Bob Gardner is a bass player for the Rochester Chamber Music Society. He holds an MA in Fine Arts from the University of Montana and an MA in Religious Studies from Indiana University. He works as an educator at Lourdes High School. He also plays bass with guitarist Cliff Jack.
What sparked your interest in music?
I grew up around music. I started with guitar, but by the time I got to high school, there wasn’t space for a guitarist, so I was told to learn the upright bass. I knew that it had some things in common with the guitar, and the rest was intuitive. That began a lifetime of trying to make sense of that creature. I stuck with it, and it is stuck with me. I’ve been really fortunate to be around people that gave me opportunities and who taught me about the instrument and about music.
What is it like to spend an entire life devoted to music?
Once someone is in it, there is no escape. It’s like a virus. That being said, it is such a fascinating reality to be part of the musical experience. Life is different because of it, and it’s such a great privilege to go anywhere and step in with a group of musicians and make that happen.
Most memorable Rochester gig experience?
Over the years, I have done a number of the Harmony for Mayo Concerts in various configurations. The reason that those concerts stay in memory is because almost every time someone comes up to me to say what that music has meant to their experience of being at the Mayo Clinic. I understand that the music isn’t just entertaining people, but it is contributing to their healing in some way. It is a real gift.
If you could run sound for one artist no longer among the living, who would it be? Why?
I would have liked to be around Henry Mancini, who was known for his movie scores. One of my earliest memories musically is realizing the impact of his scoring, and I think it would have been great to stand in the back of the room and learn from what he was doing.
What is your musical philosophy?
There is no moment in history where there hasn’t been musical expression. My favorite description of music comes from brain research: “Music lights up the brain.” That, to me, says it all.
Top three artists at the moment?
Tony Bennett. The guy is 90 years old, and he is still working. His music always has integrity, and he is such a generous spirit.
Stephen Sondheim. He has affected musical theater in a way that no one else has. He changed the game in ways that by now we are able to take for granted. Anyone that has that sort of impact deserves all the attention that they get.
James Taylor. I never get tired of listening to him. He is a fine songwriter and delivers the music so honestly.
One book you think everyone should read?
Everyone should read Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ because there is a truth in there, an understanding of the human experience that is endurable and so perfectly written.
Strangest thing you’ve ever seen an audience member do?
We were playing for a dance, and a man’s toupee flew off his head while he was dancing. Without missing a beat in the context of the dance, it was picked up from the dance floor and put back on his head.
Best show you’ve ever seen?
Stevie Wonder. I remember coming away from that concert amazed at the musicianship that he breathes and his generosity among musicians. He had 20 people on the stage with him, and he was helping those people to be as musical as they could be. It was very impressive.
What motivates you to keep playing music?
It’s because music has such possibility – both the playing and the interaction with other players. And because it is music after all.