Garvey, John (1921-2006) | University of Illinois Archives
John C. Garvey was born March 17, 1921 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania and attended Temple University, studying violin under Alfred Lorenz. He joined the faculty of the UIUC School of Music in 1948 when the Walden String Quartet was brought to the University from Cornell University, as quartet-in-residence. Garvey continued as the principal teacher of viola, and as a member of the quartet, until the 1970s.
After coming to Illinois, he developed a large number of other musical interests. He conducted the School of Music's chamber orchestra, started the jazz band in 1960 and remained the principal faculty member in the jazz field until his retirement in 1991, and became very active in the School's activities in new and experimental music. In addition to doing much of the conducting at the biennial Festival of Contemporary Arts in the 1960s and early 1970s, Professor Garvey also arranged guest residencies at UIUC for important innovators and composers of new music, such as Harry Partch and John Cage.
In the 1970s, Garvey traveled to Russia and Southeast Asia, to study performance of indigenous musics. He became an expert in Russian instrumental folk music and established the University's Russian Folk Orchestra, which he conducted for over a decade, and which toured widely in the USA and abroad. He also studied South Indian vocal music with visiting professor from India, Dr. Ranganayaki Ayyangar. Intimate involvement with Indonesian music and dance was characteristic of the late part of his career, as he traveled repeatedly to Java and Bali in order to observe performances, engage in research, and begin collecting art and artifacts from these countries.Â This part of his collection was donated in 2003 to the University's Spurlock Museum.
John Garvey and the UI Jazz Band were acknowledged by the Smithsonian Institute as one of the major contributors of recorded jazz during the period from 1966 through 1975. A publication compiled by the Smithsonian included Garvey and his band along with jazz noteables Count Basie, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Charles Mingus, Oscar Peterson, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Sarah Vaughan, and other legendary musicians.