Dr. Gary Garner

Director of Bands of West Texas A&M University 1963-2002

The WT Band Alumni are extremely pleased to honor and showcase our beloved Dr. Gary Garner. We believe his developing story speaks for itself and we all look forward to creating many more years of stories, memories and fun along side him. If we can keep up…

Gary Garner and Mariellen Griffin were married in 1951 and had 3 wonderful sons, Brad, Bryan, and Blair.

These are their tributes.

"For as long as I can remember, claims have been made about music in an attempt to justify its inclusion in the school curriculum. I have heard that it's a good tool for public relations and develops teamwork, good citizenship, good health, a good work ethic, and leadership skills, just to name a few. These may all be true, but it is possible to do those things just as well and for less money than with band. As I see it, humans have only one thing that separates us from everything else: music. Every major civilization has recognized the importance of music, and we are in the business of making it a significant part of our students' lives now and throughout their lives. I see it as a constant, immune to the passing of time and fancy."

- Dr. Gary Garner, The Instrumentalist, November 2006

GG quote 1

We are greatly indebted to Russ Teweleit for allowing us to use portions of his 2006 Doctoral Dissertation to tell the story of Dr. Garner.

Read the story of Dr Garner as told by Russell Teweleit

Gary Garner is arguably among the leading figures in the state of Texas and the band movement during the late 20th and into the early 21st Centuries. In addition to being the Director of Bands, Garner taught applied flute lessons, conducting, marching band techniques, and served as the Orchestra director during his thirty-nine year appointment as Director of Bands at West Texas A&M University.


Gary Thomas Garner was born on August 14, 1930 in Dodge City, Kansas to Benjamin Franklin and Madge Olive Garner. Garner’s father went by Frank although his brothers and sisters called him by his nickname, “Bill”, for reasons unknown. Frank Garner was a businessman. Early in his career Frank Garner worked for banks and then later moved into sales. Garner’s mother’s maiden name was Madge Irma Easley. She did not care for her given middle name of Irma and changed it, although not legally, to Olive. When Garner was eight years old his family moved to Amarillo, Texas. His father worked for the First National Bank and then later became a roofing salesman and a siding salesman. Garner’s mother was a homemaker until World War II when there was a shortage of men to do the work. She worked at the Amarillo Helium Plant before working in the payroll department at the Amarillo Air Force Base. Neither of his parents had extensive training in music, but Garner states:

"My dad played some piano, and I think he was actually very musical. I’m not even sure whether he took piano lessons or not. I think he might have taken some when he was a young man, but he loved nothing more than to sit down at the piano—and we never owned one—and play Pretty Red Wing or Listen To The Mockingbird. My mother used to sing. I think she might have been rather musical too. She sang around the house all the time, but that was about the extent of it."

Garner describes his becoming a musician as entirely accidental. His first formal musical training occurred in the fifth grade as a student at Margaret Wills Elementary in Amarillo. It was then that he took six weeks of trombone lessons. He states:

"There was a fella from Myers Music Mart that came to talk to our music class offering the use of a trombone and six free trombone lessons to anybody that wanted to do that. Then after the lessons were over, you had to start paying for the lessons and for the instruments. And so, I and... three or four other boys in the class volunteered to do that. All I remember about that experience, really, is that the first thing he taught us was the C scale [laugh]. We started in sixth position. I don’t know how I ever reached sixth position—actually I doubt that I ever did. Then I remember that after the six weeks ended telling my dad, “Well it’s time to buy the trombone now.” He said, “Now, are you sure this is really what you want to do?”, and I said, “Well no, I’m not sure.” And he said, “Well unless you’re sure, I don’t think we ought to invest in it,” which suited me fine—so that was the end of that."

As a seventh grader at Sam Houston Junior High, he had no intention to sign up for band. He recalls:

"It didn’t even occur to me to do it."

Garner did change his mind and joined the band at Sam Houston Junior High, however, becoming a musician and learning about music was likely not even a consideration in this decision. On becoming involved in music, he states:

“It had nothing to do with an aching desire on my part to become a musician."

Garner remembers:

“My two best friends were Dick Brooks and Benny Bruckner—both of whom still live in Amarillo—were in band; however, I guess they must have had about thirty beginners because all of the beginning band students were scheduled in the same classes all day long. And Dick and Benny said, “Hey, you need to sign up for band so we can be in the same classes” and I said, “OK.” So I went to see the band director. Charles Eads was his name, and I said, “Do you have something I could play and could I get in the band?” He said, “Well the only instrument we have left is a baritone saxophone.” So I said, “OK.”

Mr. Eads was actually a choir director. Garner explains that this was during World War II, a time when it was hard to find male teachers and most band directors were male teachers. Although he first began playing the baritone saxophone, he quickly switched to a much more portable instrument, the flute. He tells:

“I would take it [baritone saxophone] home to practice. It was just rather difficult because I always rode my bike to school. And, I don’t know, we probably lived a mile and a half or so from school. But with that big old bari-sax and especially a little kid, which I was [laughing]…it was very difficult and I would have multiple wrecks nearly every day.”

He soon gave up on taking the instrument home to practice and was not making much progress. Garner remembers:

Garner young 1

“This is kind of amazing when I reflect on it, but it did happen. He [Mr. Eads] said, “Unless you start practicing, I’m going to take the instrument back and you can’t be in band anymore.” Well I was fairly committed to the idea of being in band, at that point, but I could see that the baritone sax was a non-starter for me.

So I went home and told my Dad that I needed to play something else and portability was the number one priority on my list. He said, “Ok, what do you want to play?” And I said, “I’m not sure. Let me look around tomorrow, and I’ll let you know after school.” You know, I’ll get back to you on that. So I looked around and of course the smallest thing I saw was the flute. I went home and said, “I want to play the flute.”

So he took me down to Tolzein Music Company, which was then down on Polk Street next to the old Paramount Theater, and we bought a Conn flute. I can remember being very excited about it. But I also remember going to bed that night and my mother came in and said good night and I was kind of crying I think. And she said, “What’s wrong?” And I said, “Mama”—that flute looked so overwhelming and complicated to me with all those keys. I said, “I’ll never learn where to put my fingers.”

Garner liked playing the flute instantly and experienced immediate success. He also signed up for flute lessons with Hall Axtell. However, he would only take lessons for about two years. He explains:

“Much of what I learned was wrong, but I suppose all things considered, it was still a helpful experience”

Mr. Eads was Garner’s director for his first year of band only. Clyde Rowe was Garner’s director beginning in the eighth grade and continuing through high school. Garner describes him:

“Clyde Rowe became the band director at Sam Houston and at Amarillo High School. So I had Mr. Rowe for five years—eighth and ninth grade at Sam Houston and all three years of high school. He was like a second father to me. I just thought the world of him. He, like others of his generation, was not trained to be a band director. You know at that time you didn’t go to school and study music education. The band directors, at that time, were people that had had some kind of musical experience whether they played an instrument in college, maybe played an instrument in the military and were certified to teach math, science, English, whatever. Mr. Rowe was really certified to teach math and of course in the early, very early days, I think this was perhaps earlier than his time, band was not a part—any kind of instrumental music—was not a part of the school day. They’d meet in the boiler room you know before and after school with anybody who could play an instrument. But anyway, band directors were not trained to be band directors and Mr. Rowe had played clarinet in the Hardin Simmons Cowboy Band and that was sort of his entrée into the band directing business. So, you know by today’s standards, his skills as a band director were limited. But…I have the greatest admiration to all of the people that were teaching band at that time—instrumental music of any kind—because they were by and large just making it up as they went along. So, as I said, by today’s standards he probably would not have been much of a band director, but judged by the standards at the time, he did just fine. More than that, he was a wonderful person and I revere his memory.”

As a flutist, Garner progressed quickly and played in the Amarillo Symphony throughout high school. He states:

“I guess maybe all three years of high school I was first flute in the Amarillo Symphony, although it wasn’t nearly the orchestra then that it is now.”

As a high school student, he also learned to play the clarinet and saxophone and promptly began playing in local dance bands. He remembers:

“Yeah, at that point now, as I said, somehow flute seemed to come rather naturally to me. I was doing well with it and attracted a certain amount of notoriety I guess as a flute player. But my friend Paul Mathis—a year ahead of me in school—Paul had a kid dance band as they were known in those days, and I remember them playing an assembly program at Sam Houston and they played Stormy Weather. I just salivated at the thought of being in that band. I wanted so desperately to be able to do that but of course it didn’t have any flutes.”

Garner young 2

In or about his sophomore year in high school he convinced his dad to buy him a saxophone. Garner recalls his father bought him a Buescher Aristocrat alto saxophone with a Brillhart 3-star mouthpiece. Gordon Creamer, a friend of his father and a good saxophone player who played in bands around town, gave him some lessons. Garner states:

“Paul let me come over and sit in with his band at his house on 120 Wayside Street”

He further comments:

“Oh I, I thought that was just a glorious experience. I remember he [Paul Mathis] called me aside after it was over and he said, as tactfully as he could, “Uh…Gary…you don’t have to tongue everything.” Because I think I was going [singing Chattanooga Choo Choo] “ta, ta taah, tuh ta ta ta ta tum” [laugh].

The day he got his saxophone he recalls that he figured out the fingerings pretty much immediately.

“I thought wow this is so great and I played that saxophone probably on a Saturday—all day long. I didn’t know how to form a proper embouchure. I used a double embouchure—you know with the top lip over the teeth, probably biting way too hard, and I cut ridges both in the upper and lower lip—but I was just having a wonderful time. So after probably eight or more hours of practicing and honking on the saxophone that day I thought, well, before I go to bed I’m going to get out my trusty old flute and play a little bit on that. So I got out the flute and my lips were so swollen, I couldn’t get a sound. Not a sound. And that was incredibly upsetting to me and I remember crying and telling my dad, “Take it back, take it back, I don’t want to play it…I’m not going to be a saxophone player.” And he said, “Now well, just take it easy. Let’s wait and see how it is tomorrow.” Well by the next morning, the swelling had gone down and I could play the flute again.”

Garner kept the saxophone and did get a job playing in a little dance band. Many of the saxophone parts had clarinet parts too—so he bought himself a clarinet next. He went down to the Amarillo Band House and bought an old metal clarinet for around thirty dollars. He describes the clarinet as having a very definite bow in it— as if someone had sat on it.
He states:

“I must have had a fingering chart or something, but I remember being very confused by that register key because what was F in one register was C in the next.”

However, he soon overcame the confusion and tells:

“I got enough better that I started getting some jobs with some serious bands. But I was still…pretty serious about the flute at the time, practicing a lot and became increasingly absorbed with music.”

Following high school graduation, Garner, determined to avoid majoring in music because he feared that it would inevitably result in a career in teaching, enrolled at Texas Tech University as a geology major. The route in which he came to this decision is quite interesting. Originally, he had planned to attend North Texas. Several of his friends that had graduated before him in school were already enrolled there. Garner had already gone to visit the school, auditioned for the flute teacher George Morey, and visited with Claude Lakey who was the leader of the jazz band at the time. However the summer before he went to North Texas, a conversation with fellow band member Roy Boger caused him to change his plans. That summer Garner had a job with a band out at the Club Victoria. He describes the conversation as follows:

“Roy was probably twenty-five or so at that time. Great guy. He was a really good trumpet player and terrific guy, and we became fast friends—and he was somebody I looked up to greatly. And so, this is the summer after I graduated from high school. At intermission one night Roy said, “Well hey—what are you gonna do next year? You’re out of high school now.” I said, “I’m going to North Texas and major in music.” And his brow furrowed. He said “Aw,” and shook his head. He said, “You don’t wanna do that.” I said, “I don’t?” “No,” he said. “You know I went to SMU as a music major. I didn’t like it. I and all my friends got out of music. I got into marketing. It's the best thing I ever did.” He said, “You, you need to major in something else.” It seems incredible that I could be this naïve, or anybody could be this naïve, but I was. I said, “Well gee Roy, what do you think I ought to do?” He thought about it a minute and said, “Geology. There’s a big need for geologists right now. You ought to major in geology.” And, amazingly, I said, “OK.” I was too embarrassed to admit to him I wasn’t quite sure what geology was.” I went down to the Potter County Library the next day—down on Taylor Street—and looked up geology in an encyclopedia.”

Texas Tech University and the Air Force

The decision to become a geology major eliminated the need to go to North Texas. He recalls:

“There was a guy named C.A. Rogers who used to have a band in Amarillo out at the Nat (historic Natatorium Night Club) and I played with C.A. He had moved to Lubbock and had a band at the Cotton Club there. He called me three or four times, trying to talk me into coming to Lubbock and play in his band. Well now that I was going to be a geology major—I learned that they had a geology department at Tech—I had a ready-made job waiting for me there. Several of my friends were going to Tech. So I thought, heck, I’ll just go to Texas Tech, be a geology major, and play out at the…Cotton Club. So I did. And you know as stupid as that decision was, it was made even more stupid by the fact that I never was good at—and hated—math and science…and here I’m a geology major?!!”

Garner attests that he went to very few classes his freshman year. He states:

“I very quickly quit going to Chemistry, and Algebra, and German. [laughs] I had to take German.”

