By Mollie Smith ’17 and Mandi LeCompte
Jennifer Rhyne first came to PLU in 2005 when her husband, Jim Brown, was offered a job as the chair of voice studies in the Department of Music. In her first few years, she taught a few flute students, but as the years went by her responsibilities eventually grew to include instructing theory classes and directing the flute ensemble. In 2015 a full-time, tenure-track position for a flute and theory professor opened, and a national search ensued. Rhyne applied for the position and won the national search.
Rhyne has been passionate about teaching others since she was a child.
“I remember making a game of the ‘teacher and student’ roles, and I always enjoyed playing teacher with my younger friend in the neighborhood by assigning her little exercises and homework,” Rhyne says. “Strangely, she didn’t like the game as much as I did!”
Once Rhyne started teaching flute students in high school, she was hooked. This passion led Rhyne through undergraduate and graduate school to PLU, where she has been teaching for 10 years.
“I love my job at PLU so much, so during the application process it was easy to explain why I’m passionate about what I do and almost fun to prove that I’m good at it,” explains Rhyne. “The thing that makes PLU really remarkable is the students. They are incredibly smart, talented and driven, but also compassionate. They make teaching at PLU a true joy.”
Part of her position is performing in the Camas Woodwind Quintet, which plays a concert each semester and also travels to surrounding area high school wind ensembles, bands and orchestras to recruit students.
Along with receiving the tenure-line position at PLU, Rhyne says one of her other biggest accomplishments as a musician is winning a spot in the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra. A musician’s hometown orchestra may open once or twice during a musician’s career. Rhyne was determined to earn a spot.
“During the first round of the audition, I just tried my best to play very accurately, but when I entered the final round, I decided to sing my heart out through the music,” Rhyne says. “Having a musical direction for all of my nervous energy gave me a sense of clarity and calm.”
Although Rhyne considers her position at PLU and the spot in the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra to be two of her biggest accomplishments, she says pinning down exact achievements is difficult.
“Musicians are so achievement-driven, whether that means learning notes for an upcoming concert, refining the sound for perfect phrasing, or finding the right articulation and accents to bring the character of the music to life,” she explains. “Our artistic achievements can be measured by the minute or day, or over the course of years, which can make it hard to narrow down what our most cherished moments are.”
For Rhyne, the process of learning, teaching and playing music is a rewarding experience in itself.