If you've had the chance to hear jazz music in the La Crosse area, you may have seen a woman named Karyn Quinn behind a string bass or out in front of one of her jazz ensembles from UW-La Crosse. This year, after 27 years and thousands of students, Karyn is retiring.
Since the 1980's she's played with some of the world's most talented jazz musicians, but the passion that's dominated her life has been teaching.
"It's an awesome feeling," Quinn said.
There's a certain kind of passion music teachers have. That passion, Karyn Quinn discovered early on in Ellsworth, Wisconsin with her 7th grade music teacher Harvey Halpaus.
"I really knew, probably then, that I was going to go into music," said Quinn. "I gave up all my sports and all my tomboy things I did like ice hockey and basketball and softball and just started focusing on the bass."
Because of that influence, she kept at it all through high school, and she went on to study music education from UW-La Crosse, a school she knew from their yearly jazz festivals.
"I thought, I want to be like these people," Quinn said. "I want to be a teacher, I want to teach in the public schools."
Following her graduation from UW-L, she completed a masters at the University of Northern Colorado. However, right out of that Quinn said there weren't many job openings, so she taught wherever she could.
"I taught at Central, Longfellow... wherever," Quinn said. "If there was a maternity need, I would sub for that person, kindergarten music, whatever. It was a really opening experience working with young people."
In 1989 that all changed when she got hired at her alma mater.
"Part of me had this value of what UW-L was about," Quinn said. "I wanted to continue to make that better. I knew what my undergraduate experiences were and I wanted to be able to share that and move that along with the current students."
Over the next 27 years, Quinn worked with thousands of students who shared in the same passion that got her started.
"It's just really neat to see somebody evolve and come into their own and find their happiness."
Those 27 years culminated in her final concert with UW-L on April 18th.
"It really hit me I think when I walked off the stage. I'm not going to do this anymore... that was just a little bittersweet, because there's been so many great memories and so many, so many wonderful students."
For Karyn, the success of students and the program always came first, but those involved know how big of a role she played in that success.
"When they're still clapping and you go, 'Oh maybe I should take another bow,' and you walk out and people are there handing you a dozen roses from the music department, then it kind of hit me too, like wow... this is really neat. I'm getting teared up just talking about it now."
And though this phase of music is coming to a close, another is right on the horizon. Quinn has been teaching music for over half of her life but just as she always knew she wanted to teach, part of her, she said, always knew she wanted to play.
In her retirement she plans to do just that with an independent business as a clinician and performer.