Geology quickly proved to be a poor choice and Garner eventually “became a music major by default.”

Following his first semester as a geology major, he states:

“I hated all of those [classes]. I was having a grand time playing my horn, though. So at the end of that first semester, I got my grades. I made an A in band! I even passed geology; I made a D in geology. I made a C in English and I failed Chemistry, Algebra, and German. So I had three F’s, a C, a D, and an A in band. And I got a letter from the dean saying, “I was not welcome to return to school that following semester”—which meant I would have to go home.”

However, a couple of his friends who were also playing in the C. A. Roger’s Band—Paul Lovett and Ted Crager—went to the dean and pleaded with him to allow Garner to stay in school. Garner describes the meeting:

“And the dean said, “Look, this kid failed nine hours.” I guess I really failed ten, because geology would have been a four…four-hour course. …“I can’t let him back in school.” But they…continued to implore him to let me come back to school and finally he relented and he said, “OK, I’ll let him come back on two conditions. First of all, he has to change majors.” [laughs] That was no problem. The last thing I wanted to be was a geology major. “And second, you guys have to promise you’ll get him out of bed and get him to school every morning.”

Garner’s failure to go to class had really caused him to dig quite a hole for himself. He explains that if you cut class enough you would be assessed negative hours. He had cut class over ninety times and amassed three or four negative hours in that first semester. He states:

“You talk about going backwards in a college career. I was way ahead when I set foot on the campus beyond what I was at the end of that first semester.”

And tells:

"That’s when I became a music major by default. Now I had never, ever, ever, intended to be a teacher. I didn’t want that at all. That was at the very bottom of my list of possible careers, and the prospect of being a music major at Texas Tech was distinctly unappealing to me because that’s…all they had in fact they didn’t call them music ed majors, they were band majors. And a degree in music at Texas Tech automatically pointed me in that direction…which as I said was quite unappealing."

Nevertheless, Garner did become a music major. Following his change in majors Garner states:

“Those guys actually did come and get me out of bed and I didn’t fail anything else.”

Dr. Garner’s band director at Texas Tech University was D. O. Wiley, or Prof Wiley as the students referred to him. Prof Wiley had also taught Dr. Garner’s junior high and high school director, Mr. Rowe, in the Cowboy Band at Hardin Simmons.

While playing in the Texas Tech band, Garner met Mariellen Griffin, who would become his wife of forty-three years. Mariellen was a piano major but also played flute in the band. Garner continued his studies at Tech until midway through his third year of college when he joined the Air Force. At the time, he and Mariellen were anxious to get married. However, due to the Korean War he was certain that he was about to be drafted. If drafted, Garner felt there was no way to know where he would be stationed. He learned of an opening for a flute player in the Reese Air Force Band in Lubbock. He recalls:

“I went out there and played for the bandleader Mr. Luce. He gave me a letter, assuring me of being assigned to the band at Reese Air Force Base after I completed basic training.”

Joining the Air Force would ensure that he would stay in Lubbock and he and Mariellen could continue with their marriage plans. So, in January of 1951, he joined the Air Force, went to basic training, and returned to Lubbock. He and Mariellen were married the following July. He states:

“Well, the Air Force was not a really pleasant experience. I was in the band, of course. Mr. Luce, the guy that gave me the letter, had been transferred by the time I got there and then they got another bandleader that was roundly disliked by everybody in the band. Disliked is much too kind a word actually and I was among those. I mean there were no exceptions.”

Being stationed in Lubbock allowed Garner to make a good amount of money playing in dance bands with his old buddies. He states:

“But that was illegal at that time. The GIs were not supposed to play in civilian bands. So, that was all on the sly, and I was keeping a very well-guarded secret that I could play the saxophone.”

Dr Garner 23

However his activities were eventually brought to the attention of the warrant officer. He tells:

“And my reward was getting put in charge of the dance band.”

He was also made the assistant leader of the band itself. At the time he was not at all happy with making less money and having increased duties. In retrospect, he came to realize—much later—that this provided him with valuable experience as he was doing a lot of arranging, rehearsing the dance band, rehearsing the concert band, and section rehearsals. He states:

“I also did a lot of practicing. Practicing was required, and of course, I loved doing that.”

Though, at the time, he still did not think he was going to become a band director.


Hutchinson Junior High

After serving his three years in the Air Force, Garner went back to school at Texas Tech, this time married and more mature. However, he admits that he returned:

“Still not thinking I was going to be a band director —I don’t know what in the world I thought I would be—but I was certainly headed in that direction.”

He soon found himself student teaching with his friend Ted Crager who was now teaching at Hutchinson Junior High School. Garner states:

“And I discovered to my utter astonishment, that this is something I really did like doing, and that’s the first time that I decided that I was going to be a band director.”

Dr Garner 9

At the end of that year, Ted Crager was hired to be the band director at the new high school in town, Monterey High School. Crager pushed to have Garner hired as the director at Hutchinson, but the principal refused because Garner had not yet finished his degree. Instead, O.T. Ryan, who was teaching at a junior high in Plainview at the time, was hired. However, Garner tells that many in Plainview were very unhappy about the prospect of losing O.T. Ryan. He had done a wonderful job there and they “upped the ante quite a bit” to keep him in town. Then, very late in the summer, O.T. Ryan called Lubbock and backed out. This left Hutchinson without a band director not too long before school started.
Garner recalls:

“So, I remember I was in my garage one day, doing something or other, and Mr. Gordon—Jay Gordon, the principal at Hutchinson Junior High School—suddenly appeared in the doorway, and said, “Are you still interested in that band job at Hutchinson.” I said, “Oh yeah.” He said, “Well, we’d like to hire ya half-time, and then you can go to school the other half-day. Teach at Hutchinson a half day, and the other half day continue to work on completing your bachelor’s degree.” So, that’s what I did. It was a great stroke of good fortune, for me.”

As a half-time band director and half-time student Garner took his studies much more seriously and did very well from that point forward. The half-time position was in reality a full time job. Garner states:

“So, it was a busy year, but I loved it.”

He finished his degree in the summer of 1955 and then returned full time the next year to Hutchinson with the only addition to his schedule being study hall.

His teaching duties included two periods at Monterey High School, the bands at Hutchinson Junior High, and one or two study halls. He assisted Ted Crager with the Monterey Band during the first hour, and then he taught the Cadet Band at Monterey during the second hour.

He describes the Cadet Band as a “miserable little band. There probably weren’t fifteen people in there.”

At Hutchinson there were three bands, the A band, which was the performing group, the B band, which was the second band, and the C band, which was the beginning band. He states:

“And beginning band was just that. You had everybody in there. I had alto clarinets, and you know oboes and bassoons, and everything. You just taught them all at once. That’s just the way it was done.”

Garner would remain the director at Hutchinson Junior High for a total of four years. He states:

“It was great fun. I look back on those years with great fondness”

Monterey High School

Garner spent four years as the director at Hutchinson Junior High, and the following year he was hired as the band director at Monterey High School in Lubbock—a position he would hold only for one year. Ted Crager had left to accept the job at West Texas State College (now WTAMU) in Canyon, Texas. Garner admits, “It might have been the most enjoyable year of my whole teaching career. It was wonderful. The kids were great! I’d had most of them in Junior High.” He adds:

“They played very well and I had the world’s best principal and the physical set up at Monterey was, at that time, state of the art—wonderful band room, practice rooms. It was heaven on earth and I only was responsible for three hours a day. I couldn’t believe that. I had the top band, then the cadet band, and one study hall. That was my teaching load. It was just glorious. It was just glorious!”

“I incorporated all that stuff into what we were doing with the marching band, which at that time—owing to Casavant—certainly not to me. If I could claim any credit for it, it was just by being lucky enough to see Casavant and to at least be half smart enough to know, boy this was the wave of the future. But anyway, it created something of a sensation.”

monterey high school lubbock tx

G.T. Gilligan, the band director at Kermit High School, asked Garner for a film of his marching band and he sent him one. He explains that Gilligan had been borrowing and sending marching films around. Apparently, Gilligan had been in contact with John Green who was the marching band director at USC and Gilligan had apparently sent his film there. Garner states:

“Well, John [Green] left that spring to go be the director of bands at Long Beach State, and Bill Schaefer who was the director of bands at USC had seen that Monterey Film and on the strength of that, he called me.”

Interestingly, John Green would eventually serve as Garner’s department head at West Texas State University (now WTAMU). Garner describes the phone call as a “bolt out of the blue.” He states:

“It was a huge shock to me. He [Schaefer] said, “Well let us fly you out here, and talk about this marching band job.” And, you know I was very flattered and excited about it, but also, not at all eager to leave Monterey. But anyway, I did. I flew out there, and talked to them and they offered me the job. And I came home, still a little bit undecided. It just seemed like such an amazing opportunity, and my wife was really anxious to do it. So, with a heavy heart, I resigned at Monterey and went to USC.”

The University of Southern California

Garner spent the next four years at the University of Southern California teaching and pursuing his masters and doctorate degrees. He states:

“The four years were good in some ways—great in some ways—and then really bad in others. I loved the kids in the band.”

At this point he had begun a masters at Texas Tech and had accumulated approximately 17 hours.

At Texas Tech most of his graduate hours were non-music classes, but he did have some music classes. He took clarinet lessons and conducting with Keith McCarty who he describes as a conscientious teacher and very competent musician. Garner states, “Conducting was not really his particular field of expertise, but I can’t say that the class was without value.”

Other courses that Garner enrolled in while at USC include Analytical Techniques, Community Orchestra, Concert Music, and Band Arranging. Analytical Techniques was essentially form and analysis. There were not enough enrolled in the class for the class to make, so he studied privately with Ellis Kohs. He found this to be a very useful class. The Concert Music course involved attending concerts in the Los Angeles area. He recalls:

“I remember hearing one of them was West Side Story, which had just come to L.A. And also, two concerts at Hollywood Bowl with the L.A. Phil, one of which was conducted by Herbert von Karajan and another by Andre’ Cluytens, the great French conductor.”

dr garner at usc IMG_1578

Garner studied Band Arranging with Bill Schaeffer, the director of bands. During this semester, Garner arranged a movement of the Prokofiev Fifth Symphony.

Among the most valuable of Garner’s experiences at USC were the applied lessons in which he enrolled. While there he took a couple of semesters of bassoon with Ray Nowlin, three semesters of oboe with Bill Criss who had spent ten years as principal oboe with the New York Met and was working as a studio musician in Los Angeles, and one semester of flute with Roger Stevens.

Doctoral students were required to have four fields of study: a principal field, which in Garner’s case was Music Education; music history, which was required for all candidates; for his third field, Garner chose band arranging; and a craft field. The craft field was essentially an elective and Garner chose to do woodwind performance. He states that he studied the woodwind instruments for his own edification and it just turned out that it also fulfilled the need for a fourth field.

As a faculty member at USC, according to policy, Garner was only permitted to enroll in one course each long semester. In the summers he would take as many courses as possible. Fortunately, possibly because he was a faculty member, all of his hours from Texas Tech transferred. He finished his Master’s in 1962 and immediately proceeded with work on his doctorate in the spring semester of 1963.

His job with the marching band was quite challenging and the teaching situation was in many ways less than ideal. It was an all-male band, as women were not allowed in the band at that time. He explains that the band performed a different pre-game and half-time show at each game. The rehearsals took place on Thursday and Friday afternoons from 3:30 to 5:00 at Cromwell Field. It seems unthinkable, but the marching band also had to share the field with the freshman football team during each rehearsal. To make matters worse, about a third of the band would have labs on Thursday and another third on Friday. He states, “So there I was trying to do two brand new shows with two-thirds of the band at a time, with three hours of rehearsal.” Adding, “The only time we’d have the full band and the use of an entire field would be at the performance.” He continues, “You can just guess what an impossible challenge that is. So that was enormously frustrating. And, oh my gosh, I dreamed about Texas that whole time and about Monterey High School.” In addition to the marching band, Garner had a very small concert band. It was made up of the students that either could not make the top group or were not interested in it. He states:

“So, we had a dozen or so kids in there, but I really didn’t want to… make my career as a marching band director.”

Then, after about a year at USC, Mr. Honey, the principal back at Monterey High School in Lubbock, called to inform him that they wanted Garner to come back. Fred Stockdale who had followed Garner stayed a year and then left to teach in Pampa, Texas. Garner describes:

“I never wanted to say yes to anything so much in my life, but I thought it would just be too embarrassing. Because I’d gone out with such fanfare, you know. Made the big time and I felt as if I’d be sort of be coming home with my tail between my legs. So, I did say no, but it turned out to be a good thing.”

West Texas State University

After four years at the University of Southern California, Garner joined the faculty of West Texas A&M University (then West Texas State University) as Director of Bands in 1963. Garner would spend the remainder of his 48-year career at WTAMU. His time as the WTAMU Director of Bands would span thirty-nine years from 1963 until his retirement in 2002. Just as Garner followed his friend and mentor Ted Crager in the only two jobs (Hutchinson Junior High and Monterey High School) he had held before USC, he would once again follow him at WTSU. Ted Crager was the department head and band director at WTSU and he had told Garner right from the very beginning that he wanted to give up the band to be full time department head and hire Garner as the band director. At first, Garner had very little interest in the job. He states:

“I just sort of thought of WT as just a little cowboy school down there in Canyon. But, after some considerable frustrations with the SC thing, WT became increasingly more attractive to me. So, I did take the job after four years at SC.”

