Mark Twain. He has premiered approximately 60 shorter compositions.

Under Wyatt’s direction, the Concert Choir performed on the Mozart “Masses in Concert“ series at Lincoln Center during the 1991-92 season, and performed in major churches throughout Europe. Singing at St. Peters, Rome, and performing Polycarp in the church in Rome where the very first oratorios were performed, were highlights of one of many trips abroad, traveling with choral students and enthusiastic community members. Invited to perform three concerts in Israel with the Jerusalem Symphony over a two-week period, the performers sang the Penderecki St. Luke Passion under the direction of the composer, the Bach Magnificat under Sergiu Commissiona, and the Verdi Four Sacred Pieces under Lawrence Foster. They have been the headliner concert on two Southern Division American Choral Directors Association Conventions.

When asked how many tours he’s taken with students, Wyatt says, “I would imagine it is about 45-50 since I have toured virtually every year I taught. I think about 20 foreign tours. European audiences are so responsive to choral music. Though now many choirs tour, it is not quite as exotic as it used to be; sometimes they treat the kids like rock stars. I have had students mobbed for autographs in Italy and had the crowd surround the bus still applauding as we left from our concert in Salzburg.”

Walter CuttinoWalter Cuttino, associate professor of voice, is also retiring this year. He attended the University of South Carolina and sang for four years under the direction of Arpad Darazs as a member of the USC Concert Choir.

Cuttino continued graduate studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and later moved to Europe. There he performed leading roles in many venues, including the Ulmer Theater (1984-86), Stadttheater Aachen (1986-1989), and the Vereinigte Städtische Bühnen Krefeld/Mönchengladbach (1989 until his 1996 appointment to the University of South Carolina voice faculty).

Ferrando (Cosi fan Tutte), Almaviva (Barber of Seville), Tamino (The Magic Flute), Lenski (Eugene Onegin), Alfredo (La Traviata) and Rodolfo (La Boheme) are a sampling of the 40-plus roles in his repertoire. Cuttino also participated in over 350 European concerts, including the Schleswig-Holstein Songfest tour of London and Moscow under the baton of Leonard Bernstein.

After joining the University of South Carolina faculty, Cuttino quickly got involved in the musical life of the community. He was appointed director of music at St Paul's Lutheran Church in 1996 and in 2001 was invited to direct the Palmetto Mastersingers, a choral ensemble founded by his mentor Arpad Darazs. Under Cuttino's direction, the Mastersingers performed nationally and internationally, touring France and Germany (2001), Russia (2005), China (2007) and Canada (2009). 

In 2003, by order of the South Carolina House of Representatives, the Mastersingers were appointed South Carolina's Musical Ambassadors. Cuttino was also artistic director of the Palmetto Opera. For many years, the organization was South Carolina's only professional opera company.

Founded in 2001 by Cuttino, former SC Philharmonic conductor Nicholas Smith, and a group of local supporters, the company began by producing concert performances of well-known operatic selections and progressed to sponsoring fully-staged touring productions of standard works such as Carmen, Tosca and Madame Butterfly.

During his tenure at the University of South Carolina, Cuttino has maintained an active teaching and singing career, giving master classes and performances in China, South America, Europe and throughout the United States.