I was born in Alexandria, PA in 1924.  At age 12, I began playing the clarinet when I entered the seventh grade at the Hollidaysburg, PA junior high school.  The musical director of the school was Cyrus Thompson who held classes for us to learn to play the instrument.  My Father purchased a Conn clarinet for me, which I still play.  After a few lessons, Cy put me in both the high school band and orchestra.  I played yearly in All County bands and All State bands beginning in 1939, in Clearfield, PA,  getting up to third chair solo clarinet in 1941 in Lock Haven, PA, with Dr. William Revelli, director of bands at the University of Michigan, as guest conductor.  I played The Flight of the Bumble Bee, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov at my high school commencement in 1941, with the high school orchestra accompanying me.  Cy offered to help me apply for a music scholarship at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, but I told him that I wanted to study engineering instead.

I began to take lessons at the Johnstown, PA, School of Music in 1936 under the instruction of C.C. Cutterrage, who had retired from the United States Marine Band as the First Chair Clarinet player.  I studied under him for four years.  He put me in the Johnstown Civic Symphony and the Johnstown American Legion Band which won first place honors in Pittsburgh, PA at the 1940 annual American Legion Convention competition.

I also began playing in various marching and concert bands such as the Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division Band and the Altoona Works Band of the PRR, the Duncansville band, the Hollidaysburg band and in the Fall 1942 /Spring 1943 term, the Penn State Blue band under the direction of Hummel Fishburn.

I was fortunate to live in a room at Penn State in the spring of 1943 that I rented from a mathematics professor named Edmund Umberger.  He played the clarinet, and insisted that we play duets, with his wife on her cello, several times each week…

I had also learned to play the piano, beginning with lessons from 1934 to 1936, from Professor F.P.M. Gipprich, who lived in Duncansville, PA., and I played piano in several local dance bands.

After WW2, I was urged by a friend, Ken Mackey, to join him in a travelling dance band, but I chose not to do that.  He later got tired of sleeping on a bus every night, and became a Necchi sewing machine salesman…

My musical ‘career’ has been interrupted from 1943 to 1970 because of military service, marriage and employment, and during the late 70’s and early 80’s because of business commitments.

I began playing in the Carlisle Town Band in 1970, and still perform with them when I am in Carlisle.

I have been playing in the Broward Symphonic Band in Fort Lauderdale, FL since 1999.  We won first place in the Florida Community Band competition on May 6, 2017.

Musician's Corner

George Gardner


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