Monday, January 24, 2011

PS 39 Parent Tony Garnier

Bassist and PS 39 Parent Tony Garnier
Like most of us, PS 39 parents Tony and Trish Garnier happily devote themselves to their child’s school life. Tony’s day job, however, sets him slightly apart from your average neighbor: he’s the bass player and band leader for Bob Dylan. 

Born in Minnesota (like Dylan) and raised in California, Tony now calls Park Slope home. He’s like a rolling stone, however, when he spends five or six months a year touring the world with Dylan. Trish, who was at one time Bob Dylan’s personal chef, met Tony while they both worked a Dylan tour. Now they have two sons, Luke (who is in Ms. Imperiali’s kindergarten class) and baby Tino. 
A professional musician who has been making a living at music since the seventies, Tony has played with an impressive Who’s Who of pop music (as if Dylan weren’t enough!):  Asleep at the Wheel, Paul Simon, Buster Poindexter, Robert Gordon, Tom Waits, and many others. He’s also played in Broadway orchestras, for TV commercial jingles, and in the house band for Saturday Night Live. 
“My mom had said, ‘Well, you didn’t choose the bass, the bass chose you,’” Tony tells me.  “I didn’t even think about it until years and years later. I like playing the bass, playing the supportive role. It’s a really important thing. I consider myself really lucky.”
Tony comes from a musical family. His mother is a music teacher and had played the church organ. His dad (who died in 2001) was a carpenter, but also sang opera. Tony’s grandfather, it is believed, taught music to a young Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong in New Orleans, way back in the day. 
“Out of fifty first cousins,” he says, “there are only three of us playing as professional musicians.”
His musical journey was not always intended as a first priority. He had started out on the straight and narrow before music became his life. 
“I was planning on becoming a lawyer,” he says.  “I was really into politics. I got out of high school a year early and started playing more. I went to college at U.C. Berkeley, but I wasn’t really into school. I was into playing.”
He moved to New York in 1978, building his solid reputation one band at a time. By 1989, he was playing with Dylan. It was just in time for Communism to fall and for the Iron Curtain to rock around the Bloc. 
“Those were heavy days,” he says of those historic Dylan concerts which took place right after the Berlin Wall came down.
Eventually, Tony was promoted to Dylan’s band leader, after G.E. Smith decided to stop touring. Of working and playing with the man himself, Tony says, “Bob has the final say as far as the shows are concerned. He is really open to almost any suggestions from band or crew members. It's one of the reasons he has such a successful touring operation; it's constantly evolving. It's probably a good lesson in how to run a long-term business.” 
Tony’s son Lucas, 5, is a Dylan fan, and has actually attended his concerts and recordings. He also traveled with the band on the road.  For his young age, Luke is quite the music connoisseur. 
“Certain songs Luke really takes to,” Tony says, “like earlier on he liked Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday. He likes singers and songs. He likes Chuck Berry, ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ He loved the songs on Christmas In the Heart [The Bob Dylan Christmas album, released last year].”
These days, Lucas is busier with school than with traveling. Although both Lucas and Tino still occasionally attend a concert with dad, the schedule is not as intense as when Lucas was younger. 
Tony says, “It was easier traveling with one kid, but with two, it’s difficult. Now that Lucas is in kindergarten, it’s really harder. He went to Europe twice. He went to Italy. While we were doing the Christmas album, he came out to LA and stayed.” 
Still, when Tony is on the road, father and sons manage to keep in touch the modern way.
“Lucas is really into Skyping,” Tony says. “He could open Trish’s computer when he was three. He could turn on the computer and find my name on Skype!” 
Tony plans to start Lucas on piano at around age seven (“Playing piano is something that every kid should learn. That’s a great thing for every kid.”), but for now, the intensely fun experience of kindergarten is more than enough. 
“A good teacher is everything,” says Tony of Lucas’ teacher, Ms. Imperiali.  “Lucas’ first day in kindergarten was so heavy, because it was our first real separation. The first day I picked him up, I asked him, ‘How was school?’ ‘Good,’ he says. But on the second day, he answers, ‘Really good!’  And now he says that every day! He never says he doesn’t like school. I mean, I liked school but he really likes it. What a great school!”
- Ronald Sklar, PS 39 Reporter at Large

No comments:

Post a Comment