Wendy Stein likes music, almost all kinds of music.
She played principal clarinet with the Salina Symphony from 1972, when she was a student at Marymount College, until 2005.
Her favorite composer is Maurice Ravel, but her favorite genre to play?
“I love saxophone because I can play jazz and the sound of the saxophone is very versatile,” Stein said.
And she loves teaching.
That’s fortunate for Kansas Wesleyan because Stein has agreed to come back to teach woodwinds and direct the Wind Ensemble.
“My experiences performing in various wind ensembles have been some of my absolute favorite musical memories!” Stein said. “Wind ensemble is the perfect challenge, to help KWU musicians move them from where they are now to where they need to go as members of an ensemble.”
When she taught at Kansas Wesleyan previously, the spring of 2017 through the fall of 2018, she directed the jazz band.
“It was really fun,” she said. “The kids had a good time and responded well to my teaching. It was a great experience and I enjoyed the kids. Retirement didn’t suit me, and I needed something creative to do.”
Musical creativity runs rampant through Stein’s family. Her late husband was Eric Stein, founder of the Salina Symphony and a major force in Salina’s music scene. Eric taught for years at Marymount College, moving to Kansas Wesleyan when Marymount closed in 1989.
Her children, Adele and Derek Stein, are both professional cellists and were the guest artists at Salina Strings Day in February.
Derek lives on the West Coast and plays with wild Up, a modern music collective nominated for a Grammy this year and in 2020. His most recent high-profile gig was backing up The Who at the Hollywood Bowl.
Adele lives in Chappaqua, New York and plays in the pit for Broadway musicals, currently “& Juliet.” One recent high-profile gig was at the Met Gala on May 1.
Wendy Stein was the band director for 35 years at St. John’s Military School. She is, in fact, working on a musical based on her experiences at St. John’s.
Before St. John’s, Stein taught in the Solomon public schools for five years.
Stein said she’s “just really excited to join the team.” She knows the other team members already. In a town the size of Salina, all the musicians know one another, she said. She went to Marymount with Dean Kranzler, percussion instructor, and is a friend of Michelle Dolan, who is part of the department, as well.
“Gustavo (do Carmo) and Leo (Rosario) are super in their individual fields, no airs at all, and that makes it better for the kids,” she said.
Do Carmo is the collaborative pianist and Rosario the director of strings at Kansas Wesleyan.
While she hasn’t yet worked with Jake Montoya, newly hired director of the jazz and athletic bands, she knows him.
“Jake should be just perfect with the bands and recruiting,” Stein said. “I’ve known Jake for a long time. It’ll be great working with him.
“I feel good about the direction the Music Department is going. I’m happy to be a little piece of the puzzle.”
The size of Kansas Wesleyan is ideal, Stein said.
“The college itself meets the needs of all the students because it’s a small school and gives them more a sense of home. I think that’s what Wesleyan is all about, giving them a sense of home and college, being not just a number. It gives students a chance to shine and puts the kids right at the forefront.”
In some ways, this will be a tough year to teach, with the renovations going in the music classrooms and practice rooms, Sams Chapel and Pioneer Hall. Some of the performances will be back at the former Marymount College, in the Gov. Joan Finney Auditorium at the Kansas Highway Patrol Academy.
But the inconvenience will be worth it.
“Remodeling where we perform, that’s going to be great,” she said. “We’ll just roll with punches.”
Coming to KWU, “It feels like coming home, a little bit,” she said. “It’s nice to have a way to come back.”
Stein’s work officially begins in August.
Story by Jean Kozubowski