Wolfe reflects on career before final Ball State recital



Today marks the end of a long chapter in the life of George Wolfe.

Every year Wolfe brings a few of his students from Ball State University, where he teaches saxophone, to Chautauqua Institution for a recital. This will be his 13th and final year giving that recital.

“The joy of working with students is something I treasure,” Wolfe said, “and that’s something that I’m going to really miss when I retire.”

Although Wolfe said that his students over the years have enjoyed performing with him and experiencing the Institution, he is eager to perform more himself. He plans to retire June 30 of next year.

Wolfe began teaching after a job offer from James Madison University in 1977. When he reflected on his teaching career, he said that learning to give others time to improve at their own pace, instead of pushing them beyond their limits, was a lesson learned from teaching and from life.

“That maturing process enables one’s expression and interpretation to become more profound,” Wolfe said. “When it comes to a performance, that maturing process can’t be rushed. You just have to live life and you have to live it deeply.”

For Wolfe, his own maturing process was enhanced by his experiences with meditation and Indian philosophy.

Wolfe has twice visited India, once to study music and once to perform, and was so inspired by the culture that he learned to play the tabla, a North Indian percussion instrument. He was also inspired by the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.

Traveling to India also led to Wolfe’s interest in peace studies. From 2002 to 2006 he served as director of Ball State’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He has taught classes on nonviolence and peace at both Ball State and the Institution.

“I’ve found it extremely rewarding and inspiring to deepen my thoughts about life and reality,” Wolfe said.

Twice a day Wolfe meditates, sometimes in his “sacred space” at home — there are sacred books he reads, a candle or two, a rug for yoga and breathing exercises and inspiring messages on the wall — but Wolfe said he meditates anywhere he gets the chance.

Meditating not only helps to keep Wolfe’s mind open and receptive in his daily life, but it also helps him find deeper meaning in the music he performs.

Wolfe will perform at 4 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ with four students from Ball State and special guest pianist Galit Gertsenzon Fromm, whom Wolfe called an excellent performer. The group will perform selections by composers Walter Hartley, Vincent Persichetti and Rudy Wiedoeft, to name a few. Proceeds from the concert benefit the Chautauqua Women’s Club Scholarship Fund.

After Wolfe retires, he hopes to perform more and write on nonviolence and meditation. He is at peace with his decision — for the most part.

“There’s always those questions about, ‘Oh should I really retire?’ ” Wolfe said. “There are younger, more energetic people coming along and they deserve a chance [to teach], too.”

Although he is reluctant to end his teaching career, Wolfe is optimistic about the future.

“There’ll be new horizons for me to enjoy,” he said.