Every professor has a unique story of their own, filled with life events before they began their teaching career, and Dr. Wendy van Gent is no different. Upon earning a Bachelor of Music Education with minors in music theory and dance during her undergrad at Western Michigan University, the desire to perform took center stage. She devoted ten years as a professional performer, her longest run being a Broadway revue that enabled her to travel to a few European countries and across the United States. Fronting a country band in Colorado for some time was another one of her adventures. She later earned a Masters of Music Education at Michigan State University and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Oakland University in Michigan.
Now in her sixth year as an Assistant Professor of Music Education at NSU, she also serves as a liaison between the School of Fine Arts and School of Education. “This job is exactly what I wanted to have when I left Virginia Beach to get my terminal degree. I just had no idea it was going to be in Aberdeen, South Dakota,” she commented, describing it as “serendipitous.” Part of her coursework includes teaching a class for elementary education majors on how to incorporate music into the regular classroom. Outside of the classroom, Dr. van Gent directs NSU’s Vocal Jazz ensemble. Her passion for the group encouraged her to help incorporate Vocal Jazz into Northern’s annual Swing Dance to keep dancers out on the floor. In regards to teaching vocal jazz and its differences, she states, “The paper is not music; music is what’s created. So creating the feel for the music is also what’s very different. Vocal jazz can be it’s own genre.” Aside from teaching, Dr. van Gent also serves on the board for the South Dakota Music Education Association, is an advisor for the collegiate membership on campus, and is the mentorship coordinator for the New Teacher Partnership Program. Dr. van Gent is currently working on a long-term qualitative research study, she explains, “I’m following new music teachers from Northern in their first three years in the classroom.” She only has two cycles of students that have gone through it, allowing her to begin looking at the data.