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Longtime teacher hooked on music

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Bonnie Winterton sat in an armchair in her living room, with two large Steinway grand pianos behind her. And she smiled as she reflected back on a life filled with contributions to the community.

"I've always felt that music chose me," she said. "It's an interesting thing."

Retiring after 27 years of teaching music at the University of Utah marks a milestone in Winterton's busy life, although she says it may not make a huge difference in her lifestyle.

"My life is just so full that (retirement) will hardly make any difference at all," she said. "It gives me just a tiny bit of free time. I will still have a full schedule of students here — I'll be teaching 40 students here in my home. And then with my church work — my husband and I are on the Temple Square Concert committee, and we're also on the general (LDS Church) music committee.

"But I'll always treasure that experience of teaching at the U. It's a great privilege to teach at the university level. For people that age, there is no discipline problem ever; they are mature, they're there for a purpose, they work hard and they appreciate it. It's been pure joy for me to teach at the U. I've loved that."

Winterton began her musical career when she was just a young girl in Wyoming. "My parents loved music, and I started by playing a little pump organ in the house. When they realized there was some talent there, they made every effort to help me develop that. Soon after the organ business, my parents bought a piano, so I had piano lessons from then on."

Winterton began playing in church when she was nine. "After that time, I just played continually. I feel I really owe my expertise to my church training that I've had all though the years."

She went to BYU on scholarship from a speech contest, graduating in piano. After that, she stayed home to raise her family, but she continued to pursue music. "I began conducting choirs, as an adult, for the church, and that inspired me to go ahead and get a master's degree and a Ph.D."

Winterton began her road to a master's by taking one class at a time. "I'd leave my young son with a neighbor, and I did that for eight years to get my degree." While she was working on her master's degree at the U., she was asked to be a part of the faculty.

She also conducted the U. choirs and has been assistant conductor and accompanist for the U.'s Symphony Chorus for 27 years. "I've had some great experiences working with the Symphony Chorus, working with the great conductors, like Robert Shaw. That has been wonderful. I was also with the South Davis Community Choir for six years."

Winterton's teaching of piano, group piano, conducting and choir at the U. underscores that teaching at the university and privately in her home has been a lifetime love.

"I always wanted to be a teacher," she said. "I started teaching when I was 15 and have taught ever since.

"I think the greatest joy has come through private teaching, the one-on-one with students; seeing what music does to their lives. And I can continue doing that. I love my students. When they leave, the love I have for them does not stop. They become like my children, and so I have these wonderful children all over the world. I find them wherever I go, and I receive letters from them. That love that you have for those students just goes on forever. It's one of the beautiful, great, grand payoffs of all this."

E-mail: rcline@desnews.com