Richard Rintoul, an orchestra professor at UCSB from 2006 to 2011, passed away in his sleep due to a heart attack on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. He was 56 years old.

Last night, the UCSB orchestra performed a tribute for Rintoul at the Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall, and a memorial service was held to celebrate his life last Sunday, Jan. 15 in Santa Monica, California. At the time of his death, Rintoul was between teaching jobs and invested in his work with professional orchestras for different films, most recently the not-yet-released film “John Carter”.

Rintoul’s musical passion began early in life. After high school, he enrolled as an undergraduate at Cal State Fullerton to explore his passion for the violin. It was then that Richard was told he should abandon this path or else attempt the viola. Rather than forsake his musical ambitions, Richard switched to the viola and never looked back.

According to his wife Lynette Rintoul, his determination and devotion to music would later shape Richard’s teaching philosophy.

“Someone had posed the question to him once, ‘If music was taken out of your life, could you survive that?’ And he answered, ‘No,’” Lynette said. “So he would pose that question to his students: ‘Could you live without music in your life?’ And depending on how they answered it would kind of be the clue; you have the passion to take you through your shortcomings or you don’t.”

Following the completion of his bachelor of fine arts at the California Institute of the Arts, Richard began a prolific career as a profession violist. He performed as a principal with the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra and the Downey Symphony Orchestra, among a number of other orchestral groups. Richard also contributed to several television and film recordings beginning in 1987, including blockbusters such as “Mission: Impossible” and “Up.”

In the late 1970s, Richard began to gravitate toward conducting. He became a student of influential conductors like Fritz Zweig and Leonard Bernstein, and quickly discovered another musical passion in conducting, going on to found a number of orchestras beginning with the Orchestra da Camera at Colburn School of Performing Arts in LA and later the UCSB Symphony Orchestra.

Lynette attested to his conducting prowess and said his timing and grace were unmatched.

“He prided himself on his accuracy and clarity of conducting, and he was an incredibly beautiful conductor physically,” Lynette said. “I’ve seen a lot of conductors and he was just so elegant and beautiful and precise.”

Before his time at UCSB, Richard spent decades teaching young musicians at schools including Pomona College, Cal State Long Beach and Westmont. Although adored by many of his students, Richard’s raw zeal could sometimes be intimidating, according to Lynette.

“Richard wanted the music to be how the composer wanted it,” Lynette said. “And so he was a hard teacher. And there were times when he came unglued at people. Students seemed to fall into two camps: students who were more thin-skinned and were afraid of him, and others who felt respect for him.”

He was, however, always generous with his time and knowledge. Richard’s former student and graduate assistant at UCSB, Allan Petker, said he valued music as a way to unite people.

“[Richard] always used to say, ‘Music is a way to bring beauty in the world,’” Petker, who is currently a music director at Pops Orchestra in Michigan, said. “There’s so much greed and things of that nature, but he was such a giving person. He was all about sharing music as a way to bring people together.”

Richard’s sister, Jan Gollaher, said for him, music was a spiritual outlet, one he was happy to assist people in exploring.

“He was always emotionally supportive to me and was a spiritual mentor,” Gollaher said. “He believed in a higher power and accessing that through music was a way to explore god. He believed in pushing yourself and the power of visualization; that you could achieve your goals through pushing yourself.”

Richard’s friends and family were inspired by his tenacious approach to life. Viola was Rintoul’s creative medium, but relishing each moment was his ultimate goal. He loved the outdoors, religiously collected seashells, revered spontaneity and reveled in the lighter side of life.

“What I am going to miss most is shell hunting,” Richard’s nephew Michael Gollaher wrote in a tribute to his uncle. “One day of just about every trip, uncle Rich and I would wake up at ungodly hours and roam the beach in hunt of the elusive seashell. These journeys were not about finding shells for me though, although that was a big perk; they were about living, about appreciating my surroundings and feeling nature.”

Motioning to a picture of Richard at his surprise birthday party last year — standing in the doorway animated with shock and surprise, eyes wide, mouth gaping — Lynette lightheartedly explained, with a hint of irony, that she has no doubt he was just as surprised to find himself on the other side of life.