Dr Garner 45

However, Ted Crager actually left WT before Garner began his first year. Matilda Gaume, who was the music history professor, was made acting department head until a new department head could be hired. He recalls:

“I was so concerned about that. I had the temerity to call Dr. Cornette the then president and give him three names of people I thought would be a good department head.”

Garner thought it even more amazing that Dr. Cornette actually contacted the candidates that Garner had listed. He recommended Justin Gray, who was the band director then at the University of Wyoming. Gray had been at USC working on a degree and also had a lot of administrative experience. Garner says of Gray:

“A good guy and I thought he’d be a terrific department head.”

The second name that Garner gave was that of Brandon Mehrle. He was the Assistant Dean of the School of Music at USC. Garner states that:

“He was a great guy, (he) would’ve been a wonderful department head.”

The third person that Garner listed was John Green. Green was the department head and band director at Long Beach State. Dr. Cornette contacted all three individuals. Ultimately Gray and Merla were not interested; however, John Green was. He accepted the position and began the job in January of 1964. Incidentally, Green would eventually become the Dean of Fine Arts at WT.

At this point, Garner had finished everything on his doctorate except one summer of coursework, qualifying exams, a language exam, and his dissertation. The following summer (1964) he took his family to California with him. They stayed in married housing and he completed his remaining coursework. Of that summer he states:

“Gosh, that was a miserable summer. I mean it was just such hard work. One of the courses I took was a course in…early music notation, which I had no interest in and no need for really but I needed an elective and that was what was offered.”

Early music notation was taught by Dr. Carl Parrish, the same professor that Dr. Garner had earlier for a semester of Renaissance Music. He describes, “This notation course was just an absolute killer. I was studying that 8 and 10 hours a day. I think I still made a B.”

The following summer (1965) Garner went to USC by himself in order to prepare for and take the qualifying exams.

He describes the qualifying exams as a huge hurdle and states:

“I took a room at a fraternity house and studied literally day and night. I took the qualifying exams, passed those. Boy once you get past that, you’ve got it made.”

Next, Garner had to focus his attention on the language exam. The choices were French or German and he had never studied a foreign language of any sort. That is, unless you count the semester of German that he failed during his freshman year at Texas Tech. He states:

“All I knew was Bleistift—pencil. That wasn’t enough to get me by however at SC. So, I was told that if you didn’t know anything of either one that probably French was the easier route to go.”

The exam only required a reading knowledge of the language and not an ability to speak it. Garner selected French. He then went to the head of the French department to ask if he could possibly take the French exam at home, in Canyon.
He recalls this as one of the luckiest things that happened to him and states:

“I don’t think ordinarily they would ever allow you to do that, but he was leaving. He was very angry about something. He said, “Yeah, go ahead that’s fine.” [laughs] He didn’t care. So, the arrangement was, I was going to go home and study French.”

It was then arranged for Ples Harper, who was the head of the language department at WTSU, to administer the exam. With the arrangement to take the exam in Canyon approved Garner next needed to select a book for approval. He chose Schoenberg and His School: The Contemporary Stage of the Language of Music by René Leibowitz (1949). He states, “The reason I chose it was because there was an English translation of it [Translated from the French by Dika Newlin].” The exam consisted of being given a starting point to be selected on the day of the exam and translating for three hours.

In preparation for the French exam Garner took a few French lessons from one of the French professors at WTSU and he states:

“That next year, I just flew by the seat of my pants on the job. That’s all I did, was study French and I’d just go into rehearsals and wing it. I shouldn’t have been paid a cent for that year, but it was either that or just not see this thing through. I couldn’t do both.”

Garner studied constantly and practically memorized the book, and by the time he got to the point of taking the test, he sat down and wrote furiously for three hours. He had prepared so vigorously that the exam was not a problem. He states:

“I passed that with flying colors and, of course, proceeded to forget about everything I learned, but that wasn’t the point. The point was just jumping through that particular hoop, you know, one more hurdle to be overcome on the way to the completion of the degree.”

With the language exam out of the way, the only thing that remained was a dissertation. The dissertation topic involved trying to achieve an historical balance in band performance. He tells:

“At that time, there were no transcriptions, nothing from the 16th or 17th century. There’s a lot now. So, I found a ton of music—instrumental music—that I arranged for band and that was the thesis.”

Following the completion of his dissertation he went one more time to USC to defend his dissertation in the spring of 1967. He describes this as a huge burden lifted off his shoulders. Of the doctoral process, Garner states:

“More than anything else, I think it’s just an exercise in tenacity.”

Garner’s duties in his earlier years at WTSU amounted to an enormous teaching load and included:

“Everything except sweepin’ up—and I think I did that too.”

In his first year he taught the marching band, band, stage band, music appreciation, methods, flute, oboe, saxophone, and bassoon. He explains:

“It was concert band that I was interested in so, that was a welcome change and there were a few really terrific players in the band”

There were 96 in the band his first year, 120 the next, and the peak occurred sometime in the early eighties with over 240 in the band. He explains:

“The teaching load was just oppressive, but I didn’t mind it. I just loved it so much.”

He recalls that three of the superstars in the band during his first year at WTSU were Darrell Garrison, Lynn McLarty, and Gerald Grant. Darrell Garrison was a freshman horn major, from Guymon, Oklahoma, Lynn McLarty was a clarinet player from Seymour, Texas, and Gerald Grant was from Petersburg, Texas. Grant later became lead trumpet at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas for several years.

In addition to the few superstars he describes that the rest of the band consisted of, “a bunch of very decent players, and then a bunch of them that, you know, could hardly get the case open. So the spread of talent in that band was huge.”

By Garner’s third year, the band had grown enough to split to a Symphonic and a Concert Band. He recalls:

“There was a huge jump in the quality of the band then. Because…we had a select group, and the people down toward the bottom of the sections were far better than they had been before. And everybody’s needs were better met, including people in concert band. So, that was a big jump forward the day that we were able to do that.”

He states that WTSU was adding new faculty regularly along those years. He remembers:

“When I came, there were three wind faculty. Rowie Durden, Gerald Hemphill—the trumpet teacher, and Gerald was teaching all the brass and Rowie Durden. Rowie taught clarinet and percussion and I taught all the rest of the woodwinds. So there were three on the wind faculty then.”

Recruiting in those early years was certainly difficult. The majority of the students were from the panhandle or from small schools. There were, “no students to speak of from any of the big schools with red hot band programs.” He recalls:

“I couldn’t attract any blue chip players. You’d say West Texas to somebody in the All-State Band…you know if they were from a big school and they’d practically laugh in your face. So, I decided —and I think Rowie and Gerald felt that way too—that, if we were going to do anything significant, we just needed to get kids there and, then teach them how to play and, I think really that’s pretty much what we did.”

By Garner’s third year they were able to add a bassoon position and a low brass position. He states:

“That was a huge step forward. The low brass position was also to be an assistant band director.”


Don Baird applied for both positions and sent in tapes on bassoon and euphonium. Garner states that both tapes were very good, but obviously Don Baird could not fill both jobs. They had also received a superb bassoon tape from Don Munsell. Munsell was selected for the bassoon position and Don Baird, who had been the director of bands at Phillips University, took the position as low brass teacher and assistant band director. This gave Garner some help with the marching band and a person to conduct the concert band. That same year, 1965-1966, Gerald Hemphill left and Dave Ritter was hired as the trumpet teacher. After Dave Ritter had served on the faculty a couple of years, he expressed an interest in directing the jazz band.

Garner was more than happy to have him do that, and recalls:

“So, then I had somebody helping with marching band, doing concert band, somebody else doing the jazz band. That lightened up the load somewhat, it was still pretty heavy but it was decidedly better.”

The bands had also improved. He states that the 1966-67 band was the first “somewhat noteworthy” band he had. He took this band to Colorado Springs to perform at a southwestern division meeting of MENC. However, it was the 1967-68 band that he describes as the first “powerhouse” band and it was this band that provided Garner with some of his most memorable experiences as a director. The following year the band performed for the first time at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention. He states:

“The band, it created a small sensation, I think, at TMEA.”


“One of the things we really had going for us was the element of surprise. ‘Cause most of the band directors in the state, didn’t know there was a West Texas State, much less that there was a band there, much less that it was half-way decent. And, I think they were just astonished by it.”

J.R. McEntyre was the band division chairman and up until that time it would be very rare for a college band to play at TMEA.

The WT Band was one of the first universities selected to perform at TMEA.

There were three concerts with one band performing at noon each day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. He states:

“Well, J.R. and I are old friends so we got invited. And more than that, we got the choice spot which was Friday at the band director’s band division luncheon. They dropped that years ago, but that was the time of the band director’s luncheon. It was in Austin that year and the University of Texas had played on… Thursday. We played on Friday and then Sam Houston State, with Ralph Mills, which was a very fine band at that time, played on Saturday. And, I think if I could re-live one moment of my life, this would be the moment. ‘Cause after we finished playing, it seemed like the applause went on forever. Which was, [laughing] you know, wonderful. Finally, it started to die down and George Riddell, stood up on one of the tables—understand this was at a luncheon in a big hall there—and George stood up on a table and he announced the score at the top of his voice. People heard him yelling and it then got very quiet around there. He announced the score. He said, “West Texas State University!… 100!, University of Texas!… Zero! And the applause started up all over again. That’s the moment [laughs]… that I’d love to re-live.”


“So, that was a great, great, great time, and a really good band. And of all those ten TMEA performances, I think it’s because it was the first performance. That, for me, was really a high point.”

He states that the band, “didn’t know anymore than I did whether people would laugh and jeer or throw things at you. We just didn’t know. We sure worked hard and they delivered. It’s a great moment.”

Following that performance, recruiting became infinitely easier. During his tenure, the WTAMU band performed twice at College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA), twice at Carnegie Hall, and was invited to perform at the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) annual convention a total of 10 times—more than any other university band in Texas. Garner cites the 1968 TMEA performance of the WTSU band as being his most memorable.

“People didn’t know we had a band here,” Garner said. “And as a band we didn’t know what to expect, but it was a smashing success. We felt as if we’d hit a home run”

Over the years the wind and percussion faculty at WTSU would grow from three to eleven. However, it always seems that whenever Garner’s load would be lightened by the addition of another faculty member, he would add something else that he previously did not have the time to do. For instance, in 1978 when Sally Turk was hired as the flute teacher, Garner promptly began conducting the orchestra. He recalls:

“At that time, I had twenty-five flute majors, plus doing a band and teaching a bunch of classes. And you know, with the marching band in those days, we were pretty much doing a different show every week. I was writing all the drill, writing most of the music…and…we’d probably do four, at least four shows a year, maybe five…. It was just overwhelming…. I really didn’t want to give up the flute. I loved the flute teaching, but I just was overwhelmed. I remember going to Harry Haines and telling him, “Hey, we need to hire a flute teacher.” So, he went and made his pitch, but they wouldn’t do it or couldn’t do it then, but the following year, they did. And then suddenly, I had a lot of time. And that also coincided with…an opening for an orchestra director, and I’d always kind of lusted after that. So...that’s when I became the orchestra director. I think we had [seven] string players that year. [laughs] That’s always been a hard job. I remember telling the orchestra kids, the string players, “We are going to go to TMEA before you graduate”, and I believed it. I thought I could do with them, what we’d done with the band, you know. It’s just, not the same. I think…25 or 6 string players…is the most I ever had.”

Of his first year as orchestra director, he recalls:

“We had three violins, two violas, a cello, and a bass. We had seven. We had seven string players. I still remember who every one of them was too.”

As director of the WTSU Orchestra, Garner worked hard to become more knowledgeable of string instruments. He states:

“And so, I took four years of private violin lessons in order to try to shore that up a little bit.”

Garner would serve as the orchestra director from the fall 1978 until his retirement. Upon adding the job to his schedule, Garner was faced with the challenge of recruiting string majors for an orchestra that, at that point, consisted of seven strings. In order to better recruit string players, he applied for and received a grant from the Don & Sybil Harrington Foundation in the amount of $500,000. This grant established the Harrington String Quartet. The idea behind this endowed quartet was that the members serve as part-time instructors at WTSU and also perform as the principal chairs in the Amarillo Symphony. The establishment was an invaluable achievement that continues to benefit the department today some twenty-four years later.

Dr Garner 20


Throughout his career, Garner wrote numerous arrangements for band and marching band. However, he never attempted to have any of them published. Nearly all of his arrangements were utilitarian in purpose and written for a specific event, tour or concert. He tells:

“You know it’s not that I have a great interest in doing arrangements. I really don’t. I wouldn’t say I have no interest in it, but they’ve all been done for specific reasons”

He recalls:

“I heard Joy McCattern play the Gordon Jacob Oboe Concerto, this would have been back in the seventies probably, on seminar one day. I thought that was so great we’ve got to do that on tour.”

