Honoring Dr. Garner: A Collection of Interviews

May 10, 2021

This year was our last year with our beloved Dr. Garner as our music teacher. Though we will all miss her dearly, we wish her the best for her career and a new start. Below are some of the quotes from three choir students – Abigail Pickens, Shea Waters, and Annie Williamson – pertaining to Dr. Garner’s teaching. For my full interview with Dr. Garner, you can click on the video below for an audio recording. 

How long have you been taking choir, and how has Dr. Garner’s teaching enhanced your skills as a vocalist? 

Abigail:  “I have been taking choir since my freshman year, and I have also taken AP music theory and IB music with her. Dr Garner’s teaching is not only excellent as a choral director, but also as an academic teacher of music theory. As a vocalist, she has taught me how to master many different styles of singing to allow my voice to be as versatile as possible.”

Shea:  “I’ve been in choir since lower school. I didn’t take the class my freshman year,but other than that, [I’ve been in choir] pretty much my whole life. I’ve never had a director quite like Dr. Garner. I’ve expanded my vocal range a lot, I’m more confident in switching between my chest voice and my head voice, I’m better at reading music, and so much more!” 

Annie: “I’ve been in choir with Dr. Garner since my freshman year – so four years now! I came into choir very nervous and insecure about singing, but throughout my four years with her, I can definitely say [that] my vocal abilities grew tremendously and I have confidence in my voice.” 


What is your favorite song that you’ve ever sung with Dr. Garner, and why? 

Abigail: “My favorite song that I have done with Dr. Garner is probably Gloria.” 

Shea:  “My favorite song we’ve sung is The Lord Bless You and Keep You. Throughout my three years with Dr. Garner, we’ve performed the song multiple times and I’ve cried almost every single time. For me, the song holds memories of Melk Abbey from our trip to Austria and Germany in my sophomore year. We sing it at every graduation. What started as a beautiful piece that moved me to tears . . . is now such a major part of who I am and where I’ve been.” 

Annie:  “It’s hard to choose just one, but I’d have to say “Stars” [by] Erik Esenvalds. We performed it my freshman year and the harmonies were just perfect.” 


What is the most important lesson for singing that Dr. Garner has taught you?

Abigail: “The most important lesson for singing that Dr. Garner has taught me is that vocal health is the most important thing. As a singer, you use your instrument for so many other things other than just singing, so making sure you are being healthy with it – even when not singing – is so vital to having consistent sound.” 

Shea: “Most of all, Dr. Garner taught me to not be afraid of my own voice. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in anxiety and technicalities, but Dr. Garner gave me the confidence and courage to recognize these obstacles and just sing.” 

Annie: “Dr. Garner always emphasizes the importance [that] diction has on a piece. Whether it be understanding the emotional connection to a song or simply just pronouncing the words correctly, she’s unique in that she always reinforces this skill.”  


What is the most important life lesson Dr. Garner has taught you? 

Abigail: The most important life lesson that Dr. Garner has taught me is that you have to prioritize yourself and make sure you are always doing what is best for you in the long run. But you can do this while also being compassionate and helpful to others. There is a balance!” 

Shea: “The most important lesson that Dr. Garner has taught me is to trust myself. I tend to over-analyze everything I do, to the point of inhibiting both [my] natural and learned ability. Dr. Garner taught me this balance between harnessing this need for self-control, but also letting myself go. This applies not only to choir, but all aspects of my life.” 

Annie: “[There are] so many! But my favorite one is the importance of being in the moment and enjoying the present. She demonstrates this in class through our mindfulness exercises where we practice being fully aware of our mind and body. I’m going to miss her so much! Best teacher ever!”

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