By Elizabeth Ransom
Elm Staff Writer

Dr. Garry Clarke, or G. Clarke, as many of his students better know him, chair of the Music department, is retiring this year after 44 years of teaching at Washington College.

Clarke’s affinity for music began in childhood.

“My parents were both singers, not professional singers, but very good… There was always music in our house, and we were always going to concerts and things.

“By the time I was in junior high or high school, I was very much interested in music; I’d studied piano and I learned to play the oboe… and it followed naturally that when I was thinking about college, music was the thing I probably liked to do most. It…happened because I’d been around it all my life.”

Clarke received a bachelor’s degree in music from Cornell College in 1965, and a master’s from Yale University two years later. After college, he spent time as an accompanist on the concert circuit before realizing he preferred the more social and pedagogical work of teaching.

He came to WC in 1968, the second professor in an incipient music department that has since grown considerably along with the College.

In addition to teaching, Clarke has composed many works, including an opera, “Westchester Limited,” which was performed at WC for an alumni scholarship benefit in the ‘70s. Though he already has an impressive list of accomplishments, including a book, “Essays on American Music,” and numerous grants and awards, he said he looks forward to having more time for musical projects and study in retirement. He also anticipates traveling more with his wife, particularly in Europe.

“I think the reason I’ve really loved being here is that I’ve had some wonderful students to work with,” he said.

His dedication in the classroom has certainly made an impact.

“Dr. Clarke has always been an extremely supportive professor who puts his students before everything else,” says Phaedra Scott, a sophomore under his direction in Vocal Consort. She appreciates his teaching and “his coordinated tie and sock combo.

“Dr. Clarke will seriously be missed, [and] in fact a bunch of students already miss him because we know we will not see him in the upcoming years or for our graduation. He’s done so much for this school and the least we can do is send him off with one more happy year,” she said.

Joel Bourland, a sophomore music major who has taken theory classes with Clarke and is one of his advisees, said that “being G. Clarke’s student is inspiring; only in his class did I recognize that my professor was sharing intimate wisdom about his life’s joy. Under his guidance, I never ceased to be amazed at the level of knowledge found in something as subjective as music.”

“A lot of times people come to college and they’ve done lots of things in high school and have to make a choice, and music is a lot of work,” Clarke said. “A lot of times people just stop… and I’ve heard many people over the years come to me saying they wished they’d kept it up… I think when you have music in your life it is a lot richer, and more wonderful, than it would be if there were no music around.”

The Elm

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