Dr. Jerry E. Rife has been the musical director and conductor of The Blawenburg Band since 1985. Under his guidance, the band has grown from a small-town band in the 1980s to a 70-member musical organization that performs 25-30 concerts each year. Dr. Rife’s leadership has moved the band into a position of prominence in the state of New Jersey with concert performances at Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus, the Sousa Centennial Ceremony in 1992, and at the White House in Washington, D.C.
In 1993, he received a New Jersey State Senate Resolution honoring the band for their outstanding musical performance and service to their community. He and the band were honored for their years of service to the community by the New Jersey Board of Chosen Freeholders of Mercer County, the County of Somerset, the Montgomery County Board of Aldermen, and The New Jersey National Guard.
Dr. Rife has guest conducted the nationally-recognized, professional Virginia Grand Military Band, in Washington D.C. seven times in Washington and Pennsylvania. He served for three years as the conductor of The Raritan Valley (NJ) Symphonic Band. His career as a conductor began in 1971 as a band director in Kansas high schools and a distinguished adjudicator at band festivals. As director of these bands and of the Rider University bands, he brings his enthusiasm for performing and a great knowledge and love of band music to audiences in nursing homes, community events, and the concert stage.
Jerry Rife is currently Professor of Music at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ, where he teaches music history courses and is the Director of Bands. For the past nine years he was the Chairman of the Fine Arts Department and has taught graduate-level musicology courses at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, since it became the School of Music of Rider University.
In 1990, Dr. Rife received the Lindback Award for Excellence in Teaching. The Frank N. Elliott Award for Outstanding Service was presented to Dr. Rife in 2016. He holds a Ph.D. in musicology from Michigan State University, a Masters of Music in Clarinet Performance and an undergraduate degree in Music Education from Kansas State University.
Before coming to Rider University, Dr. Rife was an Assistant Professor of Musicology at Michigan State University and taught doctoral- and masters-level musicology courses and the undergraduate music history curriculum. He studied clarinet with Fred Ormand, the past president of the International Clarinet Association, Elsa Ludwig-Verdehr of the Verdehr Trio, Clark Brodie of the Chicago Symphony, George Silfies of the St. Louis Symphony, and Frank Sidorfsky at Kansas State University.
Dr. Rife has been a contributing writer for the Saxophone Journal since 1988 and has reviewed performances and recordings for Jazz Player Magazine. The music of Florent Schmitt is a special interest of Dr. Rife, and he has published several articles on Schmitt and his compositions including the Schmitt article for the 7th Edition of the New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians (forthcoming). Dr. Rife studied mouthpiece adjustment and refacing with Everett Matson. In 1992 he was the principal musicologist for the documentary film “If You Knew Sousa,” a 90-minute film funded by WGBH public television in Boston and aired as the flagship show of The American Experience to an estimated national viewing audience of six million people. As a specialist on the music of bands and specifically of John Philip Sousa, he appeared on Ben Wattenberg's PBS television series Think Tank.
Professor Rife is extremely active as a performer of solo, recital, orchestra, and jazz music on the East Coast. He has guest conducted and adjudicated at band festivals, published numerous articles on band music, is a respected lecturer in the community, and has served as the state chairman of the College Band Directors National Conference. His traditional jazz band, The Rhythm Kings, has performed regularly for 35 years averaging 100 performances each year. Dr. Rife is also a member of the John Johnson Trio and Blue Skies, a swing jazz quartet.