Web editor Rob Garner spends his work days hovering over a keyboard. But it’s keys of a different type that occupy his off-hours: Garner is a musician in the Gamer Symphony Orchestra at the University of Maryland.
“GSO is the very first college orchestra to draw its repertoire entirely from the sound tracks of video games,” Garner says. “By taking these songs and putting them in a concert hall, we hope to bring new audiences to orchestral music and to video games. We tend to think this music is great, even if you’ve never touched a game controller.”
Garner’s musical career began in the fourth grade when he decided to learn trumpet. “I didn’t like math, and music was an occasional free pass because it met at the same time,” he says. “I picked trumpet because it was small and only had three buttons to worry about.”
Garner kept up with the horn through college. GSO’s founder recruited Garner in late 2005. Back then, the group was brand new. There were less than a dozen members and the group had yet to rehearse, let alone perform in public.
“I saw a chance to couple music performance with a childhood love of Nintendo games, so I jumped on board,” Garner says. To resolve an overcrowding problem in the trumpet section, Garner switched to flugelhorn, a cross between the trumpet and the French horn, in the fall of 2007. He ran GSO’s administration as a graduate student and now serves as the group’s president emeritus.
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Rob Garner playing his flugelhorn. Credit: E. Campion
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The Gamer Symphony Orchestra during one of its concerts. Credit: E. Campion
|“We’re not just about performing,” Garner says. “We also want to make sure that the people in GSO are enjoying themselves. For us, it’s not just about our performances, it’s about our community.” Garner adds with a smile: “Some of us love GSO so much that we start relationships within it.” Garner met his fiancée, a violinist, in the ensemble.|
The greater community of video game music fans is paying attention, too. GSO shows routinely fill the largest concert hall on the university’s campus. Some area high schools have even founded orchestras in GSO’s image.
The professional Video Games Live touring concert series took interest in the college musicians, and the two groups worked together to add some GSO pieces