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Meet The Conductor: Mary Gardner

Updated: Jan 16, 2019

How long have you been with NYS?

I started in the fall of 2013.

When did you start playing music?

I've been fascinated with instruments for as long as I can remember, but I started piano and percussion lessons in fourth grade.

Did you have a music teacher that stood out and had an influence on you?

I'm so grateful to every single one of my teachers, but the one who initially sparked my love of music was my youth orchestra conductor, Dr. Dan D'Addio. I played for Dan in the Greater Hartford Youth Wind Ensemble and Connecticut Youth Symphony through middle and high school. His passion and enthusiasm showed me how powerful music can be, and I knew I wanted to inspire others the way he inspired me. 

Did you always want to be a conductor/music educator? 

At first I wanted to be a performer, but in middle school I developed severe tendonitis and tennis elbow which was complicated by a series of other health issues. Doctors told me I had to stop playing percussion, so I spent several years teaching myself other instruments in hopes that I could find a way to stay in music. While nothing could replace my love for percussion, I found a deep appreciation for all the other instruments which really helped me when I decided to become and educator and conductor.  After many years of healing and changing techniques, my arms finally recovered and I'm grateful that I can still play percussion in addition to teaching and conducting.  

If you weren't a conductor, what career would you want to try?

I can't imagine not working in music in some form, but my other passion is animals so I'd say working with some kind of animal rescue organization.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that most people don't know.

I have 4 rescue pets - three cats and a bunny.  My first rescue kitten, Weebles, has cerebellar hypoplasia (brain damage) and seizures, and every day he reminds me that no matter how many times you fall over, you can always get back up!

Could you share a favorite NYS memory?

I think our most memorable Phil Winds performance was outside the Stepping Stones Museum.  There was a crazy storm and the wind literally blew music stands off the stage, but the kids kept playing! They were such troopers, and it made our concert inside city hall the following week much easier by comparison!

What advice would you give to NYS students or to a student who would like to audition for NYS?

Learn how to really listen; to yourself, to your section, to music in all forms. Take every opportunity you have to make music, and come be a part of NYS!


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