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Santa Barbara HS theatre students sing for retiring teacher Otto Layman

SBHS theatre
SBHS theatre/YouTube

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Santa Barbara High School Theatre students sang "Somewhere over the Rainbow" as a tribute to their teacher Otto Layman. He retired at the end of the school year.

All of the students in the video would have been in Layman's final show before he took his final bow on the Santa Barbara High stage.

Layman was the head of the theatre department since 1996. He was a teacher at Santa Barbara High for 24 years.

The school's performance of "Hunchback of Notre Dame" would have been the final show he directed at the school. The show was canceled because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Santa Barbara High's Music and Vocal Director Sio Tepper said she wrote the arrangement for the song, with four part harmonies and solos after they found out they would not be able to perform their spring musical.

"When it became apparent that we would not be able to have the show at all, I felt the need and desire to do something else creative in Otto’s honor," Tepper wrote. "This was also a way for the cast and I to have some kind of creative outlet and closure."

Tepper says she chose "Somewhere over the Rainbow" because the Wizard of Oz is one of Layman's favorite shows. She said the song is important for the SBHS family because there is always a pair of ruby slippers hidden in the set of every SBHS production.

"I also chose the song for the added purpose of providing a glimmer of hope, peace, or inspiration for the theatre community and the Santa Barbara community at large during these difficult times," Tepper wrote.

Each of the students learned the song by listening to the piano backing track, and sent in back to Tepper. She said she then had to line up the audio of 16 different voices, which she described as "an extremely tedious process because of fluctuations in timing, but truly a labor of love and a joy to hear it all come together."

In a message posted on the theatre department's website Layman wrote "I didn’t foresee my career ending this way, at home, no rehearsals, a set three quarters built, songs mostly rehearsed and choreography unfinished…but I am extraordinarily proud of our body of work, at our transition to one of the great musical theatre schools, the talented and fiercely bold students, the group of designers and directors I have had the honor of calling my friends."

The students' video "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" can be viewed on the SBHS Theatre Facebook page You can follow Sio Tepper on instagram @Siobear and join the Santa Barbara Theatre Collaborative Facebook group.

The ballad, which consists of numerous student singers and instrument players, ends with a final message: "We love you, Otto!"

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Bryce Hanamoto

Bryce Hanamoto is a producer at KEYT|KCOY|KKFX.