Profile: Gary Packwood
Little did MSU Choral Director Gary Packwood know that when the state of Alabama began busing students in his community to different schools in the 1980s, it would change his life.
The 10th grader had decided while in middle school that he wanted to be an accountant, but his introduction to a new school system, with more opportunities and amenities than his previous one, transformed him into a lover of music.
"Our choir director, Ms. Hicks, taught us how music influences people. It teaches us such things as discipline, a sense of self-worth, and gives us validation," Packwood said, adding that his parents also played a major role in introducing him to the world of music.
His early experiences are why Packwood today focuses on people in his teaching, not just on the subject.
The Baton Rouge, La., native conducts four choirs on the Starkville campus: the Men of State, Women's Chorale, University Chorale, and the State Singers. He also teaches classes in advanced conducting and performance assessment, and puts in many hours of administrative work.
He was drawn to Mississippi State because he wanted to be at a major university in the South, and he knew that the MSU program had great potential for growth.
"And, I think being a one-armed conductor has made me more marketable as a job candidate," he said with a smile, explaining that he lost his right arm in a 2001 car accident.
"I want Mississippi State and these students to be at the top of the SEC in singing. To do that, we've got to continue to recruit top-notch, high-caliber vocal students," he said about his internal goals for the program.
Packwood already is beginning to realize some of his external goals, as well. On Easter Sunday 2012, about 60 MSU singers will perform twice in New York's Carnegie Hall. The nighttime performance, on the hall's main stage, was requested in response to an audition tape of the singers sent in by Packwood.
Next week … Phil Silva !