Prof. Garyth Nair Passes Away, Leaving Behind a Gem of a Concert Hall
Plus the stunning musical talent it attracts to Drew.
Drew University Professor of Music Garyth Nair—whose expertise in the science of sound helped pave the way for the remarkable acoustics in the school’s Concert Hall—passed away on Saturday, August 10, at age 69. A faculty member for 23 years, Nair, who suffered a stroke late in July, is remembered on campus for his leadership of Drew’s Chorale and University Orchestra, and in the community for his 34-year tenure as music director of the acclaimed Summit Chorale.
Nair’s role in the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts’ Music Wing—including the concert hall—was to serve as the university’s representative to the architects and engineers responsible for carrying out his vision. He played a leadership role in its design and construction and it remains a lasting part of his legacy.
Nair was born in 1943 and raised in Latrobe, Penn. He developed his interest in music as a young child, learning to play the organ and sing Gregorian chant at the Benedictine Archabbey of St. Vincent, a local monastery where he also studied physiology. He later attended Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J., where he became the school’s first-ever student to be named assistant conductor of the choir. Before earning a master’s degree in musicology from New York University, he studied at the Tanglewood Institute in Lenox, Mass.
At Drew, Nair taught Techniques of the Voice, Style Analysis and Orchestration, among many other undergraduate courses. When he wasn’t conducting university ensembles, he was teaching students how to lead them. He also founded Drew’s Laboratory for Applied Spectrogram in the Study of Singing—a marriage of his passion for music and biology—to use computer technology to analyze sound. From this research came his book, The Craft of Singing, which received high acclaim from critics and academics alike.
Off campus, Nair held leadership and artistic positions with the Chamber Symphony of New Jersey, the New Jersey Symphony and the Lakeland Youth Symphony. He also served as a visiting conductor in the Philippines for the Manila Symphony Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera Chorus of Manila.
Caitlin Scanlan ’06, who served as Nair’s assistant while also performing in Drew’s University Chorale, remembered him for the rigor of his instruction and his devotion to the success of his students.
“He was challenging, not tough—and always committed to seeing us thrive,” she said. “He wanted the best for all of us and would cheer us towards our goals.”
That commitment to students was also felt on a campuswide level, Scanlan said.
“His passion for music and what it brings to a culture and community was infectious. He truly loved what he did.”
Funeral arrangements are being made through the Bradley & Sons Funeral Home in Chatham, N.J., where a small service will be held on Friday, Aug. 16th (gathering at 10:00 a.m., service at 11:00 a.m.) A larger celebration of Nair’s life, to be held at Drew, is being planned. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be directed to The Voice Foundation, 1721 Pine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103, or online at www.voicefoundation.org.—Michael Bressman