Academic journal article Journal of Singing

A Conversation with Andrew Garland, Part 1

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

A Conversation with Andrew Garland, Part 1

Article excerpt

Seated in a beautiful, old white New England Unitarian Universal Church in Kingston, MA, Andrew Garland and I had the following conversation...

Leslie Holmes: I think it's interesting that you didn't really even start piano until you were nine.

Andrew Garland: That is true.

LH: And you didn't want to take lessons.

AG: That is also true. If you want to get really precise, I did take piano lessons from a woman named Ann Guba, who belonged to the church next door. You notice that, here on Main Street, we have all the churches on one street. We used to attend that church for about a year. Our curriculum was based on Timothy's Tunes. You may remember those. I guess I liked that. We were in a group of three, each taking our turn. I'm sure I got something out of that. I'm sure that was quite important-seriously-to my musical development. But, you're right. I didn't want to take lessons. I was a lot like my eight-year-old, now, who wants to do things. She wants to dance, she wants to make music, sometimes, but she does not want to take a dance class, where you are taught the steps, in a regimented manner.

LH: She thinks she can teach them to herself.

AG: Yes, basically, if one could assume to know her thought process, yes. I was the same way. I think my parents gave me the line, "Well, try it and, if you don't like it, you can quit later." Fortunately, the teacher I had, whose name was Philip Gorham, lived in North Plymouth. There must have been something about his teaching method that made me want to keep learning in this way. He didn't push sight-reading very hard, and, of course, later on I had to make up for that. But he did give me the basic theory. I learned something by ear-some jazzy little piece-and, when I would play it, he would say, "You know you played a tonic fourth and a dominant seventh." "What? No. I thought I was just doing dah-dah-dah [sings a little tune]." So, it was a combination of learning a little bit of music reading, and the theory behind it was enough to keep me engaged. Sure, there was a lot of struggle, feeling as if I would never get it and I couldn't stand to practice. I suppose everyone has to go through that.

LH: I think so. I had piano for 12 years. I think I used to just whip through my classical music and then play and sing popular songs into the night. But, I got to be pretty good, in spite of myself. I understand that a friend of yours had music notation software.

AG: Oh, yes, I remember that. It was on a Macintosh, like the original Macintosh. I spent plenty of time playing with my friends out in the woods, building tree houses, barricading the tree houses so no girls would come in ... you know. I had a normal childhood ... riding dirt bikes ... pretending we knew how to skate board... all of that good stuff. But, sometimes at night when it was dark and the kids had to come inside, I wanted to figure out how to get this program to play a song. In order to play, you had to enter notes. I guess I reverse engineered dictation. I'd write it in and it would play it. If it was wrong, I had to figure out what I hadn't written correctly. Starting from scratch, that would take me the whole evening.

LH: But that did show a basic interest in music.

AG: Yes.

LH: And, when you were a sophomore in high school, playing in jazz bands and sort of messing around at the piano, you went on an exchange trip.

AG: That's correct. That's a good description, too. I was "sort of' playing jazz and other things. That brings up another point. I just came back from the American Pianist Award in Indianapolis, and so I got to spend some good quality time with all the panel of judges, made up of world class concert pianists. I sort of had them cornered at one point, at a dinner party, and they had to listen to me tell my story of my piano development. I said, "I think it was good that, at that age, up and to my sophomore year, that I was not aware that I was not as good as I thought I was, because I was encouraged to keep going. …

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