Nair’s role in the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts’ Music Wing – including the concert hall – was to serve as the university’s representative to the architects and engineers responsible for carrying out his vision.
“Garyth was internationally known for his scholarship in the science of singing,” said Drew President Vivian A. Bull. “As a professor of music and conductor of the Drew orchestra and chorale, he was a mentor to many. But perhaps his crowning achievement was the design and construction of our concert hall. The fact that it has been recognized as one of the world’s great intimate halls is a testament to his vision, artistry and creativity. His spirit will live on in every note that reverberates in that beautiful performance space he helped bring to life.”
Nair was born in 1943 and raised in Latrobe, Penn. He developed his interest in music as a young child, learning to play the organ and sing Gregorian chant at the Benedictine Archabbey of St. Vincent, a local monastery where he also studied physiology. He later attended Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J., where he became the school’s first-ever student to be named assistant conductor of the choir. Before earning a master’s degree in musicology from New York University, he studied at the Tanglewood Institute in Lenox, Mass.
At Drew, Nair taught Techniques of the Voice, Style Analysis and Orchestration, among many other undergraduate courses. When he wasn’t conducting university ensembles, he was teaching students how to lead them. He also founded Drew’s Laboratory for Applied Spectrogram in the Study of Singing – a marriage of his passion for music and biology – to use computer technology to analyze sound. From this research came his book, The Craft of Singing, which received high acclaim from critics and academics alike.
Off campus, Nair held leadership and artistic positions with the Chamber Symphony of New Jersey, the New Jersey Symphony and the Lakeland Youth Symphony. He also served as a visiting conductor in the Philippines for the Manila Symphony Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera Chorus of Manila.
Caitlin Scanlan ’06, who served as Nair’s assistant while also performing in Drew’s University Chorale, remembered him for the rigor of his instruction and his devotion to the success of his students.
“He was challenging, not tough---and always committed to seeing us thrive,” she said. “He wanted the best for all of us and would cheer us towards our goals.”
That commitment to students was also felt on a campuswide level, Scanlan said.
“His passion for music and what it brings to a culture and community was infectious. He truly loved what he did.”