Meet the Conductor, Jerry E. Rife

Jerry Rife has conducted the Blawenburg Band since 1985, bringing his great enthusiasm for band music to audiences in nursing homes and at community events as well as at more formal concerts.

Dr. Jerry E. Rife is Professor of Music and served for a number of years as the Chair of the Fine Arts Department in the School of Fine and Performing Arts at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Since 1984 he has taught music theory and history classes and was the Director of Bands. He earned his Ph.D. in Musicology from Michigan State University (MSU), and received a Masters of Music in Clarinet Performance and a Bachelors of Arts in Music Education from Kansas State University. Prior to being invited to teach at Rider University, Dr. Rife was an Associate Professor of Musicology at MSU. In addition to his many academic and musical endeavors, Dr. Rife is deeply committed to his students; over the past 35 years, Jerry has taken approximately 1600 college students on study-abroad trips to Europe and Asia. These trips involved intensive studies of music, theater, and art at over 40 different cultural centers and provided the student travelers an exposure to the many different European societies, cultures, and locales.

Augmenting his musical prowess, Dr. Rife, referred to as “Jerry” by his musical associates and friends, is an accomplished clarinet and saxophone player and is extremely active as a performer of solo, recital, orchestral, and jazz music, up and down the East coast. During his life-long musical journey, Jerry studied clarinet with Fred Ormond (International Clarinet Association), Elsa Ludwig-Verdehr (Verdehr Trio), Clark Brodie, (Chicago Symphony), George Silfies (St. Louis Symphony), and Frank Sidorfsky (Kansas State University). He joined the Virginia Grand Military Band in 1995 as a clarinetist and has been a guest conductor of that band on several occasions, both in Washington D.C. and in Pennsylvania. Jerry has a deep love, and an amazing talent, for playing jazz on both the clarinet and saxophone. He is a member of the John Johnson Trio and the Blue Skies swing jazz quartet. His own traditional jazz band, The Rhythm Kings, plays numerous performances each year, and has done so for over 35 years. They often play at clubs and restaurants in Central New Jersey. If you have the opportunity to go and hear them, we guarantee you a real treat!

Among his other accomplishments, which are too numerous to include here, Dr. Rife is a celebrated author, researcher, and reviewer of music performance and history. He 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. He was the Associate Producer of 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 band music and specifically on John Philip Sousa, he appeared on Ben Wattenberg’s PBS television series Think Tank.

Dr. Rife has been Conductor and Musical Director of the Blawenburg Band for over 38 years. Under his leadership and vision, the Band has grown from a small town band to a 75-member musical institution that performs 20-25 concerts a year. The Band wants to acknowledge and thank Jerry for his labors, skill and vision in making the Blawenburg Band the excellent, entertaining, and fun band it is today.

Upcoming Public Performances

December 10, 2022
  • Blawenburg Band Holiday Concert December 10, 2022  3:00 pm - 4:00 pm TCNJ - Mildred & Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall, 2000 Pennington Rd, Ewing Township, NJ 08628, USA

    The Blawenburg Band will welcome the Winter Holiday Season with free concert on Saturday December 10, 2022, at 3:00pm at the Mayo Concert Hall on the campus of the College of New Jersey in Ewing, NJ.

    Founded in Blawenburg, New Jersey in 1890, the Blawenburg Band continues a great tradition that began when towns depended on their own people for live musical entertainment. The group is one of the oldest community bands in the state and among the most active. Conducted since 1985 by Dr. Jerry Rife, Retired Professor of Music and Chair of the Fine Arts Department at Rider University, the band historically performs about 20 concerts a year throughout the area. They play at holiday parades, community celebrations, church socials, and senior centers and retirement homes. Some of the most popular and well attended public concerts are in the summer outdoor series in Hopewell Borough.

    The college is located at 2000 Pennington Road Ewing, NJ. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

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