Ann Wainer (Rutherford) (1980) Saxophone, Clarinet
Autobiographical Sketch

Ann Wainer with 1980 Sax Section

​I LOVED music from the time I picked up a violin in third grade and took a field trip, with my class, to Symphony Hall. That experience and the many, many times my dad said that his one regret in life was not playing a musical instrument, most likely started my musical journey! In fourth grade I was offered the clarinet, so I dumped the violin and my lifelong dedication to woodwinds began! (Although there was that one time in eighth grade when I decided to try the drums and conscripted Hal Garfinkle (1981) to teach me. He was a funny kid and I loved to laugh, so I didn’t get too far, although I still use paradiddle to sign onto my work computer!)

Rick Ehrlich (1973) was my first private clarinet teacher. We also spent a lot of time laughing (well, I did…) and I credit him for my great embouchure, upright playing posture and love for the instrument. Ironically, later, I was always chasing his brother, Mike (1980), who was one year older than me and usually, but not always, one chair ahead!

I loved being in band so much that one band wouldn’t do, so I took up the tenor sax. I LOVED how it sounded and I totally fell in love with jazz ensemble. I even had an orange T-shirt that I wore to concerts in junior high that said “Super Sax” – clearly, self-esteem was not a problem.

Lucky for me, New Trier West was on the horizon, and I embraced the challenge and the fun of the music program. What a thrill it was to be on that big stage as a member of the New Trier West High School Recording Jazz Ensemble! And have your friends come to your concerts instead of basketball games!

I have such great memories of the MD (Music/Drama) building and the magic we made there. Amazing people, SO much fun, the joy of working hard and making great music, our director Mr. Mills’ (now Roger), vein in his forehead that would pop out when we could have done better…and what an experience it was to play in Greece and Romania! Does anyone else remember our Romanian guide telling us he would “spit” on (Nicolae) Ceaucescu and the communist government if he could. It wasn’t until much later that I even understood what that meant. I also remember a young woman named Tonia who asked for my autograph, after our show in Thessaloniki, who became my 20-year pen pal. And how about arriving in Transylvania on a dark and stormy night? So fun and, eye opening, to a kid who never traveled before!

So then I went off to college WITHOUT my clarinet, which I later realized was my favorite among the instruments I played (tenor, flute, guitar). It went missing my senior year, but that was OK. I was off to Colorado and thought it was time to become a cowboy. But I SO missed music! So I checked the classified ads and bought a clarinet from a farmer near my campus. Made first chair, in the Colorado State Symphonic Band, when I joined second semester freshman year. But I never did bond with that particular instrument, and the mountains (and the square dance team!) called, so that was pretty much the end of my playing for the time being.

And here is where I tell two more quick stories. I AM playing clarinet again because I have been reunited with the instrument that I thought was forever gone!!! It was, however, found in a music locker shortly after our school was closed, during the time when they were removing the old MD lockers. A custodian reached out to Roger to say he had found a clarinet in one of those lockers, not my locker, and Roger, thinking he would be able to return it to its owner, held on to it, rather than have it end lost during the turmoil of the merger of the two high schools. He alerted the ‘lost and found,’ but I never thought to check. So for forty years he kept the faith, knowing it belonged to one of his ‘kids’ and stored it carefully!! Forty years!!! And thanks to this website project, not only was I reunited with one of the best teachers I ever had, but I also have my beloved instrument back!!

And there is another beloved I also have back in my life!

In my freshman year, at New Trier, I met my first love when we were both in jazz band together. His name was Ross Rutherford, and he was a drummer! We dated on and off throughout high school, and college, and eventually went our separate ways. But 23 years later we got back in touch and have been happily married ever since! So, I am now referred to professionally as “Mrs. Rutherford” which if you know anything about the history of science, is a pretty darn good name for a science teacher! And that is what I do now, teach science to junior high kids in Skokie, Illinois! After college I worked for the National Park Service and various youth agencies in Colorado and New Mexico. I was also an EMT/Firefighter, but teaching science was my calling. Sometimes I wish I had that vein in my head (especially with junior high kids!), but I DO credit a lot of the great passionate teaching, we had at New Trier West, with putting me on my career path!