Gary Garner was born in Dodge City, Kansas, to Frank and Madge Garner on August 14, 1930. When he was seven, the family moved to Eugene, Oregon, where they remained for one year before coming to Texas.
He attended Sam Houston Junior High School in Amarillo and in the seventh grade joined the band at the urging of his two best friends. Mr. Eads, the band director, gave him a baritone sax. Since it soon proved to be more than he could handle on his bike when he tried to take it home to practice, he convinced his parents to buy the most portable instrument he could find--a flute.
In high school, Gary also took up the saxophone and the clarinet and began playing in local dance bands, which he continued to do throughout college and for many years thereafter.
Following graduation from high school, Gary enrolled at Texas Tech as a geology major, which quickly proved to be a poor choice. Gary had resisted being a music major because that would most likely lead to a career in teaching--something he was determined to avoid at all costs. After the geology debacle, however, he became a music major by default.
In 1951, Gary married Marielien Griffin of Plainview, whom he had met in the college band. They have three sons: Brad, who lives in Cincinnati; Bryan, who lives in Dallas; and Blaire, who lives in Los Angeles. Mariellen died in 1994.
College was interrupted by a three-year stint in the Air Force. Gary was stationed at Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock and assigned to the band, where he served as leader of the dance band and assistant bandleader. He didn't realize it at the time, but it proved to be a valuable experience in preparation for the career he had earlier been so adamantly opposed to.
Although Gary didn't complete his ES from Texas Tech until the summer of 1955, he had already begun teaching on a half-time basis at Hutchinson Junior High in Lubbock. After four years at Hutchinson, he became band director at Monterey High School in Lubbock. He served there only one year and then was offered the position as marching band director at the University of Southern California. During his four years at the university, he completed his master's degree and most of the work on his doctorate. He received his DMA in 1967.
In 1963, he became Director of Bands at West Texas State University, where he remained for the next 39 years until retiring in 2002, The WTSU Symphonic Band performed ten times at TMEA, twice at the national CBDNA meetings, and twice at Carnegie Hall.
In 2002, Gary married Mary Irene Stevens. Gary is active doing clinics and the usual retirement stuff.