Converse shoes, teaching and rock ‘n’ roll

Alyssa Lofgren

At 6:58 p.m. in Tuesday night’s Introduction to Jazz class, a stagnant, sleepy vibe permeates through the classroom. Students glance at their cell phones or power up their laptops, willing the night to speed by.

Professor Glen Garrett walks into the room shortly after, promptly turning on some music, loudly, to start to the class.

Jelly Roll Morton’s ragtime piano fills the large lecture hall and cheerful rhythms begin to gently stimulate the once fading energy of the class.

Garrett bounces slightly, his head moving rhythmically to the beat. He paces in small circles around the front of the large classroom. His brown Converse sneakers, which he wears three to four days a week and “owns at least five pairs, maybe six,” shuffle around to the swinging notes floating around him.

Gradually, the music perks up the wilting students and soon, feet are tapping, heads are bobbing and bodies are swaying to the jovial piece pouring from the speakers.

Garrett has a special ability to make jazz and music appreciation classes accessible and enjoyable for all. He lectures like a walking encyclopedia, his hands flying as he describes the stories behind the music.

His teaching is rich with anecdotes. Though he focuses on the way music is performed, he gives heart to the class and materials by detailing musician’s lives and experiences.

“I’ve always loved teaching, and I’ve always been fascinated by how non-musicians listen to music,” Garrett said. “I’ve always wanted to turn people on to music.”

Garrett was born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT. His love for music began when he learned how to play the clarinet in his grade school band.

Though his father was concerned about Garrett choosing music as a career path, Garrett soon realized he was meant to pursue a future in music.

At the age of 16, Garrett started to play professionally around Salt Lake City. Big bands in need of back-up hired him and he made money by giving private music lessons and playing at fashion shows and dances.

In 1972, Garrett received his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Utah, where he also taught saxophone lessons and music theory. In 1973, he was offered a graduate assistantship at CSUN, and began to work on a Master of Fine Arts degree, which he completed in 1975.

Garrett now primarily plays the saxophone, flute and clarinet. He is known as a woodwind doubler, which is somebody who can play all of the above instruments and switch around as needed.

Garrett has a reputation on campus as being a “cool teacher,” and his section of Music in Contemporary Society is casually known as “the history of rock and roll”. His ratemyprofessor.com profile is almost flawless, and students rave about Garrett’s easy-going attitude and encouragement of musical exploration.

“I’ve always tried to be easy. I want to take academic pressure out of my courses, because that’s not what they’re about. You could not do well in my class and still learn the important things (about music). When people are exposed to good music, they like it,” Garrett said.

“He has his own unique style, and you can tell he really likes teaching and jazz. You can tell he tries to instill his love of music into his students,” said Shirley Burleson, a junior apparel design major in the process of becoming a music major as well.

Garrett’s creatively cluttered office is filled with towering stacks of CD’s, framed posters of jazz musicians, and many photographs and memorabilia from his recording career. Garrett played flute on the Planet of the Apes sound track, and has contributed to countless movie sound tracks, television shows and advertising jingles throughout his career.

His wide range of experience in musical performance has led to meeting many interesting people. Garrett describes Buddy Rich, an American jazz drummer and band leader, as one of the most interesting people he has ever met.

“I played with his band for three weeks,” Garrett said. “His band had deserted him on the road. We got off the plane, changed clothes, and got on the bandstand. He took over the whole show, and put on a great show.”

During the intermission of the show, Garret found Rich sprawled out on the floor, flat on his back, gasping for air due to physical exhaustion.

“His commitment is something I will never forget,” he said.

Comedian and actor George Burns is another source of inspiration. He met Burns while playing with Maureen McGovern, the opening act for George Burns.

“Occasionally in your career, and this is rare, you meet an entertainer who is the same person on stage and off stage. We used to hang out in his dressing room and he would entertain us before shows,” Garrett said.

Though Garrett said his favorite albums change from day to day, he said Sly Stone’s Greatest Hits, Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane and Bach’s St. Matthew Suite are among his favorites.

Though he usually listens to baseball on the radio in his car, Garrett said Coltrane’s Greatest Hits, Sly and the Family Stone and Tower of Power are likely to be found in his CD player.

“You would mostly find music my son and I can agree on,” said Garrett.

Garrett has been married for 20 years and has two children, one in high school and the one in college. His family lives with a black Labrador retriever named Griswald, and a cat named Charlie.

A self proclaimed “technophobe,” Garrett said he is an analog type of guy.

“I’ve never gotten along well with machinery,” he said.

His pet peeves include students letting the door slam as they leave class in the middle of a lecture and being a left-handed citizen is that the world was designed for right-handed people.

Besides music, Garrett has two other passions.

“One of my other passions is baseball. I played baseball when I was a kid, and I like it for the same reasons I like music. It takes both physical and mental skill,” he said.

Though Garrett tends to be a Dodger fan, he mostly follows national leagues.

Garrett acknowledges the greatness of cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York for their history within music, but said that he finds that the real heart of the country is in smaller interior towns.

Garrett traveled through these small towns for two years, touring with the Les Brown Orchestra. If the opportunity arises to travel more in the future, he said he will gladly go.

As for the future, Garrett hopes to continue teaching as a lecturer and working on side projects.

He said his goal of getting students to appreciate music will continue.

“My classes are big, and if out of 100 students, I can reach 10, I feel really good,” Garrett said.

“He’s a cool teacher, because he’s gotten me into jazz,” said Berny Pacheco, a junior art major. “His class has really opened my eyes to different types of music.”

“I admire his knowledge, musicianship, and the energy he puts forth to students,” said Ric Alviso, chair of the department of music at CSUN. Alviso shared an office with Garrett when he began teaching at CSUN.

Alviso said the music department couldn’t survive without Glenn, as the popularity of his classes lures students to the department and music major.

Most students can agree that a professor with passion is the best to have and Garrett infuses his teaching with a firm and inarguable love of music.

“It’s the noblest endeavor of the human race,” said Garrett. “Music exemplifies the best things about being alive and human.”

Garret on Film
Glen Garrett’s musical credits include
:
Caddy Shack Planet of the Apes Flubber Batman Returns Mission Impossible Edward Scissorhands Flintstones Good Will Hunting Toy Story Sleepless in Seattle The Nightmare Before Christmas Joy Luck Club Dead Poet’s Society Scrooged Midnight Run Scenes from a Mall LA Story He said, She said

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