Honoring George Gaber

[This article is a work in progress. Just trying to find the right words to express my gratitude to my percussion teacher Mr. Gaber. Please excuse any grammatical and other errors. Begun 12-16-2008. Last modification 4-10-2016.]
I want to acknowledge and thank the dedicated efforts of my Hawaii family including my mother Betty Toyama, father Thomas Toyama Sr., former Moanalua High School Band Director Mr. Ronald Hirai and my percussion teacher Honolulu Symphony percussionist Mr. Robert DeMello, and Harry's music store owner and his wife, and the Hawaii Music Educators Association. In addition, I would like to thank and acknowledge my nisei Moanalua High School football coaches. They were the mentors contributed to my character building of my mental and physical toughness and perseverance. My entire Hawaii family played a crucial role providing learning experiences, encouragement and support for my inital musical development and preparation for Indiana University.

Professor George Gaber & Indiana University: A Journey of Learning, Insight and Vision (working title)
by Tom Toyama

Professor George Gaber gave me the incredible opportunity of my life to study with him, experience Indiana University, it's music school, and percussion department.

At the time Indiana University's music school was rated number one by music professors nation-wide. While experiencing a "Big Ten" university life and performing in IU's  ensembles, I had the rare and fantastic opportunity to study percussion from one of the world's great percussionists, Professor George Gaber.

Professor Gaber was my teacher and mentor. It was in his office and the practice rooms of the third floor and in the fourth floor percussion rehearsal room that I learned many of the things that made my life as a musician. Those were precious moments of learning.

I remember the two cigar tube holders he gave me at the end of a lesson. He told me to put all my wrong notes in there. It's a little humorous now, many years later. But he was serious then and so was I about my progress.

During my freshman year, I can't tell you the amount of hours I practiced page 33 of the Krauss mallet book. Previously, I thought it was 2 hours per day. But now, the more I reflect, I believe it was 3 to 4 hours per day. I have to admit that I never could play it correctly with right hand lead (with cross-over), but I learned a lot about how to practice from this exercise, specifically, how to relax, practice slow and focus mentally.

Mr. Gaber presented an environment of intensity that was rare to other programs. He made Indiana University's Percussion program a place of serious music practice and artistic advancement. A place where you were expected to advance your performance into the level of artistry. This kind of environment helped to motivate me to focus and persevere and practice more intently and longer. From Mr. Gaber, his students, and the whole IU music school, I developed musically and at the same time learned much about myself as a person.

Mr. Gaber taught me to teach myself. He rarely told me how to do something, instead he expected and encouraged me to discover it on my own, to find my solutions and ways. I believe that this is the mark of a great teacher.

After graduation, another element of his great character was shown in his post card writing to me and all his former students. To him, we were his family. And he always tried to help us in our life and careers.

Mr. Gaber passed away in late November 2007.

I know that Mr. Gaber is in heaven and watching over all your family of students.  And maybe still listening to all my mistakes. I think I need more empty cigar tubes.

If you can read this from heaven, "Mr. Gaber, thank you for all your care, love, advice, encouragement and support all these years. God Bless You!"

Always your student, sincerely:

Tom Toyama


Mr. Gaber's 85th Birthday Concert Auer Hall

Hiroshiuma Hula Choroegraphy