As nine-year-old Jaren Hinckley prepared to enter the fourth grade, eager to return to orchestra class, his father exclaimed that the cello was a girls’ instrument and he needed an instrument more fitting for a boy. Now after receiving three degrees in clarinet performance, Dr. Jaren Hinckley realized his father’s comment was more inspired than insolent.
Throughout his professional career, Hinckley learned the importance of perseverance, dedication and hard work.
Hinckley received his bachelor’s degree at the University of Utah, where he excelled. However, it was while at Indiana University, where he got his master’s in clarinet performance, Hinckley discovered he wasn’t the expert he thought he was. Humility quickly became another character trait he needed to succeed in life.
“At the U, I was first chair at everything,” Hickley said. “[Then] I went to Indiana and suddenly I wasn’t first chair in everything, and it was sort of a blow to my ego. I was depressed because I was sitting in a practice room for hours doing new practices that I’d never done before. They had different teaching methods that were harder … and I thought, ‘I’m going to go home where I’m appreciated.’ But I’m so glad I stuck it out.”
This same attitude of humility and hard work is exactly what inspires his students today. From early on, Hinckley learned that no matter how good you are at something, there is always room to improve and learn more.
“If you think you know it all, you’re hobbling yourself because you’ll be unwilling to learn,” Hinckley said. “If you think you already know everything your teacher has to offer you, you’re automatically setting yourself up for less learning.”
Even though his professors at Indiana University and Florida State University were harsh and demanding, Hinckley knew deep down they were doing it for his benefit. It was then Hinckley discovered his love of teaching, which is apparent in his teaching style.
“I feel like he cares about his students holistically,” said Hannah Bates, a senior from Orem, Utah, studying clarinet performance with Dr. Hinckley. “He doesn’t really just care about producing 18 awesome clarinetists out of his studio every year, he really cares about our individual growth.”
Since a majority of his classes are as large as 400 students, Hinckley’s greatest struggle is learning how to relate to his students on a more personal basis. It’s easy to relate to the students he privately teaches, but for the students in Music 101, he finds other ways to connect to them.
“By calling students by name, I feel like it makes the classroom feel smaller because it’s more personal,” Hinckley said. “I try to be happy and funny and fun and interesting and excited because quite frankly, I am excited about the material.”
What really sets Hinckley apart from any other professor is how much he cares about each of his students and colleagues regardless of the many activities he does outside of teaching.
“He was the fun guy to have around,” said Diane Reich, assistant professor in vocal performance who has known Hinckley since college. “He was a little bit of a shepherd for us, just keeping track of everybody as they came and went.”
Because Hinckley has been performing clarinet since the ninth grade, his knowledge of performing and the skills needed to succeed are vast. He instills in the minds of every student not only how to play well, but how to be upstanding individuals.
“I teach my students to be nice and supportive of their fellow students, but I also tell them, ‘ When you’re in competition mode, you need to be ruthless,’” Hinckley said. “So I try to encourage total supportiveness in my studio, but I also try to prepare them for the real world.”
The same techniques and teaching styles he was exposed to in school, paired with his caring attitude and fun teaching style, has allowed Hinckley to motivate students and help them achieve their personal goals in all aspects of life.
“He cares about us as a whole person, as students and as members of the Church,” Bates said. “I feel like that way he produces not only good musicians, but good people and good students in general.”