Irene has been a lifelong educator and a fierce advocate for learning. At 13 years old she was teaching piano lessons to pay for entering university early at the age of 16. She went on to earn her bachelor and masters degrees under full scholarship and completed her doctorate at the University of Washington. She also spent two years on scholarship studying and performing in England. Irene has dedicated her time as an adjudicator, lecturer, and judge for many competitions in Washington State, and her students have garnered national and international awards and scholarships throughout the world.
Irene was a faculty member at Olympic College for almost a decade and saw the powerful impact affordable secondary education can have on a community. She is passionate about fighting to make access to community college an affordable and reachable goal for everyone.
As well as being a lifelong educator, Irene has a long history of working with her community. Irene has owned and operated the successful Bowling Music Studios, Inc. and SeattleSoundFX for 38 years. These two businesses have given Irene the chance to work with people from all walks of life on a daily basis. Her “Music Mobile” a portable music classroom contained within a bus, has given lessons to underprivileged schools, senior centers, and other locations in need throughout the Puget Sound area.
As a former Board Member of the Bremerton Symphony, she worked with Admiral Webber and Captain Reh to utilize their collective business skills and insight in bringing the symphony back from the brink of bankruptcy. That legacy continues to enrich our community today as the Symphony reaches its 76th year of operation.
Irene has also been in a leadership role with the organizations led by Washington State small business owners and educators such as the Kitsap Music Teachers Association and the West Sound Chapter of Washington State Music Teachers Association for over 30 years. Her work with these groups helped hone her awareness of the specific needs small businesses need to thrive.
An International Rotary Scholarship recipient, Irene has spoken to numerous Rotary clubs in Washington, Canada, England, and Germany. Irene is a 2012 YWCA recipient of the Outstanding Woman of Achievement Award, a founding member and trustee of the West Sound Performing Arts Center, and a frequent concert pianist for charitable causes.
Irene and her husband, Bill Pontius, have been married for 38 years and have three children: Andrew, Michael, and Mae. The Bowling family still resides on Chico Way, 80 years after Irene’s grandparents first settled there during The Great Depression. Irene wants to use her family’s history and experience of being veterans, shipyard workers, loggers, and teachers to unite the 35th Legislative District.