Dozens gather to sing in tribute to KC school’s choir director who died abruptly

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- People at Pembroke Hill school and the metro area's choral community are mourning the death of a popular choir director.

Joel Diffendaffer, 44, had a passion for music and love for the kids he taught.

Pembroke Hill provided this photo Joel Diffendaffer

The school says Diffendaffer was on vacation with his family in Colorado last week when he suffered a serious heart issue. He died Saturday.

Dozens of students, former students and colleagues at Pembroke Hill gathered on the campus Sunday night to sing in Diffendaffer's honor.

"By emulating Diff and his incredible attributes of optimism, love and true care for everyone he interacted with, I know his influence is felt by all of us here," said Garrett Kincaid, a 2018 Pembroke Hill graduate. "And it will continue to push his mindset and his outlook forward as we carry on his legacy."

Diff, as the students called him, was known for his positive personality. He loved to perform, and he loved working with choir kids, as evidenced by comments he made last year at a school concert.

"I think you all know how I feel about your kids," Diffendaffer told parents in November of 2017.  "They are amazing people. I love spending my days making music with them. I love to brag to people that I get to be the fun guy here at Pembroke Hill."

During his 10 years at Pembroke, the school choir repeatedly won awards at the World Strides Chicago Heritage Festival and was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City on multiple occasions.

Diffendaffer is survived by his wife and a pre-school aged daughter.