He then wrote a band arrangement of the third movement for Joy to play on tour. He explains that another time:

“Russ Blanchard came to me one time and said, “You featured other sections of the band on tour, but you’ve never featured the tuba section.” I said, “Well Russ, what would it be on?”, and he said, “On the first movement of the Gregson Tuba Concerto.” And I said, “Well is there a band arrangement?” He said, “No, but you could do one.” So, I did one and we wound up playing it at TMEA.”

As part of the agreement with the publisher Garner did have to send the Gregson arrangement to the publisher in England. He explains:

“That was part of the deal. OK, you can do this but send us a score and a recording. So, I did that and he wrote back and said Gregson thought the arrangement was OK and we’d like for you to do the other two movements of it and we’ll publish it. I never did do it. That’s as close as I ever got to publishing anything. I’ve just never…pursued that.”

In regards to written publications, Garner does have a few. Two of these were articles written for the Southwestern Musician, a publication of the Texas Music Educators Association. The first was on the flute and was written while he was teaching in Lubbock. The other was in 1987 when he was selected Bandmaster of the Year by the Texas Bandmasters Association. Following his acceptance speech, Bill Cormack the executive director of TMEA, contacted Garner and asked if the speech was written down because he had had a few comments on it and thought he would like to publish it in the Southwestern Musician. He remembers:

“Well, I didn’t have it written down, I mean, I had a few caption headings. So, I did write that speech to the best I could remember the principal points and they published that in the magazine.”

“Harry Haines came to me one time and said, “Hey we need to write a book together... Let’s write a book on directing band. We’ll get James Middleton to contribute to it too.” And I really had no interest in doing that, but I said OK.”

He describes the first draft they received from the publisher as being replete with misprints and recalls:

“They sent the galleys on it the first time through and, oh my gosh, it was awful and we sent them corrections. Sent it back and said please don’t publish this ‘till we see the next set of galleys and the next thing we saw was the published book—and there’s still a lot of misprints in there. Then a few years later, I don’t even know whose idea it was, we did a second edition of it, which is very much like the first edition, but it’s sort of new and improved a little bit. I never did like that first title. It was so long and cumbersome [The Symphonic Band Winds: A Quest For Perfection]. It was my son Bryan that suggested The Band Director’s Companion. So, that’s really the same book—just two different editions of the same book.”

Garners two chapters in The Band Directors Companion consist of one on the rehearsal and the other on intonation.

Garner also co-authored another book with Haines entitled T.R.I. – Technique, Rhythm, & Intonation (Haines, McEntyre, & Garner 2000). Garner’s involvement in the TRI came about when Harry Haines and J.R. McEntyre approached him. Haines and McEntyre had already written some very successful beginning band method books and they wanted to follow up with an updated version of the Fussell Book (Exercises For Ensemble Drill, 1985). They wanted Garner to do something on intonation. He states:

“Again, it… really didn’t hold much appeal for me, but they are both good friends and I said sure. But then as we got involved in it, I got more and more and more involved… in not just the intonation part, but all of it. And so, that’s how that came about.”

Garner’s professional interests seem have always been very focused on teaching and working as hard as possible for the students who were currently in his ensemble. In addition to having little interest in publications, he had even less interest in serving as an officer of a professional organization. In regards to holding an office in an organization such as TMEA, TBA, or CBDNA he states, “I got a few inquiries about that but I never sought that, and as a matter of fact, I avoided it.” In some ways he does wish that he had attended more CBDNA meetings. He states:

“I wish I had been more active in that. The only times I ever went is when we played. But you know, WT wouldn’t pay for it. I was raising three kids on a single income. My wife was a stay at home mom and I couldn’t afford to go off to Madison, Wisconsin or Atlanta or wherever. Take three days out of school, pay for the transportation, pay the room at the hotel and I couldn’t afford to miss three days of school either. So, I just decided, in addition to the monetary considerations, I needed to stay at home and mind the store and do the best job I could there. So, I never did do that and I do somewhat regret that I couldn’t.”

However, upon his retirement he states:

“I told Donnie [Lefevre]—I don’t know if he’s ever even thought about it again, but some of my parting words of advice to him were, and with Ted [Ted Dubois – Dept. Head] present—“You need to be going to CBDNA.”

Gary and Mariellen Garner raised three sons who have all achieved successful professional careers. Bryan is one of the world’s leading legal lexicographers, editor of Black’s Law Dictionary, and author of over sixteen books in publication; Brad teaches flute at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in Ohio and at the Julliard School of Music in New York; and Blair is a radio personality and host of the nationally syndicated After Midnight with Blair Garner. Mariellen passed away in 1994.

All three Garner children have enjoyed remarkable success in their professional careers. When asked about his amazing success, Blair Garner quickly credits his parents, and explains:

“My parents taught us all two very important lessons: First, my father taught us that if we were going to make a mistake, make it as big and loud and hairy as you possibly can. Commit yourself to it. If you're timid, you'll never reach the brass ring. Don't be afraid to fail. Secondly, my mom always told us that we were special. We could do anything we could dream. When you add those two lessons together, the results can be pretty powerful.”

Indeed, Garner was very much committed to being a good husband and father. He tells of a conversation he once had with A. A. Harding the director who organized the first college band in the United States. The conversation had a profound effect on him. Garner describes Harding as a wonderful musician who actually had a degree in engineering rather than music. Garner explains that Harding was a prolific arranger out of necessity, because at that, time there was a great lack of music that was worthy of the band Harding had at Illinois. Harding, and his staff of copyists, regularly worked late into the night completing arrangements for the Illinois band. Garner came to know Harding fairly well. He recalls first meeting Harding his junior year of high school when he was Garner’s judge for a flute solo at the Tri-State Music Festival in Enid, Oklahoma. Years later, Harding and Garner would work together in the summers at the Texas Tech Band Camp. Garner states:

“He remembered me from that [judging] and there was, I think, a certain kinship. Fellow flute players, although I was very much the junior partner there obviously, but I came to know him fairly well and liked him a lot. He was very kind to me and the last conversation I recall having with him there are two vivid recollections I have of it. One was, he had just been made honorary lifetime member of ABA (American Bandmasters Association) and I had read about that in the School Musician. I complimented him on that. He said, “Well, thank you very much, but I’m not sure that that was such a good thing. I’m the third person to be so honored. The first two were John Phillip Sousa and Edwin Franco Goldwin.” And I’ll never forget this phrase, “and they both had the kiss of death on them when they got it.” And, he too had the kiss of death on him, because it wasn’t very long after that that he died. But the important part of that conversation that I wanted to relate was, he said: “You know all those nights I spent up at the Illinois band room working away on those arrangements, it just seemed of transcendent importance to me and in the meantime my wife,” they had one daughter, “my wife died.” And I’ll never forget this either, he said: “and my daughter grew up and I never knew her. And now what do I have to show for it.” I think that’s virtually word for word what he said. Well, it made a profound impression on me.”

At the time Garner and Mariellen were newly married and did not yet have any children. He states:

“So, I resolved that I would never let that happen to me, and I think I fairly well managed to avoid that trap. Not completely… but anyway, between doing everything I was doing that was work related and trying to be a good family man, there was no extra time. There was none.”

Garner has also received numerous awards including the WTAMU Faculty Excellence Award, the WTAMU Alumni Association’s Phoenix Club University Excellence Award, the National Kappa Kappa Psi-Tau Beta Sigma Bohumil Makovsky Award, the National Kappa Kappa Psi Distinguished Service to Music Award, the Texas Bandmaster of the Year Award, and is a 2003 inductee of the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame.

Garner retired in 2002, following a final concert presented at the Amarillo Civic Center Auditorium on Sunday, April 28, 2002. Now at age ninety one, he remains active as a clinician, author, arranger, great friend and mentor.

Alumni Testimonials

Take a look at what some of our alumni have to say! You can use the arrows on the left and right side to navigate through them.

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These pictures are Dr Garner guest conducting my middle school band at Mid West Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago 1996. Hodges Bend Middle School Band Truly an honor to have Dr Garner there for the highlight of my career. I would not be the teacher I am today without having Dr Garner as my band director and master teacher. Thank you Dr Garner. We all adore you and are so grateful to have been your student. A bit tough and demanding at times like the summer I took beginner flute lessons with you and our assignment for the first lesson was to learn the full range chromatic to high C. I practiced on my head joint driving to and from Amarillo to Canyon daily that summer of grad school.

-Iris Gonzalez

While I myself was not in the WT band as an undergraduate, I do hold a Master’s Degree from WT, attending from 1986-88 years during the summer semester/band camp when I was directing in Big Spring during that time, playing in the Director’s Band and was one of the Charter Members of Dr. Garner’s “WT Town & Gown Band” playing tuba. My daughter Cassie Daniel also played tuba and was in the WT Band and Tau Beta Sigma. When I was doing my Master’s courses, we found out the Dr. Garner really like “cherry tomatoes” so each of us brought him a small green plastic basket of cherry tomatoes before we took a test– he thought it was fun! This Tribute page is fantastic! HUGE thanks to those who put it together– Pat Daniel

-Pat Daniel
Courtney Hart

I’m so glad we’re all taking the opportunity to share our thoughts and feelings with Dr. Garner on here. I have told him in person, of course, but am so glad to be able to share again, here amongst our WT friends and family.

He drives far too fast, and I still remember plainly his car zipping past mine to cut me off on the way to band rehearsal. A little bit of stunt-car driving, right there on 23rd Street in Canyon, TX.

I am loathe to admit it, but I did get over it. It happened after I graduated from WT, when I was playing Ticheli’s “Postcard” under another conductor who artistically conducted through each and every rest. At that point I realized I can handle Mario Andretti as the conductor, as long as they give a clear Rule 1.

-Courtney Hart

Dr. Garner, I hope you have had a great day today celebrating your birthday! Thanks so much for all you have done for the WT band, music department and all students involved. So happy for the alumni tribute to you today and enjoyed reading your history. Russ really captured the “story” of Dr. Garner and the events over the years, giving us so much insight to what you have accomplished. And again, Happy Birthday!! David

-David Hinds

Dear Dr. Garner–Thank you for a lifetime of wonderful memories and the legacy of music. Not only are you the finest musician, band director, and teacher I know, you are one of the kindest, most brilliant human beings I’ve ever met. I still think about Grandma Garner every December 21st. Your goodness has touched many and will yet bless generations unborn. As we convene the Witcher Family Band every other Christmas, we think of you. Anna, Andy, Janet, Amie, Adam, Jennie, Autumn, and I, along with the 24 grandchildren, send our love and very best wishes for your 92nd year!

-Jeff Witcher

Hey there, Alums! I have always loved, respected, and venerated Dr. Gary Garner since my very first encounter when he worked with my SFAustin Junior High Band in Borger, Texas umpteen years ago, directed by Clark Hutchinson! Like so many, I was amazed to watch him grab up his flute and show the tuba player how to play his part!
50+ years later, I owe the best and hardest job I ever loved to his recommendation of me to Bryce Taylor as I headed downstate for an interview in Alice, Texas. My interview with Bryce went well because Dr. Garner had already opened the door for me!

My last visit with Dr. Garner came in 2015, when he came to Alice to work with Arnold Garza’s Honor Band. Arnold graciously let me sit in on some of the rehearsal to just watch. I had opportunity to thank Dr. G for some of his assistance to me over the years–gathering with Dr. Haines a group of us grad students who got hung up on one course in finishing our Master’s. Had he and Dr. Haines not cornered me at a recital, I wouldn’t have finished that degree!

My chance visit to borrow a woodwind class bassoon for a church gig back in ’86 led to Dr. Garner asking me to “pretend audition” for the upcoming Carnegie Hall auditions for the performance in 1987. He was pushing the only bassoon major at that time to feel a little competition. I was well out of practice, but I was inspired to work hard on that music to up my skill level, and it turns out that I was given opportunity to make that trip at the bottom of a terrific bassoon section. I was unemployed and nearly homeless at that time–never shared that before–so being lifted out of that to go to Carnegie was a miracle!!

I know each of us who played for Dr. Garner have stories. I love hearing his and yours! Blessings, Dr. Garner, on your birthday. Thanks for all you have contributed to my life and to so many others. I am still playing oboe and SOME bassoon at 68. I am blessed and grateful. Love, Donna Bogan – Borger Texas – now in Corpus Christi, Tx.

