Rhonda VandeVere Burnham

1956 -

Rhonda Burnham, violinist and pianist, has taught music in the Seventh-day Adventist school system for over thirty years. During that time she has also been active as a frequent free-lance performer in chamber and orchestral ensembles.

Rhonda was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, one of four children of Wayne E. and Evelyn Stiles VandeVere. Both parents were amateur musicians, and the children had music lessons from an early age, supported and encouraged by both parents and their paternal grandmother, Marguerite VandeVere, a piano teacher.

Rhonda began piano lessons at age seven and started violin lessons in fourth grade, continuing throughout her elementary and high school years. She attended Collegedale Academy, where she accompanied the academy choir for three years and played violin in the Southern Missionary College, now Southern Adventist University, orchestra.

Following graduation from CA in 1975, she enrolled as a music major at SMC, where she continued violin study with Orlo Gilbert and took organ under Judy Glass. She also studied violin with LeRoy Peterson at Andrews University for a year during her undergraduate studies before returning to SMC to complete her degree.

VandeVere graduated with honors in 1979 with a B.Mus.Ed and violin and organ as her major and minor performance areas, respectively. She accepted teaching positions that year in the Orlando, Florida, area, where she started Suzuki Strings programs at Orlando Junior Academy and Forest Lake Elementary Education Center. Both programs flourished, and in 1996 she added directing the string ensembles at Forest Lake Academy to her schedule, while maintaining a full private lesson load.

In 1981 she had married Timothy Burnham, a resident of the area who had a rich background in music. They had a son, Robert (Robbie) Orlo, in 1987. He recently completed a cello performance degree at SAU and spent a year in Almaty, Kazakhstan, as a student missionary.

During her years in Florida, Burnham served for fifteen years as the orchestra contractor/manager and a player in the Bach Festival Orchestra associated with the highly regarded Bach Festival Choir in Winter Park, Florida. She also performed as a member of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the EPCOT Candlelight Orchestra and founded and conducted the Florida Conference Camp Meeting Orchestra.

In 2007, A.W. Spalding Elementary School in Collegedale, Tennessee, hired Burnham to run the Suzuki Strings Program that had been established in the 1960s by Orlo Gilbert. She has been successful in re-establishing that program, and in 2010 it expanded to include the Collegedale Adventist Middle School. Beginning in the fall of 2011, her teaching schedule now also includes conducting the Collegedale Academy Chamber Orchestra and giving string lessons.

Burnham toured with the FLA String Ensemble in California and to Washington, D.C., in the early 2000s. The CA string orchestra traveled to New York City in 2012, where it will performed at Carnegie Hall.

She is a frequent guest strings clinician and has assisted in music festivals in the Florida, Northern New England, Georgia-Cumberland, Kentucky-Tennessee, and Colorado conferences.

Burnham has several levels of Suzuki Certifications and has attended workshops with Ronda Cole, Rudy Hazuka, Beth Titterington and William Starr. Her exceptional work as a teacher was recognized when both the 2000 and 2001 Forest Lake Education Center annuals were dedicated to her with the following tributes:

What is unique at FLEC? Everyone knows its all those little kids with tiny violins and a petite teacher. Everyone also knows that when its time for Suzuki classes there's no fiddling around! Rhonda, you’ve taken us from Twinkle to Tarantella, Beethoven to Vivaldi and beyond. Though your professional involvement extends to Forest Lake Academy, the Bach Festival Orchestra, and Disney you've never forgotten the hundreds of Twinklers who had their first taste of stardom here in Suzuki classes at FLEC. They will some day be among the thousands of stars twinkling brightly in your crown!

To you Rhonda Burnham, in gratitude for twenty-one years of friendship and service, we dedicate this 2000 FLEC Yearbook

Dear Mrs. Burnham, Thank you for your years of dedication to FLEC, for drawing out our musical talent, and for guiding so many students on the path to heaven. We're proud to dedicate this year's yearbook to you! The 2000-2001 Yearbook Staff


 Source: Information provided by Rhonda VandeVere Burnham, September 2011 and January 2012.