Wynne Wong Rife PDF Print E-mail

Wynne, a native Tucsonan, started violin in the TUSD Public Schools, was a member of the Tucson Youth Symphony and Tucson Jr. Strings, and attended all Tucson Symphony concerts.  After studying with John Ferrell at The University of Arizona for one year, she transferred to the Eastman School of Music where she studied with Peter Salaff of the Cleveland Quartet, and was awarded a B.M. with Distinction in Violin Performance.  It was at Eastman that she met and became engaged to David Rife; and in 1981, both decided to attend New England Conservatory of Music to avoid astronomical long distance phone bills.  Wynne graduated from the New England Conservatory in 1983 (M.M. in Violin Performance) and then returned to Tucson with David to marry and start a family.  She has played with the TSO since 1986, and she teaches violin and viola students.  In addition, Wynne is Assistant Director of the Tucson Jr. Strings and is on the faculty of the Chamber Music in the Mountains Festival in Mt. Lemmon, AZ.  Wynne and David have two daughters: Melissa, a cellist and artist, and Molly, a ballerina and violinist.


When did you start playing your instrument? I began the violin when I was 10. I can't tell you how long I've been playing because you would then use your amazing math skills and figure out how old I am.

Why did you choose your instrument? I didn't choose the violin; it chose me. I actually began playing the flute when I was 8, but my mother made me quit because I wouldn't practice. The truth of the matter was that my flute teacher (an old man - and i'm sure that he wasn't old at all, i was just 8 after all) kept playing my flute and I didn't like that (because that's unsanitary!), plus it smelled like lipstick. go figure. We had an old violin that a family friend had picked up from a pawn shop for $10. I begged my Mom to let me play an instrument because I wanted to play with my friends at school. She said, "Well, we have this old violin here, why don't you play it?" And the rest is history. I still have that violin; its name is Uncle Dan (after the friend who bought it) and i loan it out to kids who can't afford to rent a violin.

Are you from a musical family? Why yes, I am. My parents run Tucson Junior Strings, an orchestra program for kids. My Dad plays the violin and viola, and my Mom plays the piano. My husband plays the violin, and our daughters both play the 'cello. We have three cats who sing. My brother played the 'cello when he was young, but now he's a nuclear engineer and my sister played the violin and viola, but now she's a postal carrier.

Do you play any other instruments? I can play the viola, but only if you twist my arm and I'm terribly bad at playing the piano, so I guess that i really do only play the violin. I really wish that I could play piano better so that I could accompany my students. Sadly, i'm terrible at reading two lines of music simultaneously.

What makes your instrument special?
All instruments are special and unique. I love the violin because I really do love the beautiful high sounds. My violin is very old, so sometimes I imagine the other people that may have played or heard it many years ago. My favorite instrument, though, is the 'cello because it has the most beautiful tone, and i'm really lucky that both of my daughters chose to play it.

What advice would you give to kids learning to play your instrument? Practice every day and do exactly what your teacher tells you to do (because that's what I did - NOT!).  Anyway, I encourage my students to play every day, and to take any and every opportunity to play their violin. Slow practicing is way better than playing through something as fast as possible, and above all, don't give up! People think playing the violin is fun, and it can be, but, it's also a lot of hard work. If you stick with it, you can have lots of fun playing the violin with your friends (and, yes, even your enemies) and the best part is the satisfaction that you've accomplished a lot with your hard work.

When did you know you wanted to be a musician? When I was 13. I didn't know about retirement at that age. Or villas in the south of France.

What's the best part about being a musician?
The very best thing about being a musician is playing music with my friends. And, it's incredibly exciting to be a part of an orchestra. I always feel as though I have the best seat in the house because I'm right up in the midst of all the amazing music. I also have the opportunity to share my music in incredible situations. My quartet played a couple of days after 9/11, which was touching for the audience and us, and one man came up with tears in his eyes and said, "This is the first healing balm I've had in days." I will never forget that remark.

If you could play a different instrument, what would it be? Sometimes I wish that I didn't play an instrument because I would love to be able to just listen to music. I wonder what it's like to hear music, for instance, a piece by Brahms, and not know the language of music.

Favorite composers: Brahms. Brahms. Brahms.

Guilty musical secret: What? ;)  I don't practice as much as I should.

Funny Musical Experience: There are a few. The craziest one was when, in the middle of a TSO concert, George Hanson's wedding band flew off of his hand and hit me in the head, went rolling off my shoulder onto the floor. I said to my standpartner, "I've been hit!" I didn't know what it was at the time; i had seen it leave his hand, but it looked like an elliptical blur heading towards me. My standpartner thought that I had been shot with a gun and was looking for blood.

Most exciting musical moment:
There have been many. Really, anytime I play my violin is exciting. The most recent experience was when my 12 year old student, Lila, played Waltz in G by Brahms. I love that song and she played it so simply and with such pure love in her heart that i cried.

What might your career be if you hadn’t chosen to be a musician? I think that i would be a musician no matter what. I did want to be a kindergarten teacher, and there are days when I want to be a Starbucks barista. I still might; who know? I'm glad that I became a musician because I wouldn't know the amazing people i call my friends and colleagues, and most importantly, i wouldn't have met my husband and had my two amazing daughters.

Hobbies: Knitting, photography and facebook. (not necessarily in that order)


Interesting personal fact:  My middle name is George

What are your favorite movies? Beauty and the Beast, The Princess Bride, Chocolat, Shall We Dance (the original Japanese version), Like Water for Chocolate

Favorite Tucson restaurant? Too many to list, but here are a few of my most faves: Starbucks, Sushi on Oracle, Kampai, Blanco Taco, Zivaz, Miss Saigon, Yoshimatsu