Julie Dean Boyd Penner

1961 -

Julie Penner is professor of music at Southern Adventist University, where she has served as Director of Vocal Studies for nineteen years. An active performer, she has been singing publicly for over forty years.

Julie was born in North Platte, Nebraska, one of five children and the younger of two daughters of Elwood and Doris Hortos Boyd. Raised in a family of six where music was an integral part of their lives, she sang from her earliest years with her sister, Gail, at church-related events. Her father, a minister, sang frequently in a quartet with his three oldest sons, and her mother, an accomplished pianist who gave piano lessons, accompanied them as well as others in the family. While all of the children continue to be active in music, only the daughters have pursued careers as professional singers and teachers.

Julie recently talked about her early childhood experiences in music:

I was the fifth of six children, who were all singers, so I thought this was how everybody grew up. Dad wanted all of us to sing a lot for special music, so I started singing publicly while still very small. I used to watch my mother play the piano and although I didn’t have a clue as to what the names of notes were, I learned to play by just watching her.

She has told me that when I was very small I would listen to her students play and when their lessons were done, I would just play by ear what I’d heard them play. I was a bit of a stubborn child and wouldn’t really let her give me a lesson. I would let her teach me only so much and then I would get frustrated, so she would leave music out she thought I’d like and I would learn to play it when I got ready. In spite of this, she really guided me in my development as a pianist.

Julie attended Walla Walla Valley Academy where she sang under Gordon Finch, a significant influence on both her and Gail.  Both also took lessons under Sonja Gourley, an inspiring performer and teacher who lives in College Place.  Following graduation from WWVA in 1979, Julie attended Walla Walla College, now University, for a little over a year, studying voice under Marianne Scriven. 

She was uncertain about what she wanted to do but eventually enrolled at the University of Idaho, where she graduated in 1989 with a B.S. in music education. Upon graduating from UI, she enrolled at Eastman School of Music, completing an M.Mus. in vocal performance and literature in 1992, studying with John Maloy. While there, she was a 2nd place winner in a lied competition at the school.  As she finished her program at Eastman, her undergraduate voice teacher at UI invited Julie to return there to teach while she took a sabbatical.

In 1993 she was invited to join the music faculty at Southern Adventist University, where she continues to teach.  In May 1994 she was one of eight vocalists chosen to participate in a weeklong master class with Marilyn Horne in which the music of Rossini and the techniques of bel canto singing were studied.

She started work on a doctorate at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley in 1996, where she studied with Lesley Manring. She completed a D. A. in vocal performance and pedagogy at UNC in 2005.

In 2010 she formed "On Wings of Song" a student outreach group that presents a cappella choral concerts for the elderly in their homes.


Penner is a frequent recitalist and sings a repertoire that includes music from the Baroque to the present, frequently performing works by Bach, Handel, and Mozart. She also has sung on numerous occasions as a soloist in oratorios and other major choral works and at festivals in the United States and in several other countries including Canada, Israel, Jordan, Greece, Netherlands, Finland, Germany, and Romania.

In 1995 she married Douglas Penner, who is General Manager of the orchestra and the Wind Symphony at SAU, caring for their libraries, instruments, and the logistics for on-campus performances and touring.


Sources: Interview, March 2013; biography at the school of music website at Southern Adventist University; personal knowledge.