June 17, 2011

A love rooted in music

Gardners’ 40-year marriage, ministry as pastoral musicians centered around music

Charlie and Dianne Gardner pose on May 18 at Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Church in Indianapolis. Through 40 years of marriage, they have helped form a generation of pastoral musicians across the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and beyond. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Charlie and Dianne Gardner pose on May 18 at Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Church in Indianapolis. Through 40 years of marriage, they have helped form a generation of pastoral musicians across the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and beyond. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Charlie and Dianne Gardner have been making music together for more than 40 years.

And, over that time, they have helped Catholics across central and southern Indiana sing praise to God.

They met in the late 1960s when Charlie was a seminarian for the archdiocese at the former Saint Meinrad College and Dianne, a native of Jeffersonville, was taking classes at nearby Indiana University Southeast in New Albany.

They were both interested in music, and would play and sing together with groups of friends.

“Music did really draw us together,” Charlie said. “And then I think music has always been a part of the deepening of our relationship. It’s developed just as our relationship has.”

Charlie eventually discerned that God was calling him to married life, and he disaffiliated with the archdiocese in 1970. He and Dianne were married in 1971.

In the years that followed, they became trailblazing lay pastoral musicians in the archdiocese, ministering at a number of parishes over the past four decades.

For more than 30 years, Charlie has ministered full time at the archdiocesan level, and is currently executive director of the archdiocese’s Secretariat for Spiritual Life and Worship.

Over the years, Dianne served as music director at St. Mark the Evangelist Parish and St. Pius X Parish, both in Indianapolis. She is currently music director at Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Parish in Indianapolis.

As they celebrate 40 years of marriage, the Gardners also mark four decades of nurturing the ministry of pastoral musicians across central and southern Indiana. And their influence also extends nationally through their longtime involvement in the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM).

Through it all, it has been their love for each other and their children, love for their faith and love for music that has kept them going.

Early starts

Charlie began playing music for liturgies in the 1950s while a student at the former St. Andrew the Apostle School in Indianapolis.

Dianne has a similar story, taking piano lessons starting in the third grade at the former St. Augustine School in Jeffersonville. When she was in fifth grade, she started accompanying the school choir.

“It was my life, all through high school, accompanying musicals at a Catholic high school without a band,” said Dianne, who graduated from Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in 1967.

Charlie continued to develop his talents as a high school seminarian at the former Bishop Bruté Latin School in Indianapolis, where he learned to play the organ, and at Saint Meinrad, where picked up the guitar.

“I never looked back in terms of it being a huge part of my life,” Charlie said.

It was their common love for music that inspired their love for each other. However, before they were married, Charlie and Dianne usually only saw each other in large groups of people who came together to play and sing songs.

“We did not know each other extremely well before we got married,” Charlie said.

“That’s such an understatement,” said Dianne.

The deep bonds of love and respect that Charlie and Dianne have nurtured over the years are rooted in music, which Dianne said is the “anchor” of their relationship.

“That’s a good term for it,” she said. “And we do musically respect each other as much as any two musicians could.”

“Sometimes we’ll just sit down and play piano duets, which we love to do,” Charlie said. “There is just a joy in creating beauty. To me, that’s one of the privileges of being a musician. There’s a joy in being able to do that individually. But when you’re creating beauty together, [it’s even better].”

Changes in the Church, at home

In the early years of their marriage, Charlie and Dianne, along with priests and other lay pastoral musicians with whom they collaborated, helped to introduce a wide array of new liturgical music into the life of the Church in the archdiocese.

It occurred during the time that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council were being implemented.

“Having come of age in this time of liturgical renewal and a lot of newness and change in everything, it seemed like change was a part of the normal thing,” Charlie said. “It’s what we came to expect. Every few years in the 1970s, we’d expect something new. And so there was a kind of excitement about that.”

They also helped further those changes at the national level by being active in NPM since its start in the late 1970s. They attended its first national convention in 1978. The Gardners also helped organize NPM conventions in Indianapolis in 1997 and 2007. Charlie received the organization’s “Musician of the Year” award in 1998.

Being active in NPM has encouraged Charlie to “theorize” about the role of music in the liturgy of the Church. But Dianne has kept his feet firmly planted on the ground.

“Being involved in a parish continually keeps your head from getting too far up into the clouds and theoretical,” Charlie said. “You find out things that really happen. And Dianne is very, very good at keeping the pastoral sense very honed. I think that’s always so important.”

Changes also happened in relatively short order in Charlie and Dianne’s family. Their three children were born in 1973, 1974 and 1977.

From the start, music was a part of life in the Gardner home.

“They’re all musical,” Charlie said of their children. “One has followed through more than the other two. But all of them enjoy music. It was pretty much required, I guess. They never fought it.”

Their children are grown, and now live in different parts of the country. But when they get together, they still make music. And with seven grandchildren, Charlie and Dianne want to show their love for music to the next generation of their family.

“We jam pretty good,” Dianne said. “And Grandpa just made a CD for the grandchildren with 10 songs on it.”

Forming the next generation

Christine Seitz is Charlie and Dianne’s child who “followed through more” with an interest in music that she discovered at a young age.

While in kindergarten, she started taking piano lessons, and later majored in piano performance at Illinois Wesleyan University in Normal, Ill.

For nearly 10 years, she has ministered as music director at St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis. Before that, she was music director at a parish in Houston.

Although she grew up around liturgical music, Seitz found that learning all the ins and outs of planning music for liturgies in a parish on a weekly basis was a challenge—one that her parents have been willing to help her overcome.

“I would call them probably every day asking questions about stuff,” Seitz said. “Some special occasion would be coming up and I’d say, ‘What do I need to do for this?’ ”

Now a veteran pastoral musician, Seitz still finds herself calling her parents, especially her father, to talk about questions that arise.

At the same time, Charlie has learned from Seitz’s experience of planning music for the regular bilingual liturgies at St. Monica Parish.

“I have had many conversations about this with Christine,” he said. “In my years of music ministry, I have dealt with some of these issues—especially for archdiocesan liturgies—but not as she does on a week-to-week basis.”

Charlie and Dianne have encouraged young adults beyond their children to consider becoming pastoral musicians. Charlie does that on a regular basis at Marian University in Indianapolis, where he is a faculty member of the school’s music department and mentors students majoring in pastoral music ministry.

Long before he began teaching at Marian, however, Charlie helped set Tom Nichols on his path to becoming a leader in pastoral music in the archdiocese. Nichols has ministered as music director at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis since 1996.

Thirteen years before that, as an eighth grader, Nichols took organ lessons from Gardner at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

Nichols said that he and all pastoral musicians across the archdiocese are thankful for Charlie’s decades of leadership.

“All of us, regardless if we’re old, young, full time, part time, volunteers, I think we all owe a great debt to him because of the work he has put in over the years,” Nichols said, “and how he models liturgy and in the workshops that he and the Office of Worship have put on for improving the skills of people, especially for people that might not have degrees and need some level of foundation.”

Dianne said that Charlie helped form her understanding and love of liturgy. And they continue today trying to bring about meaningful, prayerful liturgies at Nativity Parish through their great love of music.

“I have such deep feelings about it,” Dianne said. “I just feel like there’s the whole element of the bond in the music with the people that we sing with, including the assembly. We sing those words. We sing about this ideal that we put out there, and then we become that.”

“This isn’t about what we’re creating,” Charlie said. “It’s about being a part of something much larger that’s a part of God’s creation. We’re just doing our part in it.” †

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