Ron Pickett: That’s Edu-tainment
Imagine if Everyday Orinda became a Netflix series or, better yet, a musical. The one character who could play himself would be Ron Pickett, the charismatic vocal music and theatrical director at Glorietta and Wagner Ranch elementary schools for the past two decades.
I’m no Julie Andrews but our Orinda hills have been alive with the sound of music, thanks to the tireless fundraising of the Educational Foundation of Orinda (EFO) and parent donations. Given the financial precariousness of this situation, our community is, once again, four-leaf clover lucky to have the loyalty and continuity of a skilled and passionate instructor for all these many years.
Pickett’s holiday concerts not only require waterproof mascara but also load school coffers with daily attendance money when 97.4 percent of the student body can no longer bolt early for vacations.
His high standards and attention to script detail draw such talent out of his cast of fourth- and fifth-grade actors in the annual musical that friends and family need not even the slightest of arm twisting or guilt shaming to attend. A professional actor for over 35 years, Pickett knows his showbiz.
Even though we are contemporaries, it is still hard for me to call him Ron. Instead, I will forever think of him fondly as the enigmatic Mr. Pickett, like so many of the graduates he inspired at Glorietta and Wagner Ranch. Many remain in contact with him over the years, assisting with musicals, studying voice or perhaps seeking career advice.
Much like the pastoral beauty of our Orinda hills, or when a forgotten lunch is only a frantic text away, I think sometimes we get so accustomed to something being there that we forget to step back and appreciate our gifts. Take Pickett for example. Here we have a music and theater teacher who not only talks the talk in the classroom, but sings the tune, delivers the lines and walks the walk, exactly on cue, in a professional capacity. Often it’s an “either/or” situation, but our community has an educator who commands both.
Unfortunately, the walking of the walk grew almost impossible for him last year. The Archvillain Arthritis entered stage left and overtook our hero. But after a recent hip replacement surgery, Pickett is on the mend and cautiously resuming normal physical activity.
Rehearsals began in January for Shrek Junior, what was this year’s spring musical until the coronavirus turned the world upside down. Pickett also teaches a full schedule of vocal music classes and Ensemble Choir at Wagner Ranch and Glorietta, and private voice lessons in his studio. Pickett has won Bay Area acting awards and has starred in numerous local theater productions.
All of this makes him a busy man, with little down time. Which is why he usually gets right to business when class or rehearsals begin.
Pickett grew up in Walnut Creek, the youngest of three brothers, in the golden days before social media and Broadway Plaza. After graduating from Las Lomas High School, he studied at Diablo Valley College, later transferring to Brigham Young University.
As a student in the Music, Theater and Dance program he earned a place with the university’s select musical touring group The Young Ambassadors. This prestigious group performed in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and across the United States. He earned his teaching credential from Chapman University.
Recalling his college days, Pickett “was supposed to go to New York and become famous.” He explained, “A theater dignitary from Shakespeare’s Old Globe Theater once visited our class. All the students went around the room individually stating their graduation plans, which all included NYC and Broadway fame.”
“When it was my turn, I proudly stated that I planned to become a teacher.”
He remembers an audible gasp. Later, he was summoned to the top professor’s office to be lectured on his response. This professor had great hopes for his success in New York.
“But what I really wanted was to give back the joy that had been given to me,” he said, “I knew I could be a great teacher.”