-Donna Bogan

I arrived on the campus of WTSU as one of those arrogant people coming in from a powerhouse band program with the attitude that I already knew everything I needed to do to be one of the “worlds greatest band directors.” All I needed was to sit in a chair in band for four years and pick up a diploma.
As much as I tried to ignore what I was being taught, Mother Nature kicked in and created a large room in my brain that came to be know as “The Garner Files.” Everything he showed us, demonstration, etc. whether directly applied to music or not” automatically was planted in the files. Dr. Garner’s approach to developing relationships with students, parents, administrators and more were safely lock away until the day I graduated and discovered that I didn’t, in fact, already know everything. In fact there was a great black hole and that’s where The Garner Files kicked in every time I faced how to prepare a selection, how to expose students to the latest trends in music (and convince people like me it really was music). This was particularly when I found myself teaching my university bands works that made the dreaded “Designs, Images, and Textures” I hated with a passion sound like a Bach Chorale.
Also in The Garner Files was a section on being a supportive, caring human being. Included were hints on keeping students interested, how to handle budgets, and showing compassion when needed. (My first application of this came in Las Cruces, New Mexico, When Dr. Garner and Don Baird took me to the emergency room after I idiotically walked through a plate glass window at the hotel. (In my defense, the young lady on the diving board was quite distracting.) In my career in high schools and college band, I found myself following their example when I was in a hospital room with an injured student or arranging for parents to pick up their sick child. These lessons aren’t found in many school books.
After my round of directing bands in Colorado, Iowa, and Nebraska producing award winning bands, I returned to Texas. Lesson to be learned: what takes first place in Nebraska or Iowa doesn’t necessarily cut the mustard in Texas. So it was time to unlock The Garner Files again.
At the end of my second round of Texas teaching, another WT mentor, John Green talked me into enrolling into the doctoral program at University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. Garner’s role was that he brought Dr. Green to WT. Had he not done that, I wouldn’t have become Dr. Burton.
My first University band task was to build a very mediocre program into something respectable. Out comes both The Garner Files and the little book he wrote with Harry Haines—now a staple in my band technique classes. By the time I left this school, the band had been invited to perform at the Maryland Music Educators Convention twice. The Garner Files and the book helped me achieve this task.
The next stage of my career was in Pennsylvania as chair of the Music Education program at West Chester University. Dig back in The Garner Files for the sections on leadership and organization (and how not to say what you thought at times). Another medal for Dr. Garner.
My career evolved into ethnomusicology and I began travelling the world studying music and culture of many peoples and countries (My passport claims 32 countries) as well as presenting workshops and lectures. The personality skills I observed in Dr Garner allowed me to successfully work with everything from a camel rider to distinguished personages of the profession.
Dr. Garner’s infinite patience and people skills stored in The Garner Files, works throughout the world whether in the WT Band Room, a yurt in the middle of the Gobi Desert, and a hallway in the Rimsky
Korsakav Conservatory. I would have made a fool of me many times had I not stopped to ask, how would Gary Garner handle this?
So, along with research and such comes books. I do have a rather impressive library of books I wrote, contributed to, edited, etc. running from articles in journals to the Grove Dictionary. As I edit the work of students, submissions for conferences, etc. it has been next to my computer (even now).
This is where another Garner shows up: My go to resource for improving my writing from terrible to advanced mediocre has been Bryan Garner’s Modern English Usage. (Excuse me for not editing this document more). It was required reading for my graduate students working on papers. Most of my students going into graduate studies are proud owners of their copy of this amazing work.
Looking back, at every stage of my career Dr. Garner, one of his colleagues, or one of his children have been sitting in The Garner Files making me a better teacher, writer, and human being.

-Bryan Burton

Gary Garner Tribute

I remember sitting in your office about to audition for the music school and being nervous for the first time in my seventeen year old life. My fingers were actually shaking, a new experience for me. I had decided late my Senior year to not become an engineer, and all official audition dates had already passed. You made me feel so welcome, and even though I would have to pay out of state tuition ($40 a credit hour, in-state was $4), I had no idea how this one event would change my life.

I watched how you approached every aspect of your job with consummate professionalism. I keenly observed how you developed relationships with students. I was in awe of your talent balanced atop a foundation of caring and humility. And I wanted, when I graduated, to become everything that you were. But I also learned from you that I could at best become GG#2 and the greatest thing I could do was to take all the gifts that you so freely bestowed and incorporate them to become PW#1.

You never indicated that you had all the answers that I would ever need, like some in our profession. Instead, with all your knowledge, having probably forgotten more than I will ever know, you were/are a model by example of a life-long learner. Your approach inspires me to keep seeking every day to become a more effective and efficient teacher, husband, and father.

I modeled what you taught me as a graduate assistant with the band. There was never a job too menial that was unworthy of your participation. When I would start setting chairs on the tape for rehearsal, you were right there, when you could have been sitting behind your desk taking a short, well-deserved break with a diet Dr Pepper. You have no idea what a profound influence such a simple episode had on this budding baby band director.

Your correct use of words is salient. You taught me that disquisitional recapitulation of imperspicuous symptomatology would tend to unequivocable beliefs. And it almost always has!

But seriously, I believe everything happens for a reason and am blessed that you have been a part of my and my family’s life for going on for these past fifty years. I am not a gifted enough wordsmith to truly convey the depth of my gratitude and the respect that I have for what you mean to me. Thank you for demonstrating to me and thousands of others that the most rewarding life is one lived with passion, compassion and striving for that always elusive perfection.

-Paul Worosello BME (’75), MM (’76)

My memories of being in the WT band are some of the most special in my life. You are the reason for this. You mean so much to me and countless others. There are so many things I remember about you from those wonderful years at WT. Here are a few: dedication to excellence, clear conducting skills, choice of music, ability to generate excitement about upcoming concerts and halftime shows. You instilled in us such pride in accomplishment that we never minded the hard work it took. You make each and every one of us feel valued as your students and friends. You have a great memory as shown by remembering all our names and where we are from. The 1988 reunion in Canyon proved this. It was a surprise to you. We had an alumni band that had rehearsed during the day on campus. Mrs. Garner kept you away from campus. The first you knew of it was when we marched over the hill into the stadium. As we each went up the ramp to greet you, you knew all our names and a story about most of us. Remember the story about Randi Kay boiling her clarinet? We performed at halftime that evening. It was a wonderful time and a celebration of your 25 years at WT. Do you remember saying in rehearsal one day, “I wish everyone would march as well as Joy Luckie?” What a lift and feeling of pride for her, I am sure. I love your sweet smile and how special you have always made me feel. You are, by far, my favorite teacher ever. I love you and look forward to all the wonderful reunions and times we can get together.

-Mary Jo Adams Erb

Dr. Garner,
How can I possibly express in just a few words all that you mean to me. You have been an incredible influence in my life since I was a little girl when you and my dad were best friends, my years at Canyon junior high, Canyon high school, and most especially my years at WTSU and all the years since. You have helped to shape my musical and personal life and I am forever grateful for all of your love and support. I love you so much!

Your “daughter”,

-Janie Sanchez

Dr. Garner is simply the best of the best!
The first time we met, I was a 7th grader that made 1st chair All-Region band. (1968)
I can remember him saying he’d like to have me in the band @ WTSU.
I wish I had pictures that far back!
The only recent pics I have are from Mansfield HS 4/3/2015. I was playing piano accompaniments for the students and I walked in the band hall where he was doing a clinic, and he stopped mid sentence and said Gary Mingus! What an honor to be recognized! TMEA pics the last few years are great memories as well! Thank you Dr. Garner for all the lives you’ve touched through the years! We’ve all been blessed!

-Gary Mingus

This is the only photo I have of Dr. Garner and me. It was taken in December 2012 at a Mexican restaurant in Houston when Dr. Garner was conducting a clinic at Dulles Middle School. I’m so grateful for Dr. Garner’s investment in my career when I was a graduate student at WT and his continued mentorship and friendship in subsequent years. Happy Birthday, Dr. Garner!

-Jim Drew

Dr. Garner,
You have been a mentor to so many people in the world of music and education. You remember your students and their names which is truly amazing. I have tried to follow your lead in learning all my students’ names and something about them. You are a phenomenal teacher and leader. You have guided many many people to become outstanding musicians and teachers. Even though you have “retired”, you continue to show your love of music and people. Thank you for being a mentor to me. I remember when I was in high school and Mr. Doherty introduced me to you after a WT concert. After meeting you and hearing the WT performance, I knew I wanted to attend WT and be part of your program. There are so many stories that I could share from my time at WT. Have a happy and blessed birthday!
Lots of love,
Jeanette Kominczak


-Jeanette Kominczak

Randy Storie used to talk about how we should all try to be the hero for others. Well Dr. Garner is definitely one of mine!

-Robert Hinds

All of us that went into band directing know that Dr. Garner would go the extra mile to help any of his former students. In the early 70s, I had an afternoon and evening clinic with Dr. Garner in Friona. He was driven to the clinic by Mrs. Garner. After a great clinic (that was the only kind you ever got from him), I invited him to go to dinner as we usually did. He declined, saying he was not feeling well. Mrs. Garner explained that he was feeling very ill while doing a clinic in Tulia that morning and had to have her drive him to our session that afternoon. You would not have suspected at any time that he was not feeling well. Most would have cancelled. There were other instances over the years that I felt he extended himself to help me. I know he did the same for many others and always delivered the best. My wife dearly loved Dr. Garner, there are some stories there also.

-Charles Faulkner

My favorite student memory of Dr. Garner :

One year when the band performed at TMEA (sometime in the mid 70s early 80s) we performed a new work by Joseph Ott called Africotta. This piece had a section that required audience participation. At one point in the piece Dr. Garner would turn to the audience and cue them to start clapping to the following rhythm; eight rest followed by eighth note followed by quarter note. I vividly remember him teaching the rhythmic pattern to the full house of the Cockrell Theatre by clapping and counting “Te 1…te 3, or for the less sophisticated among you….and 1…and 3.”

My favorite personal memory of Dr. Garner:

After I had graduated and been teaching for several years I eventually wound up as the DOB at Marble Falls High School. Melynda and I had been married about 10 years by this time. Adam was around 6 years old and Krysta was 3.

I had Dr. Garner out to clinic the band and we had a small reception for him at our house because Dr. Garrison (another WT alum) was my superintendent. We were standing around in the kitchen talking shop and just visiting when Krysta catches Dr. Garner’s attention so that he could watch her pirouette across the room in her pajamas, tutu and tiara.

Krysta later attended WT as a Music Therapy Major and Dr. Garner still remembered the way that he met her.

-Ron Davis

I grew up in Canyon and graduated with Brad. I saw Dr. and Mrs. Garner from an early age since they helped with Cub Scouts in their home. What has always struck me is the humbleness of Dr. Garner. He was always there to help and support his family, and help others grow around him.

As a band member at Canyon High School, we were honored to have Dr. Garner do annual clinics with us as we prepared for competition. I did not know at that time how widely respected Dr. Garner was. Again, his humble attitude of high expectations and deep care for others made the clinics special. We always learned from him.

As I transitioned to life at WTSU, I become far more aware of how Dr. Garner’s influence was known around Texas and the US. No telling how many Band Directors there are who he has nurtured through all these years. Dr. Garner’s love for the art and the students will continue to impact others for many years.

I was blessed to know the Garner family!

-Dan McGlasson

Dear Dr. Garner,
I don’t play much anymore, which I hate to admit knowing how much time I put into practicing. Perhaps retirement will present more time to get reacquainted some day. But, as a current Principal who evaluates and trains my staff, I remain in “awe” of the incredible teacher you are! The life lessons learned through years of music, stay with me in everything I do. Even the word “hopefully” has become a heightened awareness when people use it! Thank you for giving so much of yourself. Your impact on all of your students, truly goes beyond description. I may not play anymore, but my “band work ethic” will always remain. Thank you for that life-long gift!!
In deep appreciation,
Shawnda Pilgrim LaRocque /Flute

-Shawnda LaRocque

I remember when Dr. Garner would come to my high school (Mansfield High) to clinic our band. He complemented Mr. William Ludlow on his band and actually made him tear up. The next summer I went to band camp and from then went on to receiving my Bachelor’s at WT. Then as CBDNA 2016, I teared up when he conducted our performance Elsa’s Procession. He truly is an inspiring man.

-Wyatt Boswell

Back in the year of August 1985
I met dr garner at west texas state university
That’s what it was called back then
I was a very nervous at first when I first met dr garner not knowing what kind of teacher, scholar of music that he was at the university
We had a very long talk as he was taking me to meet the rest of the members of the Buffalo marching band that year to the band practice field.
He took me in as if I was his child
He was very nice and sincere to me during that time while I was attending the university
He was a great teacher to look up too.
You could talk to him and his lovely wife about anything.
I really enjoyed listening to his stiories on the oblong bus rides we had traveling to football games outside the area
I learned a lot from him
He treated me no different than any other student I very pleased to be there in his marching band
He never made any mistakes as far I could see
I just want to thank dr garner for all he did there at west texas state university during my time there
He will always be in my memory as long as I live
I want to thank you dr garner
May god bless you

-Roger Dale Briggs

Dr. Garner,
I have so many wonderful memories of the band program at West Texas. I was privileged to be in the band from 1982-1984 and played at Carnegie Hall in 1983. That concert will forever be engraved in my memory! Watching you conduct Latham’s Dilemma was truly unforgettable! I also loved it when you would whip out your flute to demonstrate every instrument’s part, from tuba to piccolo. Thank you for your high level of expectations and excellence. You molded and shaped every facet of my life through your love of your students and desire for us to expect more than we thought we had to offer. Hup, hup, hup, ho!
Lisha Harrison Davis

-Lisha Davis

Dear Dr. Garner,

Once upon a time you took a chance on a viola player from Permian when you asked her to come play in your Orchestra at West Texas A&M. That girl was me, and I’m so grateful for the experience I had in your Orchestra. I learned so much from you as a musician, conductor, and educator. As I look back, many of the things I have applied in my own classroom were things I learned from you.

