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Wright Through My Eyes: Jackson Riffle

Photos by Tonia Schauer, Studio Nine Photography

Wright State student Jackson Riffle, double major in piano performance and percussion performance, chose Wright State to help him build his resume and make connections as an active performer, teacher and composer.

Background of music

Growing up around the area, Riffle went to Newton High School where he got an early start on his musical career.

“My mom is an elementary music teacher and my family is very musical,” said Riffle. “[Music] has always been a part of my family from childhood.”

Riffle started piano lessons in first grade and joined high school band in fifth grade. Later, during his sophomore year of high school, Riffle began taking lessons from a professor at Wright State.

Soon thereafter, Riffle started entering and winning competitions. This is when majoring in music seemed to become a real possibility for him.

Double major and busy schedule

According to Riffle, double majoring is as difficult as it sounds, especially a double major in performance.

As opposed to majoring in music education, getting a job isn’t quite the same.

“Getting the piece of paper saying you graduate doesn’t get you a job,” said Riffle.

With performance majors, according to Riffle, it isn’t so much about your in classroom performance as it is your outside experiences.

“Realistically, your time here is about getting better so you can take auditions,” said Riffle. “That is how you win a job. It’s about how you play.”

A double major keeps Riffle quite busy, not just with classes, but with recitals, auditions, symphonies and outside gigs.

“Professional auditions are extremely stressful,” said Riffle. “It’s like you study for months and months and then all of a sudden it’s like 10 minutes of your time and then you mess something up that you’ve never messed up before. It’s like a false representation.”

According to Riffle, there are alot of components that go into his curriculum. In a particular week, Riffle takes an orchestration class, music theory and ensembles.

“We have classes that meet three days a week for an hour and a half each day,” said Riffle. “That’s one credit hour.”

A big component of a performance major’s education takes place outside of school whether it is teaching in a classroom, playing in a symphony orchestra or playing in other concerts and gigs.

“There is outside stuff that takes time,” said Riffle. “And of course the outside stuff is stuff that counts to put on your resume.”

The Wright fit

Riffle had been coming to WSU long before college, and after seeing the competitiveness and culture of the college, it only seemed right.

“I saw the studio culture and the vibe and how professional the percussion studio was and I wanted to be a part of that,” said Riffle.

Riffle is originally from around the area and this was another factor in his decision to come to WSU. The Dayton community is something that Riffle would have missed if he were to go somewhere else.

Ambitious goals

“Ideally [I would like to see myself] in a full-time orchestra job,” said Riffle. “There are not many and usually people have to die for positions to become open.”

As a backup plan, Riffle wants to get his master’s degree and possibly get a part-time orchestra job or teach at a college.

Riffle knows what he wants to do and what his options are, but he is unsure about how realistic his ideas are. Despite this, he is determined to continue on this path and work towards his ambitious goals.

One of the things that Riffle has had to work past is career anxiety. With all of the unknowns, it is easy to worry about what may or may not happen.

“Time management has been difficult and expectations are high,” said Riffle. “There is a lot of career anxiety, especially not knowing and not having a set certification for something you know you’re going to get.”

Community atmosphere and local connection

“There are a lot of moments of temporary gratification and everything,” said Riffle. “But I know in my head that I need to keep going.”

From being a soloist in the Dayton Philharmonic band to performing in a recital at the John Philip Sousa Recital Hall, Riffle has a long list of accomplishments including teaching and composing experience.

Riffle also likes to help local high schools with their marching band programs.

Starting in 2018, Riffle began to help Grove City High School compose marching band music and he continues to use his talent for composing to gain local connections.

“I’ve always been writing stuff,” said Riffle. “I think it’s really fun to write and arrange stuff, especially for marching band. It allows you to put your individual twist on things that people already know.”

Despite the many accomplishments that he is proud of, Riffle knows that there are always bigger goals to work toward to make him better.

“We live in a community where [when] someone does something good, it’s the best thing ever,” said Riffle. “It is good to recognize success, but I’ve taught myself to never settle on one good thing.”

Makenzie Hoeferlin