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Remembering dedicated music advocate and beloved College of the Desert professor, Darlene Romano


The Coachella Valley is mourning the loss of a dedicated music advocate and beloved College of the Desert professor, Darlene Romano, Ph.D.

News Channel 3’s Caitlin Thropay takes a look back at her life and shares how much she meant to the performing arts community.

Romano lost her battle to cancer on Jan. 1, 2021, at 73 years old.

She was widely known by the performing arts community in the Coachella Valley. She started teaching music and musical theater at College of the Desert in 1985.

College of the Desert's Superintendent and President Joel L. Kinnamon gave News Channel 3 a statement regarding the passing of Romano:

“A member of the College of the Desert family for more than 35 years, Dr. Romano has mentored and inspired thousands of College of the Desert students. She generously shared her love and passion of the arts and has helped shape our Music and Theatre offerings into the robust programs they are today. She directed and coordinated more than two dozen McCallum productions and left an indelible mark on the College. I know I speak for all of us when I say that she will be greatly missed and forever in our hearts,” Kinnamon said.

Almy and Scott Smith both were friends and colleagues of Romano.

“I mean she fought tirelessly for 30 years to ensure that the students in the Coachella Valley could come to College of the Desert and could study singing,” Mark Almy said.

They shared the impact she had on their lives and the community with News Channel 3.

“Being around her and watching her and working with her was an immense influence on me personally as it is in the whole arts community in the Coachella Valley,” Smith said.

Before her time at College of the Desert, she performed all over the world.

“She had a marvelous soprano voice of her own," Smith said. "She had performed in the original national tour of Evita,” he added.

That’s not all. Her lengthy list of singing credentials include performances with San Diego, Ventura and Long Beach symphony orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the International Chamber Ensemble of Rome.

Her voice was heard in many commercial jingles and films like Indiana Jones.

“Just being around her, her enthusiasm for vocal music for Broadway shows, in particular, was just never-ending,” Smith shared.

Romano was the musical director and conductor of dozens of McCallum Theater productions and continued working during much of her nearly three year battle with cancer.

“You wouldn’t have guessed it because she was always such a dynamo,” Almy said.

Her last production at the McCallum was Phantom of the Opera in 2019.

“She made a decision, the two of us talked about it and she wanted that to be her swan song,” Smith said.

They said she’ll be remembered as a life that touched many other lives.

“What she did, what she brought will continue in all of the students that have come under her wing over the many years,” Almy said.

Romano was named faculty of the year and retired from College of the Desert in 2020. She also received a lifetime achievement award from the Desert Theater League.

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Caitlin Thropay

Caitlin Thropay is the Weekend Morning Anchor and Lifestyle Reporter for KESQ News Channel 3, The Desert’s News Leader. Learn more about Caitlin here.


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