Thank you for always pushing me to be a better violist, ensemble member, and overall musician; thank you for giving up your own time to work with me, just because I asked for help with conducting or a strange rhythm.

Your leadership, knowledge and musicality are unmatched, Dr. Garner, but your unwavering belief in me and countless others shows the true treasure of who you are.

Tennille Johnson
B.M.Ed class of 2002

-Tennille Johnson

Dr. Garner is, and will always be, such an amazing teacher, mentor and inspiration for me as a music educator. My first time to meet Dr. Garner was when I made the WTAMU Band Camp Honor Band going into my senior year of high school. Another WT alumni told me to get ready for the best experience I could ever have as a band member and was he correct!

Having Dr. Garner as my director at band camp was the best musical experience I ever had and, for me, solidified that I wanted to attend WTAMU when I graduated high school. From the first minute to the last downbeat of the concert, I was in awe of Dr. Garner. His rehearsals was unlike any I had ever had. His knowledge of all music, instruments, and his awareness of everything happening in the rehearsal was unreal. It was like he crafted perfect rehearsals each hour, with amazing lessons set up for us to learn to be better musicians and people. We hung on every word he said and wished the rehearsals would never end.

Being a student at WT was also one of the best decisions I ever made. Having Dr. Garner as a model of band director excellence is something I still strive to achieve everyday. He NEVER gave up on any student. I mean NEVER!!! He is so giving of his time and knowledge and truly believes EVERY student can grow and achieve. He is always able to meet each student right where they are and take them to the next level and they love him so much for that. If anyone should be able to rest on their laurels or think some tasks are beneath them, Dr. Garner would be at the top of the list. But, I have seen him, like many others, literally getting on his hands and knees to help a student learn and grow. Talk about a true servant leader!

Dr. Garner, there is no way any of us could ever repay you for all you have done and still do. The best that we can do is to share what we have gained from you just as selflessly and of course, to say it as many times as as we can, “THANK YOU DR. GARNER!!!!”

-Tim King

Dr. G,

I absolutely have fond and great memories of being in your band and in your conducting class. You were, are and always will be such an awesome inspiration to so many of us. Thank you for always challenging me to be more and better.

Lots of love to you always sir!!!!
Laura Skoglund Batson

-Laura Skoglund Batson

I’ll never forget the time Dr. Garner came to Palo Duro High School as a clinician my sophomore year. My director, Jeff Doughton made us be on our best behavior. Dr. Garner asked us who wanted to challenge someone on the his canon exercise. Myself being the bold euphonium player, i challenged Taylor Lee the first chair flute player. Long story short I screwed up and now when I see Dr. Garner he always mentions that moment. His humor that day was off the charts and despite my loss he made it a great experience. Thank you inspiring me and many others to be music educators.

-PJ Henderson

I would just like to say thanks for being a wonderful teacher, educator and friend! It’s simply amazing how many lives you have touched through the years! I am so happy and proud to be one of them! Take care and I glad to see you enjoying life so much!

-Stephen Sampsell

Dr. Garner,

You left a lasting impression on me the first time I played in the Honor Band at WT Band Camp. You remembered my name the next summer when I came back and that was just the start. I played Eb Clarinet in the Symphonic Band the next Spring. You pushed us to be our best and really put the pressure on during those late night clarinet sectionals!

When Daniel and I moved back to Amarillo after teaching in West Texas, I was excited to learn that you were a regular visitor at PD where I would be band directing with Jeff Doughten. You would show up and teach the flutes in the upstairs uniform closet each week. The flute section played beautifully as they lined up in front of the band and performed Meditation by memory. Thank you for inspiring them to work so hard and never wasting a minute. Whenever I had a question you never hesitated to explain why, even in a time crunch – like when you gave me a vibrato lesson on your flute while I was driving you to the airport!

Thank you for being a great mentor and friend. Sarah Loudenback

-Sarah Loudenback

Dr. G, Cindy and I would like to wish you a very happy birthday! You are one of the most remarkable, humble, intelligent, likable, wittiest and one of the best musicians I have ever had the pleasure of knowing!. You are my hero and most respected colleague on the planet! We hope you have a wonderful day.

Love you Dr. G.
Randy and Cindy Vaughn

-Randy Vaughn

Dr. Garner knows THOUSANDS of people, and amazingly he can make each one feel like they are special to him. I was a band camper and then a student at WT. I completed my degree at another school. Dr. Garner was disappointed in me for leaving WT, but I redeemed myself when I began teaching band in Texas. When he sees me, he givels me this look and then pulls me in for a giant hug. He then proceeds to tell whoever else is around talking to him that I was the first band camper to win the concerto contest.

I had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Garner as an All-Region Clinician a few years ago. Not only did I get to assist him as he worked with the band students in our region, but I also provided his transportation from the airport to the hotel, hotel to clinic, meals each day, and back to the airport at the conclusion. On the first of the drives with him, as we were catching up, he repeated something I said, but with a slight tweak. I looked at him and said, “did you just correct my grammar??” For the rest of the trip I was thinking more about my speaking to make sure that I did not need to have my grammar corrected. It didn’t work – he still corrected me a few more times.

When I introduced Dr. Garner to the audience before he conducted the All-Region Band concert, I explained the role he has played in my life as a music educator: My Beginning Band/JH Band Director and my HS Band Director were both WT grads under Dr. Garner. I stared college at WT and studied under him myself. I completed college at Utah State University where, at the time, the band director was Dr. Cody Birdwell, a graduate of WT under Dr. Garner. My entire music education was either directly or indirectly influenced by this great man.

Thank you Dr. Garner, for your dedication to the field of music education and to the students whose lives you touch in such personal and meaningful ways. You will forever hold a place in my heart!

-Amanda Johnson

To prepare the WTSU band for a forthcoming TMEA concert with Harvey Pittel as featured performer, Dr. Garner played the saxophone solo with our group while in rehearsal. During one such practice my father, Roger Winslow, called and I spoke with him from the band office phone. During our conversation, we could hear the practice in the background. He complimented the band’s performance and mentioned that Harvey Pittel sounded incredible. I clarified, “That’s Dr. Garner!”

-Steve Winslow

Our greatest teacher, our greatest mentor, and now a great friend! Thank you Dr. Garner!
Johnny & Robbie
(we hope the video made it!)

-Robbie & Johnny Rumph

Dr. Garner always exemplified a genuine exciting and caring spirit for everyone and never stopped recruiting for the WT band. In the spring of 1967, my senior year at Canyon High School, I had just finished a private music lesson with Don Baird and was sitting in the shade on the east steps of the Fine Arts Building (FAB) pondering how I would be able to attend college in the fall at WT. Dr. Garner came up to the back entrance of the FAB with his fast-paced stride. Seeing me sitting there looking dejected, he stopped and asked how I was doing. He took time to sit next to me, listen to my dilemma and encouraged me with profound advice. He and I both remember this event to this day. His encouragement and direction assisted me in starting WT in the fall of 1967, being drum major 3 years, receiving both a Bachelor and Master’s degree from WT and teaching band for 30 years.
Dr. Garner has always been my mentor and demonstrated skills and talents I could only dream about. Along with other drum majors and music majors at WT, we practiced constantly to copy Dr. Garners directing style (his signature) of the outside circle on beat 4. Make a point to observe his past students who still direct bands and you’ll see Dr. Garner’s circle 4th beat.
I can go on and on about all the skills and traits I emulated from Dr. Garner. From his marching style, his alternate fingerings on all the instruments, his rehearsal techniques, his counting system, his knowledge of wind instrument literature, his perfection of tuning and, of course, his directing. Oh, I didn’t mention, Dr. Garner never forgot a face or name. I only wished I had that talent. Because of Dr. Garner, I enjoyed the success of 30 years being his student and band director/bandmaster.
Dana Reynard BMED – December 1971 and MEd – August 1977

-Dana Reynard

I am undoubtedly the worst band student ever to to be in the WT band program. Finally realizing this, I finished with a degree in voice and got out of the way. In spite of this, I’ve always been treated with respect by Dr. Garner and that speaks untold volumes about the integrity and values of this man. He loves and respects irregardless of how much you contribute, or fail at contributing, to his program. This folks, is immeasurable and worthy of all honor from all people… even the worst ever WT band failure…. I have much love and respect for you Dr. Garner….Jay

-Jay Perdue

Hello, Dr. Garner–
I’m wishing you a very happy birthday while remembering the good times I had in the WT Band. As the song says, “Those Were the Days”, however, the days now-a-days aren’t bad either. Hope your day is filled with friends and family and love.
–Ruth Ann

-Ruth Ann Chiaraluce (Bedford)

You will never know how much you and Mrs. Garner enriched to my life. Thank you so much!!!

-Robert Quintanilla

I think all music students will agree that Dr. Garner affected their lives at WT to some degree. As a Saxophone student Dr. Garner, was my private sax and flute teacher. That alone would be a major influence. However when he came to me my Junior year, as we started the fall band , and suggested I take up the oboe was unexpected. Expecting to be a band director and play saxophone immediately took an unexpected turn. Dr. Garner never lets me forget that my response was,”I’ll play oboe, but I am a Saxophonist and always will be”. Little did I know that my entire goals in life would be change drastically. I was taking sax and flute lessons from Dr. Garner and clarinet from Rowie Durden. Just before the end of the fall semester, he again made a suggestion, take up the bassoon in the Spring semester and do my Sr. Recital on all five woodwinds. I changed majors to Oboe for my Masters and then studied oboe with Alice Cooke, Dr. William T. Gower and John Mack (Cleveland Orchestra). Have been Principle Oboist in several Orchestras and am now a Yamaha Performing Artist (helped develop the Yamaha Oboe) Still play the saxophone, but started Richards Double Reeds. Teaching woodwinds in College , playing oboe in Orchestras are all due to the suggestions and support of Dr. Garner. He changed the direction of my life and entire career. “Thanks Dr. Garner”

-Richard Rath

My decision to attend WTSU and begin an association with Dr. Gary Garner was life changing. Growing up in the DFW Metroplex, I had no knowledge of WT or Gary Garner. I was visiting with Dick Floyd, my high school band director, and told him I was thinking of being a music major and going to NTSU. His response was, “oh no, you don’t want to do that.” “You want to go to WT and they are coming here on tour and you can meet their director, Gary Garner” The WT band had two performances in Richardson and I attended both and was quite impressed with both the band and Dr. Garner. The summer after my senior year I broke tradition and attended WT Band Camp instead of Scout Camp and loved it. Received my “Showman” right before leaving for Canyon and kind of smirked at the part about “nice, short haircut” I ran afoul of that rule at least a few times and earned the nickname “Porter Waggoner” in the process. I sat in rehearsal after rehearsal and was in awe of Dr. Garner’s knowledge of the instruments, his quest for the ever elusive perfect performance, his kindness, and most of all his positive attitude at all times. I rarely saw him get upset and he always seemed to put a positive spin on everything. His ability to remember everyone’s name and make you feel genuinely important is a skill we should all aspire to. It was obvious during my time there that his focus was not only having a great performing group but, passing along information to help us be the best music educators possible. I remember him saying “if you have to cut students out, you are admitting your own shortcomings as a teacher”
After four years I was about to graduate, I went in to visit with him and discuss my apprehensions of being a band director. I told him, “I’m not sure I’m going to be any good” “I’ll give it a couple of years and get out if I’m not any good” Dr. Garner looked at me and smiled and said, “Ken, you’re being WAAAY too hard on yourself” “You’ll do fine”
In my 36 years as a middle school music educator, my experience working with Dr. Garner stayed with me and shaped my approach to teaching. His influence not only touched my teaching but my approach to life. To look at how he has lived his life influencing others in such a positive way is something we should all aspire to. Even after graduating, he continued to try to boost my confidence by coercing me into playing a tuba solo with the summer band as well conducting a number. Thank you Dr. Garner for everything you’ve meant in my life.

-Ken Valliant

Happy Special Birthday to YOU- Dr. Garner!🎉
You are a true inspiration.❤️

-Janet Doherty

Happy birthday Dr. Garner! Going to college was my first experience away from home. Thanks for making me feel welcomed into a new band family as I made that transition.

Steve Boaz

-Steve Boaz

Dr. Garner,
You epitomized everything a master music educator should be. Your profound influence on my life is immeasurable. You never forget a name or a face even after decades. Your expectation of excellence, your kindness, your compassion, and your genuine love of your students were a benchmark for me for my entire career. You are loved beyond measure.

-Allison Johnston

I helped Dr. GARNER and a few students from AHS do a recorded intonation experiment at his home demonstrating just intonation and how it can be practically applied. We shot film, edited, had some laughs after great stories. Definitely a Renaissance man!

-Andrew Kasper

When rehearsals would start to bog down, Dr. Garner would hop off the podium, run to the blackboard and give a quick lesson on a random topic. To this day, I know how to correctly use the word “hopefully,” and I silently judge people who don’t.
He was the master at making us all want to be better, in both music and life. And he has a way of making each person feel like the most important person in the room. When I figured that out, I was a little disappointed, because I thought I REALLY WAS the most important person in the room.
His smile and wit never changes.
Forever grateful and blessed to know him.

