Winnifred Ringhoffer –
I just learned that my college (and very first) voice teacher, Winnie, died in late December of last year.
She seemed a bit of a character to a young college kid, with her enormous voice and shattering vibrato that could shake your rib cage from across the room, her “oh, what a wonderful day!” sighs, her “Twenty-four Italian Songs and Arias” and “The Prima Donnas Album” repertoire choices. But she knew her stuff, and had the chops to prove it.
I was a terrible student. I refused to do the required solo concerts (crippling stage fright), rarely practiced the assignments, and barely learned the arias (that’s another story). But my senior year, when I simply didn’t have the time, nor the energy, to sing soprano in chorale (which meant free voice lessons) and would have had to quit because I couldn’t afford lessons on my own, she waived the fee for the entire year.
And despite it all, for four years, she kept showing up, kept pouring her time and skill and attention onto me, kept encouraging the slightest improvement, even when I couldn’t do much but review what we’d done the last lesson.
I was blessed to be able to share the stage with her in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. I still have notes and exercise sheets from some of our lessons.
In 2015 she received the Sally Rodgers Award for Lifelong Achievement. I can only underestimate the influence she has had on me, and countless others during her tenure.