As soon as Joel Pressman entered the Beverly Hills High School auditorium Monday night, more than 50 voices on stage started singing in unison.
The music went on for more than an hour and only paused briefly for friends and family to share stories of Pressman, Beverly Hills High’s Vocal, Piano and Theatre teacher for 37 years.
It was all part of a surprise concert performance for Pressman that had been in the works for months, spearheaded by former BHHS student Rayvon Moore.
Many of Pressman’s current and former students saw the surprise show as a way to honor their teacher, mentor and friend. Pressman’s friends and family went through a trying time last last year when he had a health scare after doctors found a tumor.
“This is so strange, it feels like I’m at my own eulogy,” Pressman quipped Monday night.
Pressman admitted to the audience that he filed retirement papers with the school district before eventually realizing that after treatment, he would be well enough to return to work.
“My students know we’re all on the same side and we love what we do,” Pressman said. “We’re all very fortunate to have each other and our music.”
Pressman enjoyed performances from Minnesingers alumnae, Madrigal Singers alumni and alumni soloists.
Pressman’s father, Rabbi Joel Pressman and brother Daniel gave heartfelt speeches. His daughter Aviva, who brought her father to the auditorium Monday under false pretenses, performed as a soloist and presented her father with a scrapbook featuring key moments in his life.
“I couldn’t ask for a better son,” Rabbi Jacob Pressman said. “He taught so many people to just.. open their mouths.”
Vice Mayor John Mirisch, reform councilmember Lili Bosse and councilmember Barry Brucker presented Pressman with a proclamation from the city.
“Stay healthy because we need you and we love you,” Bosse told Pressman.
“Joel Pressman, in a way, is the face of Beverly Hills High,” Mirisch said.