-Karleen Geringer Stratton

Dr. Garner,

I’ve been trying to think of what I could say about the impact you’ve had on my life. I’m sure others will be more eloquent or clever than I, but I’m the person I am today because of you. My time at WT helped me to overcome so much at a very difficult time in my life, and you were a big part of that. You encouraged me, scolded me, and backed me up when I needed it. I may not be teaching full time anymore, but as I perform and teach lessons or work with community music groups, the lessons you taught me still influence everything I do. I love you and am very thankful for you!!

-Candi McDonald

I remember the first time I set foot in the WT band hall as a high school senior to watch Dr. Garner and the Symphonic Band rehearse. Sitting near Mrs. Garner, it was immediately evident that WT was where I needed to pursue my music education degree.

During my four years at WT, I found myself studying the man as much as music. Dr. Garner was patient even in times of impatience. He taught me as much about music and teaching as to how to treat people, not to mention the importance of grammar and humor! After graduation, I found myself contemplating how Dr. Garner would have handled a challenging situation I was facing.

My fond memories are numerous but not overly specific. I am thankful a journey during high school to another university proved to be a disaster putting me on a path to studies at West Texas and Dr. Gary Garner. I am grateful to have Dr. Garner as a lifelong mentor, teacher, and friend.

-John Black

Dr. Garner’s favorite story to tell about my time in the WT Band:
I was a trombone player from Oklahoma and had worked quite a bit on my jazz style (I was a pro at stopping notes with my tongue).
In one of our first Symphonic Band sectionals, Dr. G went down the line to hear us play a snippet (no doubt hearing an extra articulation at the end of notes) from someone (pretty sure he already knew who it was). He heard me play what I thought was a terrific rendition and the following conversation took place:
Dr. G – Mike, you are stopping the notes with your tongue.
Me – No I am not.
Dr. G – Play it again.
(Mike plays it again – again I thought I nailed it)
Dr. G – You are stopping the notes with your tongue
Me – No I’m not!
Dr. G – Trombones, is Mike stopping the notes with his tongue?
Trombone Section – (resoundingly) YES!

I tell my students about this exchange every year to let them know that I stubbornly thought I was right and my director was wrong, and to always listen to the front-of-the-note articulation and the end-of-the-note LACK of articulation!

-Michael Keig

I first met Dr. Garner as a 7th grade trombonist in the Jr. High All-Region Band. He was the guest conductor. I had never seen anyone as dynamic on the podium as he was. He was also the first man I had ever seen play flute (VernonTexas had not embraced this concept in the early 1970’s!) I was mesmerized by his conducting and his incredible ability to play the flute from the score and transpose all the parts seamlessly. In fact, 3 times he called me out for missing an entrance because I was spellbound with his playing! This experience was the defining moment in my choice to attend WTSU and pursuing a career in music education! Dr. Garner remains one of the most influential men in my life. I am honored to know him!!

-William Doherty

“Turn and talk to your partner about the person that most influenced you as an educator.” That question is frequently asked when I attend professional development sessions. I always respond with, “Dr. Gary Garner. He was my college band director at WT, Canyon, Texas.”

When I share personal memories with my colleagues, I visualize Dr. Garner conducting our band in the Fine Arts Building, interpreting music, and demonstrating with his flute, in an accepting environment while shaping our minds with knowledge. Because of him, I value my eight years as a band director and continue to evaluate how best to lead my school as a conductor and not a soloist.

Happy Birthday Dr. Garner!

Teddie Duron Winslow

Independence Elementary
Lewisville ISD

-Theodora Winslow

Dear Dr. Garner,

Thank you.
Two heartfelt words that are completely inadequate for the feelings they are meant to convey.

Thank you for traveling to Arlington to conduct the All-Region Band in 1969, capturing the attention and imagination of 15-year-old clarinet player Gordon Hart. After high school Gordon set off for Canyon, later sharing his excitement with saxophone player Judy Knight, who came along too (to be sure he was behaving.) Thank you, Dr. Garner, for starting us on the best possible path that two future music educators could have.

Thank you for allowing us to be a part of the WT Band and Music Department. We flourished in the supportive, exciting atmosphere. You and the other members of the music faculty pushed us, encouraged us, and set us up for success in our careers and in our lives. This is true even though Gordon had to be endlessly reminded to cut his hair and uncross his legs. Judy didn’t have to be reminded about anything.

Thank you for being the person that we measure every other leader against – school administrators, businessmen, civic leaders, symphony orchestra conductors, presidents of the United States. No one ever measures up.

Thank you for supporting us for four decades (and still counting) after we left WT. The highlights of every year are the opportunities that we get to connect with you – band clinics, conventions, concerts, and golf games. We look forward to those moments more than you can imagine, and you continue to enrich our lives to this day. Remember the time you got a
speeding ticket on your drive from Canyon to Clovis? You tried telling the officer that you were practicing triple tonguing and accidentally leaned on the accelerator, but he didn’t go for it.

Thank you for serving as a mentor and friend for our kids. You somehow managed to survive Courtney’s years at WT, and as far as she’s concerned, she never left. She loves and adores you and will forever be up in your business. Brad isn’t a WT grad, but he is very grateful that you took time to assist and support him in his first job as a band director in Amarillo. His
parents are grateful too.

You are our idol, our mentor, our friend, part of our family, and we love you.

Thank you,
Gordon and Judy Hart

-Gordon and Judy Hart

Can any of us imagine what this world would be like if the majority were like Dr. Gary Garner in kindness, understanding, and true unselfishness? Please allow me to say quite frankly that we who have been his students love this awesome, warm hearted man. Thank you literally, Lord Jesus, for allowing us to cross paths with one of your creations who loved, inspired, and influenced us to be the best that we can be to the nth degree in this existence called life.

-Jeppie Wilson

Happy birthday and I look forward to seeing you at the reunion of the mighty West Texas State band. From The Smiling Drummer

-Dwight Hardin

I first heard of Dr. Garner from my band director in high school. The WT Symphonic Band had performed DILEMMA at the TMEA convention and it was all the talk of the state. Kathy Lynn Kendle and Carolyn Davis Wells were 2 girls I looked up to in high school band and they were attending WT……consequently I attended the WT Band Camp the summer before senior year. The band camp experience and taking a lesson from Dr. Garner changed my life! Although I was a marginal flute player at best, I was awarded a little applied music scholarship…..to me it was like winning the lottery! Dr. Garner’s positive, patient, and methodical instruction meant the world to me and I thrived at WT. Like so many of us, Dr. Garner has continued to mentor and influence my life and career. I just wish I could influence him to eat more vegetables! Haha

-Cindy Bulloch

Hi Dr. Garner! (Or “Little Gary”, in conducting class)
Thank you for being the teacher who loves us all and leaves such a handprint on every single one of our hearts. I can’t teach or practice without a Garner nugget coming to mind, whether it was a practice technique you ingrained in us, or simply telling the kids that “yes, I got ALL of them cut!”
Thank you for allowing me to borrow your credit card to buy my clarinet. Thank you for having the clarinet section over for dinner, thank you for letting me be first chair my graduate year, thank you for never letting us be less than the best, and thank you for so much more.
I’m including a picture I took of you during our TBA all-star alumni band rehearsal because I wanted to remember the view I had of you for 6 years! My favorite place to be was in the band hall sitting at your left side. The other is just us backstage in San Antonio.
I am so proud to be a Garner era Buff!
Happy Happy BIRTHDAY! Love you!

-Amy (Gould) Whitaker

I first attended the WT band camp in 1990 and it was one of the most amazing experiences. I knew that I wanted to go to school there. Due to some unfortunate events, it wasn’t until 1997 that I finally made it to WT for my Master’s degree. Being in Dr. Garner’s Symphonic band was one of the most memorable moments. His artistry, knowledge, humility and caring nature makes him truly remarkable. I am so grateful for Dr. Garner and the friendships I made while at WT. It was a definitely a time I will always cherish. ❤️

-Suzanne Pecht

I was fortunate to have had a exceedingly wonderful experience at WTSC (later WTSU and WTAMU) as a music education student from 1963 through spring 1968. There are several very good reasons that I feel that way. I met my wonderful wife, Lamoyne, to whom I have been married for the last 55 years; I made numerous lifelong friends as a member of the WT Band; I was honored to attend WTSU as a recipient of an Amarillo Symphony Scholarship; and I was tremendously honored to play horn under the direction of Dr. Gary Garner, the new university band director that fall. The 1963 freshmen that year were honored to respectfully consider Dr. Garner as a fellow freshman.

It did not take long for Dr. Garner to win my respect as a highly talented, firm but caring mentor. He quickly learned each band member’s name, school, musical background and earned their respect while being a most capable director with very high expectations. The remarkable thing is that today, he still remembers those individual student names and statistics!

He had a unique ability to motivate his bands to play increasingly challenging music giving each member confidence and pride as a member of that outstanding band under his leadership. A notable thing is that his bands became significantly better each year. Being under his direction gave bandsmen a tremendous feeling of belonging, accomplishment, and motivation to become better musicians. I have told him and my friends that if I could have made a comfortable living to support a family as a member of the WT Band, I would have been pleased to just continue as a WT horn player in Dr. Garner’s band. It was a wonderful and extremely satisfying experience and I, personally, look back on those years with very fond memories of achievement, enjoyment and family.

I can remember hurrying to get to the daily noon band rehearsal, where the band would find his loving wife, Mariellen, sitting in the front of the band room waiting for the rehearsal to begin. She was a wonderful pianist, support to Dr. Garner, their three sons, and to the members of Dr. Garner’s bands.

A few years after graduating from WT with my master’s degree in 1968, I became superintendent of the 3A school in Blackwell, OK. I remember attending an Oklahoma State football game in Stillwater, OK in the early 1980s. The superintendents of the area were invited to be the guests of the university for that OSU home football game. Lamoyne and I did not know who OSU was playing that day. As we approached the stadium, we heard a band playing. I turned to Lamoyne and asked, “Is that On, On Buffaloes”? We were so excited to see the WT Band warming up for their performance that day. It was a wonderful show (especially for Lamoyne and me)!

Another WT Band memory– the community of Blackwell, OK where I was superintendent was honored to host and house the WT Band for a Friday evening while on their way to Wichita, KS for a game with Wichita State the next day. The WT Band performed their halftime show at our high school game that night. Lamoyne and I were so proud that we had been members of that great band and the community was elated to hear such an accomplished university band at our high school game that evening.

It is astonishing to consider the number of band students that Dr. Garner taught, nurtured and mentored during his 39 years as director of the WT Band. Without a doubt, I am not alone to express my gratitude to Dr. Gary Garner for being the highlight of my education at West Texas State University! THANK YOU!

Darrell Garrison, Ed.D.
French Horn
WTSU 1963-68

-Darrell Garrison

Dr. Garner,

Thank you for the inspiration you have been for so many of your students. I am SO very lucky to have had you as my flute teacher AND my band director. Getting to perform at the TMEA Convention in 1977 will be something I will never forget. I still remember the literature you selected, especially Enigma Variations and the Faure Fantasy flute feature. My memories of WT are some of the most treasured times of my life.

As a band director myself, your pedagogical knowledge of EVERY instrument in the band is a skill I always aspired to develop. As a teacher, your consistent model of patience, grace, dedication, and kindness are qualities that I greatly admire and continually try to mimic. Your energy and passion for music and life are unmatched in any other person I know. As I have often said, “I want to be like you when I grow up”.

Happy birthday!!!!!

-Jolette Wine

My Dad got the theory/composition job at WT in the fall of 1970, and we would go to many concerts on campus as well as football games starting when I was just a baby. When I got a bit older, around 2 or 3 years old, I decided that I was going to be in the WT band when I grew up and was going to play the tuba. Well, I didn’t end up playing tuba, but I did play the bassoon in the Symphonic Band and Orchestra. Since Dr. Garner has known me for a very long time, he has many stories he likes to tell about me. One of his favorites is the time that Cynthia Barlow (my fellow bassoonist in the band and orchestra) and I informed him that the bassoons were the only section in the band in which everyone could down press up and play at the same time. I still use that skill and many others that I learned in band, and I pass them on to my students. Thank you Dr. Garner for making us better at doing something we loved-playing music.

