Dr. Robert Gant, Class of 1966
Dr. Robert Gant '66 (right) receives the prestigious Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award in January 2007 from Glenn Batten '90, Vice President for Enrollment Services. The Ragan Awards are given annually to celebrated North Carolina artists in the fields of creative writing, visual arts, and musical achievement. Introducing Dr. Gant was Bill McConnell, chair of the St. Andrews Music Department. Here is his introduction:
Johann Sebastian Bach is quoted as having said “It's easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself.” Those of us who make music as a vocation or an avocation take this statement with a very large grain (dare I say, block) of salt.
The pipe organ has often been referred to as the King of Instruments. Those who dare attempt to subdue it face the challenge of keeping both hands and both feet in almost constant motion while negotiating stop changes, page turns, ciphers, out-of tune reeds, and the inevitable church member who complains “Do you HAVE to play that thing so loud!” Because of where most great organs are installed, the challenge of conquering this beast is usually accomplished during long hours in organ lofts that are much too cold in the winter and much too hot in the summer. The organ is a daunting monster to the uninitiated, but, when played by a master – the combination of sounds and the power of the instrument’s multiple voices inspire awe from even the most jaded listener.
Tonight’s honoree has risen to the challenge presented by the King of instruments.
Dr. Robert Gant was born in Walkerton, NC near Winston Salem and studied organ with John and Margaret Mueller at Salem College. He entered St. Andrews Presbyterian College in 1962 as a Music Major and studied organ with John Williams until his graduation in 1966. From St. Andrews he went on to the University of Oklahoma to study with Mildred Andrews for his Master’s degree - which he received with honors in 1968. He received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in 1976 where he was a student of Russell Saunders. He has held teaching appointments at the University of Central Arkansas and the University of Northern Iowa. He has served as summer organist and choir director at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. While simultaneously continuing his performing career, he served as Vice President of Gant Oil Company from 1976-1998.
In his Junior year at St. Andrews, he won the Regional Playing Competition of the American Guild of Organists, where he competed with players from r North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. As his prize he presented a recital on the magnificent instrument in the Duke University Chapel. In his senior year at St. Andrews he tied for third place in the National American Guild of Organists competition in Atlanta. While at the University of Oklahoma he won the concerto competition as well as winning the American Guild of Organists Student Competition in Houston. While at Eastman he was chosen to perform a concerto with the Eastman/Rochester Philharmonic.
Recent activities have included recitals in New Orleans, Boston, New York, Atlanta and Charlotte. In 2004 he was invited to play a recital at St. Germain des Pres in Paris. In 2005 he returned to Paris for a recital at Cathedral of Notre Dame. Last April he presented an organ recital at Laurinburg Presbyterian Church as a featured event for his 40th graduating class reunion.
Robert Gant has represented his state and his alma mater well. He has coaxed great music from great instruments. St. Andrews is proud of a highly distinguished alumnus.