GCU Junior Has Plenty to Sing About in Her Return
By Doug Carroll
When a then-struggling GCU decided to turn out the lights on its fine-arts department six years ago, Amanda Gardner was among those left in the dark.
“I was angry,” she says, and she was hardly alone in those feelings.
Back then, amid such turmoil and uncertainty, who could foresee that the College of Fine Arts and Production would be given new life for the 2010-11 academic year?
Certainly not Gardner, a disillusioned freshman, whose path subsequently took her to two stints at Glendale Community College, a job as a performer at Walt Disney World in Florida and even to a position in southern Arizona in which she taught retirees to play the organ.
At one point, she became sick and lost her beautiful soprano voice. Maybe it was time to move on from music.
Back in Phoenix to visit family last summer, she stopped in at GCU to retrieve her transcripts — only to discover that the arts were being revived on campus. That changed everything, and she received word of much-needed scholarship assistance from the University barely a week before fall classes began.
Suffice it to say that she’s not complaining about singing in three different choirs Friday night in “Gloria,” the Music Department’s Christmas concert at First Southern Baptist Church.
“I have a clear snapshot of where this place has come from,” says Gardner, now a junior. “God had a vision for me beyond what I could even imagine.”
Friday’s concert will involve all four of GCU’s choirs: Choral Union, the Canyon Chorale, the Canyon Singers (formerly known as the President’s Singers) and New Life. Gardner sings in the first three, and her high notes are “hold-on-to-your-glasses stuff,” as she puts it.
If this is adding up to too much Christmas for her, she’s not letting on.
“It brings back such memories when you dive into the music,” she says. “Our job is to portray the message. In a rehearsal setting, (the music) might get a little redundant. But in concert, it can feel like the first time you ever sang it. You’re taking the audience to another place, telling a story.”
The concert will include both familiar and fresh pieces, says Gardner, who is happy to be reunited at GCU with voice coach Dr. Sheila Corley.
“She’s a big part of the heart of what happens here,” Gardner says of Corley. “She has so much integrity and is so professional.
“This University has recognized the importance of the arts in its history. It has been willing to invest in making it happen. This time, it’s so much more (than it was before).”
She says she’s thrilled to have the opportunity to use her vocal gifts in the setting of a Christian university. For her, there is no other place.
“Our music here is sacred music,” she says. “We don’t sing about love or boyfriend-girlfriend stuff. This is about God.”
“Gloria,” under the direction of COFAP Assistant Dean Juan Hernandez, begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the church, which is at 31st Avenue and Camelback Road. Admission is free, although it is requested that tickets be reserved in advance by calling 639.8880.
Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].