As I drove onto campus as a freshman almost a decade ago, I could not have imagined how UNT would set the course for my life. Moving from my home in St. Louis to Bruce Hall, I was eager to study clarinet performance at the world-class College of Music, and I was confident I would be an asset to the ensembles. Then I went to my first rehearsal and realized everyone was an incredible musician — teachers and students alike.
I was thrilled to be in this musical utopia that included only amazing, dedicated, professional musicians. But it was with fear and anticipation that I walked into my first music theory course, excited to learn and hoping I had what it took to excel. Little did I know, I would be on the other side of the desk helping to teach that same class eight years later as a doctoral student.
I was a bit of a wild card when I first arrived at UNT. My sound was not that of a classical clarinetist. I listened to people like Benny Goodman and Eddie Daniels. However, my UNT clarinet professor, Daryl Coad, turned me on to Robert Marcellus. I worked most of my first year and a half molding my sound, and I am forever in debt to my teacher for this gift.
Our music program is challenging. With so many outstanding musicians around, talent isn’t enough. You have to have the fortitude and determination to stay in the program. I saw many amazing musicians change their majors because of the intense pressure. But as musicians, we also learned so much from each other — while sitting around the lunch table, talking before class and during late nights at Bruce Hall.
It all prepared me for the final hurdle to receiving my degree — my senior recital, which was a huge undertaking and the first solo performance of my career. To prepare, I practiced for countless hours for a year with the aim of getting right Debussy’s Premier Rhapsodie and Messager’s Solo de Concours.
Again, the hard work paid off and Mr. Coad gave me another gift. The day of my senior recital, he called to tell me one of his colleagues from Kent State University was looking for a graduate assistant and wanted a UNT clarinet student. Mr. Coad’s connection — and UNT’s reputation — allowed me to receive full financial assistance for my master’s degree.
So, when I was determining where I would pursue my doctorate, UNT was high on my list. I auditioned around the country, but the opportunity to study with Dr. James Gillespie, editor of the International Clarinet Association journal, clinched my decision to return to the school that meant so much to me.
When I first came to UNT as a freshman, I could not have told you what I expected of my career path. I now have a clear vision and direction. I was given invaluable opportunities that have forever shaped my course.
Gerald “Jerry” Ringe (’05) is a Priddy Fellow at UNT and a doctoral student in performance. Ringe, who is married to Kristin Hancock Ringe (’04), also worked as a UNT Eagle Ambassador, giving campus tours, recruiting at area high schools and helping out at special events.