Heather MacLaughlin Garbes

Conductor, Educator, Researcher

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“Life is a Banquet…

…and most poor suckers are starving to death.” This quote from the movie Auntie Mame has been a favorite of mine since the first time that I watched the movie when I was a teenager. There are so many things around us that we don’t fully appreciate and I believe that as an educator, it should be a goal to not only teach for knowledge, but to teach for appreciation and beauty. In an age of advancing technology and personalized “everything”, we many times forget to communicate and to experience together and bringing students back to communal experiences is what I work to achieve in my classes.


Teaching and learning should be a continuous process for both the student and the teacher. There needs to be mutual respect between the students and the teacher to allow a positive learning environment to occur. Because music is such a personal and emotional study, there also needs to be respect to allow students to feel as if they can be open with their opinions and expression about the music.


My teaching interests focus on specific topics through the lens of community and personal growth. I taught World Music with the focus on how music affects society, nationalism and politics and continue to research the effects of music as part of the Singing Revolution in the Baltic States. Focusing on music as part of cultural identity, I am interested in developing courses that allow students to study the cultures of the communities that surround them and how music plays a role in their identities.


I have a strong interest in the multi-faceted aspects of conducting: gesture as a metaphor for the singer, leadership and breath and vocal tone within the ensemble coupled with musical knowledge and understanding. I enjoy teaching conducting, both in a group setting and also in private lessons.


As part of my music theory curriculum, I focus on how the concepts that are presented apply to students’ area of study through playing and analysis as well as their personal reflections.  I enjoy observing the many ways that students learn music theory and continue to develop new techniques of presentation to help students who are challenged with the subject material.


My goal for the students is to help them grow and understand themselves and the world around them through music. In the end, I believe that they become not only better musicians, but better human beings.


There is such a wealth and variety of flavors at our banquets each day. We need to be able to take the time to not only acknowledge them, but to understand them and, most importantly, savor them.