Robert Gardner, Conductor
Robert Gardner was reared in a family of no less than 15 musicians, including a choral conductor grandfather who was pals with the likes of Robert Shaw, Paul J. Christiansen and Leonard Slatkin. Robert held his first conducting position at age twenty-one, the first music director of Colorado Community Church, in close partnership with Reverend Dr. Mark Brewer, conducting all rehearsals and up to three choral services per week. Then, after an opera apprenticeship in Santa Fe, he studied orchestral conducting with Maestro Shinik Hahm at Yale School of Music while completing his graduate studies in Voice and Opera from 1995 to 1998. Though only on rare occasions, he became known for having the ability to step from the stage to the pit for the occasional ailing or unavailable conductor while other singers covered him, even in rhythmically complex new opera with orchestra. After establishing himself in a vocal and opera career, with foreboding news about his new home at New York City Opera in 2007, he took special interest in a certain choral job offer. The board of directors of his hometown choir asked if Robert would gradually become the new leader of his family’s choral tradition. It is a tradition which traces its roots from the Thomaskantors in Leipzig, through Scandinavia and Minnesota, St. Olaf and Concordia Colleges, and landed in Denver, Colorado. The board’s aim was toward easing his grandfather into retirement. Robert made the move to Denver in 2007 to polish his choral conducting skills while maintaining important singing engagements. He became Principal Conductor of the Colorado Choral Arts Society for four years, and Principal Guest Conductor of the choirs of Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver where he learned and taught the RSCM tradition. He mentored no fewer than six young conductors in those four years.
Robert has moved his base of operations to Munich, Germany due to many precipitating factors, including his love of all things European. There he serves several area choirs in addition to his singing and teaching activities. It would seem that a cycle of his musical traditions has come almost completely full-circle, from Leipzig to Munich, and through many detours in pursuit of great art and personal bliss.
Gardner is a rare artist who happens to love process as much as performance, an essential ingredient in creating a fine choral ensemble. His love of people, his care and devotion towards the nurturing of choristers and community, and his vision for a better world through commanding and compelling music-making make him an ideal choral leader. With his technical skills, his tremendous musical prowess, and, perhaps most importantly, his love of humanity and the ennobling powers of art, he seems a rare find indeed. –S.P., Conductor and Professor
Bob ranks at the very top of my list of “total musicians” who possess the native talent, intellectual ability, and personal magnetism necessary to build and sustain a choral arts organization. It’s quite obvious to me and, I think, to everyone who has worked with Bob, that he has a far larger set of ideas about the special role of the chorus in music and in society than most working choral conductors, let alone other performers. — J.M., Conductor
His abilities as a coach and conductor with regards to musicality, extreme attention to diction in all languages, and carrying the sound over the orchestra for choirs is unmatched compared to other choral conductors with whom I have worked. Furthermore, his ability to adhere with integrity to the composer’s harmonic and rhythmical language throughout any composition commands for Maestro Gardner my highest recommendation when it comes to preparing choruses for orchestral-choral works. — D.H., Conductor and Professor
It was thanks only to the training I received directly from observing Robert for so many years that I was able and willing to try directing. I used warm-ups, suggestions, and techniques that I learned watching him as my director. Being a member of his choir was one of the most valuable experiences in my life to date. Robert instilled in us a remarkable level of confidence. He made the volunteer, amateur singer feel like he or she was an expert who had been performing professionally, all over the world, with just as impressive of a resume as his. He communicated exactly what was needed to enable us to achieve the perfect sound both individually, and as a choir. Never before had I felt so confident, talented, and hopeful as when I was in his choir. — K.J., Emerging Conductor