SPRING HILL — She began providing vocal instruction in 1972 in Sayville, N.Y. Then in 1997, after receiving her second master's degree in choral directing and a doctorate in musical arts, Roberta Moger retired to Spring Hill. But retirement didn't last long.
It's now been 14 years since Moger began molding the vocal talents of both youth and adults in Hernando County, providing private vocal lessons and directing numerous musical endeavors with Stage West Community Playhouse.
Many of the young people she has taught have gone on to pursue music degrees and careers.
"It is fun to see them grow up and fulfill their dreams," she says.
And as another school year draws to a close, three of Moger's students are graduating from Nature Coast Technical High School and preparing for lives as college students.
But before they do, Moger plans to share her students' talents with the community with "An Evening of Fond Farewells" Saturday at Stage West. The recital will feature Julia Rifino, Jacob Rice and Taylor Storey.
Storey, who has been taking voice lessons with Moger since sixth grade, will perform both song and dance numbers, singing songs such as Out Here on My Own by Irene Cara.
There's no doubt she is a good singer, but "Taylor's skill is dancing," Moger said. "Her body movement is gorgeous."
Storey, who will be studying dance at Florida State University, has performed in Stage West's production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, playing the girl who speaks six languages. She also got to put her dancing and singing skills to work as the cat in the production of Honk! at Nature Coast Tech.
Rifino, who was recently chosen as a student representative to the board of the Florida State Thespians and who will enter the musical theater program at the University of Tampa in the fall, will be singing solos such Unusual Way and Pink's hit Perfect.
Local audiences may be familiar with Rifino's voice from guest performances with the Hernando Symphony Orchestra and numerous roles in school and community theater. She received rave revues for her performances as Olive Ostrovsky in Stage West's production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
"Julia, she has just a natural gift," Moger said. "She is a gifted actress, but her strength lies in her singing. You see it in her face, with everything she does. . . . Just extraordinary."
Rice, who has performed in numerous theatrical productions, including Stage West's 1776 (the Courier) and Lost in Yonkers (Arty), and as Rolf in The Sound of Music at the Show Palace Dinner Theater, will perform songs such as If I Didn't Believe in You from The Last Five Years and Momma Look Sharp from 1776.
"I just love that kid," Moger admits, adding how she remembers Rice as "the squirmy little kid who got in trouble at Stage West — he had so much energy. . . . To see his voice develop, and his ability to take on any role is incredible. . . . Jacob is ready to grab that tree of life and shake it."
The show will include group songs and duets and a special performance by another Moger alum, vocalist Daniela Serricchio.
The show's emcee will be Vince Vanni, who also takes voice lessons with Moger.
"If I'm going to be trained by someone, I want someone who is good and who won't hesitate to (reprimand) me," Vanni said. "She is incredibly knowledgeable."
Along with providing voice lessons, Moger is director of the Timbertones, a local chorus, and also performs in and directs shows at Stage West. In fact, she will be the vocal director for this fall's production of Les Miserables at Stage West.
For Moger, watching her students grow is somewhat bittersweet.
"To see them grow is exciting," she said. "But to see them go is sad."