The Greene genes carry a melody for father, son, and grandson.
For his master's degree in music education, Gareth Greene, M.S. '61, attended Ithaca College when much of the campus was located downtown. He was already a father with a baby son, Jeffrey.
A brass player in high school, Gareth studied the French horn during his undergraduate studies at Salem College but soon found his true passion was clarinet and decided to study the instrument during his graduate work at IC. His professor, Carl Wickstrom, fostered an even deeper appreciation for the clarinet. "The man amazed me. He provided me with a tremendous understanding of the instrument," says Gareth.
Because he was raising a family, Gareth went to school part-time, finishing his degree in four years while working as a teacher at Binghamton West Junior High School. He then taught for six years at Binghamton North Senior High School before becoming the first band director for the new Greece Athena High School in Rochester in 1969, where he remained for the rest of his band-directing career. Although Gareth has retired from directing bands, he continues to give private lessons on clarinet, saxophone, and bassoon.
Gareth passed his love of music on to his son Jeffrey '76, who says he chose IC not to follow in his father's footsteps but because he was impressed by the reputation of its music education program. Though he realized that only Jeffrey could decide where to go to college, Gareth says he always hoped his son would choose IC. "I would have been upset if he wanted to go someplace else," he admits now.
Since he'd started trombone lessons only a short time before transferring to IC from a community college, Jeffrey felt that his classmates' musical abilities were far more advanced than his own. But that didn't matter. He had found his passion, and he was going to stick with it. Eventually he caught up with the other students and even joined the Ithaca Jazz Rock Ensemble. Today he is the band director at Greece Olympia High School and plays the lead trombone in the 16-piece Johnny Matt Big Band, which plays parties and dances in the Rochester area and also features Chuck Morey '64 on drums and Howard Rowe '67 and H. David Martin '79 on trumpet.
Jeffrey credits former IC professor Jack Bullock, who supervised student teaching, with giving him the skills with which to teach well. Edward Gobrecht, he says, was among the professors (now emeritus) who offered valuable lifelong lessons. Gobrecht taught bassoon and conducted the Ithaca College Concert Band until his retirement in the late 1980s. "He was probably the most influential teacher I ever had in my schooling," Jeffrey says. "He said two things: Never accept mediocrity, and always associate with people better than yourself."
Jeffrey has fond memories of his IC professors, but there is one teacher who continues to make an impression on him. "He's been a real mentor," Jeffrey says about his father. "I always bounce ideas off him, including those on how to manage the classroom better." The elder Greene's constructive criticism means as much as to Jeffrey as the guidance he received from his IC professors. Gareth's private students today are mostly the students Jeffrey teaches at the high school. Gareth, says his son, not only helps his students progress in their music skills, but his dad also helps him to progress as a teacher.
The Greenes' love of music is a true legacy. Jeffrey's son Kevin '06 says he found his calling in music with the help of his grandfather and father. "I think without them I probably would have gone a different route, but they helped me discover my abilities." The youngest Greene recalls trying to mimic his dad's trombone playing when he was too small to really hold the instrument. "I would pick up the trombone and pretend to play, as if I knew what I was doing," he smiles.
But later he, too, found a passion for creating music. Kevin played the trombone throughout high school and thought about a career in directing or playing for a band. But after seeing a fall 2001 IC production of the musical Parade, he was obsessed with the idea of performing for the stage. From that moment on, he says, IC was his first choice. "I was really excited to come here," he says, remembering how good it felt to be accepted as a musical theater major after the rigorous audition process. His father remembers that big audition day, too: "Kevin was so confident he took a two-hour nap beforehand," says Jeffrey.
Whether that's an exaggeration or not, we'll never know. But it is clear that his father and grandfather are proud of Kevin and look forward to watching him grow as a performer. "Kevin's a big entertainer," says Jeffrey. "He has talent, self-confidence, charisma, and personality."
The mutual respect and affection of the three generations of Greene men is obvious when you see them together, and the musical legacy gives one a sense of watching a demonstration of genes at work.
This past year Kevin performed in summer stock productions at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn, New York. That experience, he says, reaffirmed his commitment to pursuing a career on stage. In Mame he played alongside Tony Award winner Catherine Cox, from whom he gained invaluable insight. She urged him, he says, to "go for it, be strong, be bold, be brave."
The elder generations, one has no doubt, would concur; finding a passion and pursuing it is a Greene family tradition.
-- Kimberlyn David '06 with Maura Stephens