Like her father before her, Dr. Judy Walker spent her career at a variety of higher learning institutions to share her knowledge and expertise – her father as an administrator and Dr. Walker as a professor of music.
Walker’s mother was a violinist and insisted her children learn music. Walker chose the flute and went on to study at Illinois Wesleyan University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music playing the flute and performing in the Honors Recital. She became proficient in the classical and traverso flute, harpsicord and fortepiano. From there she attended New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts, undertaking a master’s study and earning a performance degree in flute. Continuing on, Walker earned a master’s degree in music in flute from University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois.
Walker’s first position was at Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri. The college is owned by P.E.O. sisterhood. Philanthropic Educational Organization, an international women’s organization with a primary focus on providing educational opportunities for female students worldwide.
“It is the only national P.E.O. college. I taught all woodwinds, which was quite a challenge,” Walker explained.
Comprehensive musicianship came about to improve the education of music teachers, which suited Walker.
“I’m interested in all eras and areas – the entire gamut of repertoires and analytical tools to study. All music is tension and release having sections and layers. We just use different means to achieve it.” Walker said.
Over the years, Walker has become fluent in the ukulele, classical guitar, silver penny whistle, native American flute, piccolo and recorder.
Long ago Walker began running as a form of expanding her lung capacity and exercise. She continues to run three to four times a week.
Walker attended a conference in Atlantic City, where she met up with a fellow professor in the UW-Madison hospitality room.
“It was wild. It made me want to come to Madison. He also introduced me motorcycling,” Walker said.
In 1977, Walker came to Madison to pursue her Ph.D. in music theory. Working as a teaching assistant, she had three years of course work and three years to write her dissertation. The theme focused and limited on three world areas: West African, Aboriginal Australian and Contemporary art music.
“It was a 600-page dissertation, and that was before data processing,” Walker reminisced.
Working solidly for months, Walker needed to finish before one of her advisors moved to Africa.
“I knew getting a doctorate was not about being the smartest but sticking it out,” Walker said.
While deep in her studies, Walker took time to enjoy riding behind on a motorcycle with a dream of one of her own. In 1980, Walker purchased her first motorcycle, a CB 90 Honda and has never stopped riding. By 2014 she acquired an 1800, 6-cylinder, 900-pound Honda Gold Wing.
After receiving her doctorate, Walker enjoyed teaching at Alverno College in Milwaukee.
“Alverno is a very innovative school,” Walker said. In Canton, New York, Walker taught Musicianship, non-Western music, applied woodwinds and Early Music Ensemble at St. Lawrence University and came to know the Akwesasne community of the Mohawk nation, taking her students there every semester. She would travel to teach music to the community’s grandchildren and in turn was taught the Mohawk language.
Because of her father’s work, Walker moved frequently while growing up, and Madison was a comfortable place. Engaged to someone she met in Madison, she returned to Wisconsin.
“Not getting married to him was the best thing I ever didn’t do,” Walker said. She continued to live and teach in the area; music in West Bend and music appreciation, non-Western music and flute at MATC. Driving to Milwaukee, she taught folk music and non-Western music at UWM.
In 1970, Walker’s parents had moved to Sioux City, Iowa, and by 2003 her father had passed away and her mother needed help. For the next 13 years, Walker stayed with her mother and taught music and flute at Morningstar College and Western Iowa Tech. Besides teaching music, Walker obtained her certificate as a motorcycle riding instructor through the community college in Sioux Falls.
“It’s really, really tough. Half failed, and grown men cried,” Walker said of the classes.
Walker prefers riding for pleasure, enjoying trips of 50 to 100 miles.
“Preparation takes too long, and I always wear protective gear,” Walker said.
She looks for the roads that twist and turn and challenge her skills on the bike. Her favorite places are the byways around Harper’s Ferry, Iowa, a community in the historic river valley, and Door County.
Usually taking a nine-day trip to Mountain View, Arkansas, with a group of like-minded motorcyclists, Walker traveled solo last year for the first time.
“You absolutely, 150 percent, have to think about driving. You have to ride knowing you’re invisible,” Walker said.
In 2012, Walker suffered from a bad motorcycle accident but never hesitated to get back on the road. For decades, Walker heard about the Motor Maids, a women’s motorcycling club established in 1940, from her motorcycle riding aunt in Waterloo, Iowa. Three years ago, Walker herself became a proud member of the Motor Maids.
Walker feels her love of the bike is sublimation for wanting but never having a horse to ride. Soon she will have both. When her mother passed away in 2015, Walker received an inheritance. She moved back to the Madison area, purchased a home in the country in the Town of Vienna and built a studio that holds her mother’s baby grand piano and digital harpsicord. She will soon be ready to stable a horse (or two). Walker intends to use her studio to continue teaching private flute and recorder lessons to any learning style student; adults or children. “Most kids think the recorder is a toy, but it’s a beautiful instrument in its own right.” And it takes less air,” Walker explained. She can be contacted at 1doctorJ@Q.com.
Having moved to the Madison area for the third time, Walker is “finally home for good.”