-Kirsten Nelson

I know many people have had this same experience, but my first introduction to Dr. Garner was in January, 1972 at New Mexico All State. My friends in the All State Concert Band came back raving about their band director. I never knew a band director to actually play his instrument during rehearsal. Thankfully, my band director thought WTSU was a good fit for me, so he introduced me to him.
My years in the WT Band were absolutely the best all because of Dr. and Mrs. Garner. When Paul and I became engaged, I knew I would always be a band director’s wife. And I modeled myself after the best band mom, Mariellen Garner. She was such an inspiration.
Dr. Garner saw our first child at Band Camp in 1983. When he saw Anna, he said, “You know, I have some nail clippers right here. We can clip that teardrop right off so she can play flute!” Well, she was in band, but she played French Horn!
Paul and I had so much respect for Dr. Garner that we chose to name our son after him. When we received cards or letters from the Garner’s, he would ask about T. Garner. When Tygar went to preschool, there were 4 Tylers in his class. So we took Dr. Garner’s and my mother’s suggestion that we take the first syllable from each of his names and call him Tygar. It stuck and everyone knows him by Tygar and we get to explain why!
For me, the biggest thing that Dr. Garner did for our family was when he flew to Houston for Paul’s surprise retirement concert. I was shocked when he said yes. At the concert, he was waiting back stage to go on, and he sang the correct rhythm to Jordan Robert before Jordan was to play the off stage solo in La Fiesta Mexicana! Then he had to deal with a KF Piccolo alumni who thought she was playing the correct rhythm. You don’t argue with Dr. Garner about rhythm! I know it meant so much to Paul for him to be there.
Tygar had the privilege to be in the WT Band Camp Honor Band from 2001-2005 with Dr. Garner as his conductor. He didn’t attend WT, but he still was influenced by Dr. Garner’s ability to get kids to come together and perform beautifully in a very short week!
I am so honored to be a student of Dr. Garner’s from 1972-1976. I would not be the teacher or musician I am today without him. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like, if I hadn’t chosen to attend WT. Thanks, Dr. Garner.

-Susan Worosello

Dr. Garner, you are very dear to me. My three years in your band were the highlight of my time at WT. Your band was a family. That gave this naive freshman the security needed on her first year away from home. You and Mariellen made each of us feel as if we were a vital part of the band. Playing in your band was both challenging and rewarding. You encouraged, nurtured and taught us as bandsmen but also taught and expected us to be strong, thinking individuals in all aspects of life. The friendships made through being in band will always be treasured! I am a blessed lady to have met the amazing French horn player, Darrell Garrison. We are one of many couples to meet in band and later marry. As I’ve told you before, you are my all-time favorite professor! Thank you for the many wonderful memories!
Lamoyne Clark Garrison

-Lamoyne Garrison

I think of Dr.Garner of his smile.Whenever there was an area in the music that needed attention, he helped us work thru the problem area.Thank you,Dr.Garner,and Happy Birthday to you! Dwayne

-Darrell Dwayne Teater

West Texas State University, Dr. Garner, and all my teachers have made an indelible mark on my life as a person and teacher. Like everyone sharing on this tribute, we all have fond memories of Dr. Garner. I still chuckle when I think of this one. I returned to campus after the summer break to begin my second year as a WT Drum Major. I stopped by Dr. Garner’s office to say hello and was greeted by Mrs. Garner. Dr. and Mrs. Garner and I visited for a bit when Dr. Garner says, “Joe, I can’t help but notice you’ve gained a little weight. (Oh, to be 170 lbs. again.) Mrs. Garner replied in a not so soft voice, “Dad! He told Brad the same thing.”

I owe so much of my career to Dr. Garner. I was fortunate enough to be named a band graduate assistant for the 1993-94 school year. I took a year off from teaching and completed my degree in the spring of 1994. My oral exam committee consisted of Dr. Tina Carpenter, Dr. Ted Dubois, and Dr. Gary Garner. Dr. Carpenter asked me bassoon questions and Dr. Dubois asked questions regarding my mini-thesis and Richard Strauss. Dr. Garner’s final question was how many notes can a piccolo and tenor sax sound in unison can. Being a brass player, it took me a few seconds to come up with the correct answer. The answer is two, three if the tenor sax has a high F# key.

I think of Dr. Garner daily. I love our phone conversations, hearing him play his flute and his chuckle. He’s simply the best; better than all the rest. Someone should write a song using these words!

Peace and love,
Joe Pruitt from Quanah, TX
BME ‘87
MA ‘94

-Joe Pruitt

I, like so many others, have literally hundreds of fond memories and stories of and about Dr. Gary Garner. I attended WT Band Camp for 6 years, and was a student of his from junior high through college. Upon graduation from high school, I went off to another college for my freshman year. Needless to say, Dr. Garner was not happy! After a year away, I came back to WT for both school and family reasons, as my dad was not well. Dr. Garner welcomed me back like the prodigal son in the Bible, totally accepting, treating me like I was one of his own children, and loved me like I had never left. My father passed away at the end of that second year, and Dr. Garner was there, again, a wonderful father figure, not just a teacher, but a loving, caring father helping his child through a difficult time. Later on, when I met and married Jay, Dr. Garner played for our wedding! What a beautiful treat for all!!! He and Mrs. Garner were always so much more than just the “band director and his wife” to all their “kids”, and I believe their love and support was the most defining factor in the hugely successful band program at WT!! The Bible says, “…and the greatest of these is love!!”So – Dr. Garner, thank you for being my “Dad” for all these years!!!!! You have no idea the impact you’ve had on my life, from junior high, to now!!! You will always have a huge place in my heart!!! Love you always!!! Vicki West Perdue

-Vicki Perdue

Dr. Garner –

I just wanted to tell you how grateful and thankful I am for your guidance and consistent demonstration of what it means to be a true educator. Your dedication and commitment
to your students and our profession is unmatched – thank you for sharing your knowledge, incredible wit and humor, your love for music, for education and the importance of professionalism. Possibly the most important lessons of all, true care, dedication and interest for every student you have taught. Your words and lessons have been so valuable but your consistent actions have been like GOLD.

I will always remember you telling the story of Mrs, Garner asking you to guess who you thought might be the Burp Champion of the Band. And……you went with the most unlikely person and guessed me. 😂 My dad would’ve been so proud!! Just a simple little kid from WHHHHITE DEER!

My words fail in truly expressing my gratitude, so I will simply say ‘Thank You and Happy Happy Birthday!’.

Much Love and Admiration ❤️
Lisa Stiles

-Lisa Stiles

A couple of stories:

a. Just want to ask Dr. Garner why he would always cue me when I was the most tired, from practicing of course, and had the yawns. Every.Time.:)

b. I was blown away, as a young freshman, to see Dr. Garner BOLT off the podium back to the tuba or saxophone section and play their parts on his flute. I had just started my path through music education, and that single event scared me to death; in the fact that I would have to shove my xylophone around to the different sections to demonstrate others’ parts.

Incredible experience at WT. Time in band was a foundation for my career in music. I appreciate the environment created and the love that surrounded us. Thank you Dr. Garner.

-Tina Wilkes - Walton

Dr. Gary Garner – Respect

In 1980 I made it a priority to earn a performance degree with my teaching certificate and therefore remained at West Texas for a 5th year. However, it was during my senior year that I firmly made up my mind to not participate in the marching band. Of course, I needed to concentrate on my senior recital, work part time, and play some gigs. Frankly, I knew what was best for my last year in the Music Department. One day, well before marching season, I made an appointment to speak with Dr. Garner and let him know my plans. He simply needed to know that I would not be on the roster. This was the only time at WT that I made an appointment with Dr. Garner one-on-one. This was obviously serious and important; I knew he would understand.

The day arrived for my testimonial to Dr. Garner about not being a member of the marching band. I was slightly nervous but ready. I met Dr. Garner in his office about 10:00 am, I believe on a Tuesday. His office was upstairs in the old music building directly off of the band room. The first thing I realized was after several years of playing in the symphonic band, I had never been in his office.

“Ken, come on in, how can I help you,” Dr. Garner said.

Dr. Garner was silent for the next 30 minutes. I went on and on and on and on about how much I enjoyed the marching band, how fantastic it was and how much I learned. But it was time for me to move on and “I would not be marching this year.”

When I finished my exhaustive narrative, he simply said, “Ken, I think you should be in the band.” I said “ok, thank you” and left his office.

I really enjoyed my senior year in the marching band.

I have so much respect for Dr. Garner and I am so grateful for the influence that he has had on my life. We all have memories that are treasures forever. He is simply the best.

Ken Van Winkle
Class of 1980

-Ken Van Winkle

Dr Garner

Thank you for caring and sharing! You have done clinics and shared your music and solutions with me always! Your sight reading music has changed the way I teach and served to help make students better snd stronger musicians. Thank you for teaching me to always sharpen myself snd to keep growing, it has made all the difference! You have met most all the students I have ever had. You helped pour into me and create confidence and musical rigor for my students. I love you and appreciate you deeply. Thank you for always helping and believing in me and pushing me to be the very best.

-Donna OBryant

In 1967, as an 18-year-old freshman from tiny Knox City, Texas, I knew no one on the WTSU campus. In those days I was pretty shy and reserved, so it took all my courage to step into the large band room on that August afternoon. But from across the room came a voice, “Why, Carolyn Crownover, I’m so glad you’re here!” Dr. Garner remembered me from a clinic he had done for my KCHS band back in April of ’67 when he encouraged me to come to WT and join the band. In that moment, I knew everything was going to be OK. And for the next four years, it was–I had the time of my life and made lifelong friends as a member of the WTSU Band. Thank you, Dr. Garner, for taking such good care of this young girl from Knox City! You truly changed my life.

-Carolyn Worley

Dr. Garner, I can’t begin to express how much I appreciate the time I was able to make music with you! I was reminded a few years back in San Antonio when I flew in from Toronto to play with the Alumni Band how wonderful it was to play under your baton and be in your presence.

My life has been full of many rich musical experiences. I credit the work ethic you helped instil in me for many of my successes. You inspired my discipline in the practice room, the attention to detail, the spirit of musical teamwork and most importantly the focus to pull it all together when it counted most. That sense of focus for the final result was a gift you passed on to many folks. I truly thank you for that.

You also provided me a great role model for the 20 years I spent teaching at the University level. Inspire greatness from everyone. Teaching, as it turned out, has very little to do with showing, but rather a great deal to do with providing a solid example of what you expect of those around you. Inspiration far outweighs “teaching”.

The musical lives of so many folks are better for knowing you. The focus and work ethics of many of us have been positively influenced by you. But most important of all, we are all better humans for having known you! I am honoured to call you a friend, a colleague and a mentor.

-Ray Dillard

2021 Band Camp Directors Band Action Photo!

-Travis Barney

Alumni Tribute Photos

Alumni Tribute Videos


Recently, Judy Pierce, a former clarinetist in Dr. Garner's bands, suggested putting together a short poem outlining Dr. Garner's history at West Texas A&M and his impact on the Texas school, music scene. Judy and her husband, Jim, assisted materially in this by helping the writer find public source information on Dr. Garner's band directorship, providing videos of his interaction with his former students, and contributing their own anecdotal memories of the man and his music.

The following rhymed verses are not meant to be a journalistic record of Dr. Garner's time at West Texas A&M formerly West Texas State University but rather give an impressionistic portrayal of how his character positively influenced so many of his students.

The poet has arbitrarily broken the poem into three sections; the first speaking mainly of the professor and the bands, the second recounting his own memories of personal contacts between him and a few of his students, and the third positing some possible basis for the magic in his music.



My deepest appreciation goes to Jimt for his time in creating a poem projecting the essence of Dr. Garner. This book was made to honor Dr. Gary Garner to express how his leadership has influenced every student touched in his teaching career. Photos have been scanned from 1967 to 1970 WTSU annuals or the WTSU campus newspaper from that era and my personal photos. Photos of Dr. Garner and his sons were taken from the Internet with public access. It is not intended to be sold for profit.

Jimt writes poetry about significant events and people and has a website where his poetry is shared. He wrote such a poem about my husband and me playing golf and our personalities both on and off the course.

Over the years, Jimt has listened to my husband and myself tell stories about the West Texas band alumni reunions. He became interested in Dr. Garner and his affiliation with the WT band and his rapport with his students and alumni. Jimt wanted to find out what keeps bringing the alumni back to share events, a day, or even a few hours with this professor who has had such an impact on so many lives. While we remember it differently, Jimt brought up the idea of writing about Dr. Garner which I quickly embraced and became engaged in researching this bandmaster’s career.

This poem came about with Jimt’s unique, creative style as we shared information about Dr. Garner. Jimt decided on the topics that interested him most to write about. I left this up to him as he wrote from his perspective what he took from our stories and his interpretation of those stories.

Judy Mercer Pierce –Class of 1970


  1. Sharon Guenat on August 14, 2021 at 7:19 am

    Dr. Garner, it is truly impossible to express adequately how much I love and respect you! What a blessing it was for me to have had the honor of being in your band for four years.
    The memories I have are wonderful. Thank you for helping me on my bass clarinet and for always encouraging me with you kind words! I am pretty sure all who were ever in your band
    feel exactly as I do. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!! Sharon Goode Guenat

  2. Judy Pierce on August 14, 2021 at 1:50 pm

    First of all, I would like to express how wonderful this Tribute to Dr. Gary Garner section of the website is. Great job to Charles, Don, and everyone for contributing.

    Dr. Garner,
    Happy Birthday, Dear Mentor and inspirator. You have inspired and led so many through the years with your professionalism, your expectations for each band member, and sense of humor bringing us together as a family. One of the reasons I decided to attend WTSU was because of you. During my high school years when you conducted clinics with the Pampa High School band, your work ethic influenced me to be the best I could be and contributed to my making All-State and making music such an important part of my life.

    You and Mrs. Garner were wonderful father and mother figures to all the band members even though you weren’t that much older than us. That sense of family keeps us coming back to share a very treasured time in our lives. You will always own a piece of my heart.
    – Judy Mercer Pierce