Professors who rock: 2

Chrissy Shane/Features editor Peter Richardson, professor of German, practices his Fairbanks banjo in his office.

Robert Owen Gardner, 

Associate professor of sociology; program in environmental studies

“It started in grad school,” said Robert Gardner, associate professor of sociology, of his musical endeavors.

Although Gardner played trumpet through seventh and eighth grade, his musical pursuits flourished in graduate school.

“A friend of mine decided to buy a guitar,” Gardner said. “Our intention was to jam together.”

So, Gardner bought a bass, but soon discovered it was not his calling.

Photo courtesy of Robert Gardner
Robert Gardner, associate professor of sociology,
performs at a wedding.

“I quickly learned that I just wasn’t as cool at parties with a bass,” Gardner said, chuckling.

So he bought a guitar and learned some basics from his brother, also a guitarist.

“I got really into bluegrass music when I was in grad school in Colorado,” Gardner said.

Gardner attended a bluegrass music festival and left with a newfound love for the genre.

“I saw that there were all sorts of people jamming into all hours of the night,” Gardner said. “It inspired me to learn.”

After that, Gardner attended many jam sessions where he learned to play bluegrass music with people who would become his friends and future band mates.

“I ended up having a regular jam group that turned into a band,” Gardner said.

The social music group formed The Corn Whiskey All Stars, who went on to perform at a benefit show. After a band member moved out of state, another band was formed: Blue Moonshine, which performed at weddings and parties.

Now, Gardner brings his guitar to his office and plays when he can. However, with a recent addition at home, practice time is limited.

“I have a 10-month-old at home,” Gardner said. “She actually loves the guitar.”


Peter Richardson, professor of German 

Peter Richardson, professor of German, can be found in his third floor Walker office “frailing,” a traditional “bump-ditty” rhythm common to many folksongs, on his Fairbanks banjo, worn with time and use.

“I came to it in high school,” Richardson said. “I started out with a baritone ukulele. That’s what I learned on when I was a freshman in high school in 1956. Then, I switched over to the guitar and the five-string banjo.”

Although Richardson didn’t have formal music lessons, music was an important part of his social life. He often got together with friends to listen to their favorite records.

“We’d get together after school and listen to records and try to play what we heard,” Richardson said. “This is what we did instead of video games or TV. It was great fun.”

Music has always been in Richardson’s life in one form or another. He grew up listening to his father perform classical pieces on the piano, and later in life, his two daughters played in the orchestra as young girls. His older daughter played cello in the Portland Youth Philharmonic, and his younger daughter played the violin.

“We played Irish fiddle tunes together,” Richardson said.

Now, Richardson plays for his grandsons, but they’re not the only ones who get to hear him pluck tunes on his banjo.

“We sing every day in my beginning German class,” Richardson said. “They are taken aback at first when I ask them to sing.”

Richardson also owns a guitar and a mountain dulcimer, and one day hopes to learn the cello.

“It’s never too late,” Richardson said.

Chrissy Shane

Chrissy Shane can be reached at

Chrissy Shane/Features editor
Peter Richardson, professor of German, practices his
Fairbanks banjo in his office.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.