By Sue Moore
Chris Garrett, Vicksburg Rotary Club’s Showboat musical director for the last ten years, has received the Golden Trowel Award from District 6360 of Rotary International, an award given to a non-Rotarian who has made a significant contribution to a Rotary-sponsored project.
Working as lead coordinator of music at Kalamazoo Valley Community College has meant that Garrett couldn’t easily become a member of the Vicksburg Rotary Club, but his 21 years of giving back to the club through his musical endeavors and the Vicksburg community was enough to convince the judges that he should be awarded the Golden Trowel.
Garrett was nominated by Warren Lawrence, a 42-year veteran of the Vicksburg club and Showboat cast member. “I felt he deserved the award because of the many years of service Garrett has given to the Showboat as a non-Rotarian, in the most responsible post in the production,” said Lawrence. “Many people are nominated, but only a few are selected from the 57 clubs that make up the district in Southwest Michigan.”
Garrett came to Vicksburg as the high school band director in 1992 and joined the Showboat pit band to play electric bass guitar. His wife Dawn, was way ahead of him in that regard, as she has played clarinet in the “pit” band since she was in high school in Vicksburg. When the club needed a musical director ten years ago, Garrett accepted the invitation, saying the responsibility was a distinct honor.
“He has worked tirelessly to maintain high standards of musicianship,” said Dr. Ken Franklin, the Showboat stage director, in the nomination application for the award. “He balances an emphasis for having fun during rehearsals, holding each chorus member accountable, while caring for each singer under his direction. He is a great steward for the musical tradition of the Showboat. He is a great friend, and a great citizen of Vicksburg.”
The Showboat music director works closely with the script committee to choose script-related songs in four-part harmony for the all-male chorus. He also creates individual section vocal CDs for each chorus member for their individual rehearsals. Garrett does the impossible by singing all four parts for the individual tapes, bass, baritone, lead and top tenor. Can anybody else in town do that? Franklin said he doesn’t think so.
Building the pit band is also the musical director’s job, and Garrett has managed to keep many of the old-timers while developing new talent, including the many high school music students who have played in the pit band. In fact, Garett’s son Sean has played drums for the last two years, giving drummer Bruce Rolfe a needed a break. One other person from Vicksburg has won the award over the many years it has been given, Showboat pianist, Karla Stubblefield.
The Showboat, the primary money raising event for the 62-year-old Vicksburg Rotary Club, will cast off from the Vicksburg High School Performing Arts Center on March 6, 7, and 8, 2015.