Dr. Gary Gerber has just taken his place as the new dean of Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music. Originally from Azle, Texas, Dr. Gerber comes to Mercer from his previous role as dean of the School of Fine Arts at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas. During his first week on the job, I asked him a few questions about his vision for leadership at Townsend and his personal interests, so the Mercer community can get to know him better.
When did your passion for music begin?
There was always music in our house. My mother was a music major and began teaching elementary music in public schools in Fort Worth, Texas. I sang in the church children’s choirs, then youth choirs growing up. I began playing the trumpet in band in sixth grade and played all through high school and college. My older brother was also in band, sang in choirs and was a music major in college. The family, except my father, was very musical.
Is there a leader who has inspired your work? What did you learn from that person?
Although I began as a trumpet player, I majored in vocal performance in college and choral conducting in graduate school. I have always loved the conductor Robert Shaw. His protégé was Donald Neuen, who in turn was a teacher of (former School of Music Dean) Dr. David Keith. David was my graduate choral professor. So, I feel as if there is a lineage from Robert Shaw’s teaching to my teaching.
What attracted you to Mercer? Is there anything that stuck out to you the most when visiting campus?
I have always been impressed with the Mercer music program and the level of professionalism and musicianship of its music faculty. The success of the music graduates in their music field or in graduate school is outstanding as well. I also love the beauty of the campus. It is a gorgeous campus that has both old and new elements in terms of buildings and architecture. I love walking on the wooden floors in the administration building and the refined beauty of Fickling Hall in the McCorkle Music Building.
If you had to name a favorite place in Macon or Middle Georgia so far, what would it be?
I have lived in Macon for less than a month, but I love driving around the downtown area and looking at the architecture of the old houses and buildings. The striking beauty of the different church buildings gives a distinctive heritage to the city.
What’s your favorite piece of music and why?
I don’t have a favorite piece of music. I enjoy all types of music. I have always loved Baroque and Renaissance music. From George Frederic Handel to Johann Sebastian Bach or Giovanni Palestrina to William Byrd, this is the music I enjoy listening to during the day. However, when I am not in the office, I enjoy a different type of music, such as Queen, the Beatles, Chick Corea and of course the Allman Brothers!
What are your goals for Townsend School of Music?
My goals are to continue to strengthen the well-established music program. I want to work toward new recruiting strategies to increase enrollment, to look at new possibilities for programs in music industry/technology and to make the music program a shining example of excellence for the University, the community and the music profession.
What concerts in the music school are you most excited about for the upcoming year?
The music calendar for the upcoming year is fantastic. I look forward to hearing our students perform and seeing them grow musically over the years. This is what we are all about in teaching music. Our Fabian Center for Musical Excellence has an outstanding line up of guest artists and speakers that will be a highlight for the program and University. I would encourage our students, faculty, staff and community to attend as many programs as possible. I hope to see them there!
What do you see as a challenge in higher education leadership today?
The continued challenge is recruiting new students. There are fewer students attending college after high school, so recruiting that same pool of students will always be a challenge. We must continue to get the message out to high school programs about the high level of musical education Mercer can offer.
What’s an unusual fact about you that the Mercer community might not know?
Since I am new to the Mercer community, there is quite a bit that they probably do not know about me. I enjoy woodworking and turning writing pens, I have a small cavapoo dog (a cross between a Cavalier King Charles spaniel and poodle) named Ollie, and I have a love for aviation, earning my private pilot’s certificate during my graduate school years.