Dr. Janice Wenger Retires

Susan Worstell

In 1973, Professor Emeritus Raymond Herbert met Dr. Janice Wenger when she won the MTNA West Central Division Collegiate Piano Competition, held here at MU and when she applied for a faculty position in 1978, he became her strong advocate.  Dr. Wenger very much appreciates all she learned from him, stating, “he was a kind and effective mentor for me in the first part of my many years in the music department, and we have remained life-long colleagues and friends.”

In addition to teaching, she has been active in all levels of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), including serving in many office positions such as treasurer, vice-president, division president, etc. She also co-chaired the MTNA Chamber Music Commissioning Project for the last 11 years, a national effort to provide new intermediate-level piano trios with unusual instrument combinations.  Proud of the project’s accomplishments, she comments, “we have commissioned and premiered 21 different compositions, which are particularly aimed at pre-college music students just starting to experience chamber music ensembles.  This project is continuing into 2022, and perhaps beyond.”

The School of Music has also benefitted greatly from Dr. Wenger’s keen eye for details and organization. For several years, she has served as Associate Director, focusing on maintaining the School of Music bylaws and many other organizational duties.  Her multi-faceted talents have helped keep the school organized all the while producing accomplished pianists. Dr. Wendy Sims, Mizzou Director of Music Education, said it best when she commented, “if there was an Emmy or Oscar or Tony award for “Best Supporting Actress in a School of Music,” Janice Wenger would have won it multiple times—in fact, she would have received a life-time achievement award by now.  Whether in her role as a thoughtful, musical and dependable collaborative musician, or by gently but firmly pushing her students to reach their highest potential, or as a conscientious chairperson/member of committees too numerous to count, or as the detail-oriented keeper of the bylaws and drafter of accreditation reports, or by mentoring faculty through the stressful tenure and promotion processes and leading a remarkably successful departmental awards committee, Janice has demonstrated a rare willingness to use her considerable strengths and talents most often for the benefit of others.  It is no wonder that she is cherished by her students, valued by her colleagues, and respected by all.  Her retirement will most certainly leave a noticeable void in the School of Music—she will be missed!”

Dr. Wenger was also instrumental in overseeing the purchase of a fortepiano in 2006 and has toured with the instrument around this region with many of her faculty colleagues, an experience she will treasure.  Finding great professional satisfaction in her student’s accomplishment, she shares, “many of my piano students have gone on to successful careers in piano teaching and performing.  Every student has been a joy to me, but it’s particularly gratifying to see several who have flourished in this great profession.”  Sarah Ryan Buckley was one of those students (MM Collaborative Piano SP2010) who also had the honor of working alongside Dr. Wenger as an adjunct professor for a short time.  Sarah states, “I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to study with and get to know Dr. Wenger. Her mentorship shaped my career greatly. In addition to her immense talent and knowledge of music, I was guided by her impeccable teaching ability and kindness. A highlight of our time together was definitely playing duets on the fortepiano together and being welcomed to her home for Thanksgiving. I find myself emulating much of what I learned from Dr. Wenger, and I hope to also touch lives in the way she has unmistakably touched mine. Wishing her the best in retirement!.”

Further showing her dedication to her students, Dr. Wenger will continue to work at MU part time next year to support her current applied piano students who are in the middle of degree study. When reflecting upon her 43 years at MU, Wenger states, “the School of Music was very welcoming when I first came, and I’ve found it to be a friendly and energetic place to work ever since.  I particularly enjoy the faculty and staff friendships I’ve made; the natural changes in personnel over the years have given me the opportunity to know even more great musicians and friends.”

In her retirement, Dr. Wenger and her husband have plans to continue their exploration of national and international cities and art museums, one of the first destinations being Spain, a trip that was originally planned for May 2020. The School of Music will greatly miss her institutional knowledge, great piano expertise, precise eye for detail, and her warm and friendly demeanor.  We wish Dr. Wenger all the best in her future endeavors.

Wenger congrats