Tribute: Rachel Garver

  |  Published: Oct 1st 2018

In July, pupils, colleagues, and friends of the musician and teacher Rachel Garver were stunned to hear of her sudden death at home in Wendover. She had just completed her 20th year of service to the Aylesbury Music Centre/Bucks Learning Trust and was sought after for private tuition in various instruments and as an accompanist in auditions. She often performed in ensembles such as the Vale Wind Band and the St Mary’s lunchtime concert series. She was active in the Wendover Society (she forcefully presented a petition against HS2 in the House of Lords), Wendover Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Wendover Music concert series, and various other local groups. The many charities and causes that Rachel supported range from Friends of the Earth to Jews for Justice for Palestinians. In her last year she stood up for her colleagues by challenging an unfair pay scheme for peripatetic teachers. She also exposed Thames Water’s overcharging of Wendover residents for years, see page 16, April 2014. 

Rachel was always known for selflessly helping neighbours, friends, and extended family. When her mother developed Alzheimer’s disease, for many years Rachel spent half of every week in London to supervise her care and help organize the Brent Carers Centre, while managing to fulfil her teaching commitments in Wendover and Aylesbury. While in London, she found time to play in the Barnet Symphony Orchestra and conduct the carers centre band.

Born in 1951, Rachel was the next youngest of six children of an unconventional Jewish family in north London devoted to charity, music, and the Liberal Party. Both parents were emigrants from Germany, her father, later professor of mathematics at University College London, arriving, via Palestine, in the 1920s; her mother in the 1930s. Through her mother, Rachel was descended from the Pringsheim family in Munich, who, before the Nazi takeover, were prominent in German artistic and musical culture. Rachel’s one regret of early family life was that her parents insisted on speaking only English at home – thus, she missed being bilingual, although her interest in foreign languages was always great.
Aged 12, Rachel announced her intention to devote her life to music. While doing A-Levels in music, German, art, and history at the North London Collegiate School, she already had piano pupils. Her extra-curricular activities included Forest School Camps (a free-spirited alternative to Guides or Scouts) and holidays/exchange visits in France, Germany, and Austria, where she practised her French and German.

In 1968, Rachel won a scholarship to Edinburgh University, where she studied, as well as music, Indian philosophy and German, leaving without completing her degree to take up full-time music teaching after receiving the Licentiate in pianoforte from the Royal Academy of Music. One unforgettable experience of her university years was a journey with fellow students overland to India via Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iran.As a new teacher of piano, guitar, and woodwinds in Edinburgh, Rachel established the pattern that she followed throughout her career: a combination of private pupils at home and peripatetic teaching at schools and colleges. The latter ranged from a ‘free’ school run by a New England feminist to Fettes College, ‘the Eton of the North’. As she was to do in many other places, Rachel made lifelong friends in Edinburgh.

In 1977, she married Joe Garver, an American university lecturer, and lived abroad with him in Finland, Ireland, and Saudi Arabia. Rachel taught English in Finland, plunged into learning Finnish and later Arabic, and even in Saudi Arabia found woodwind pupils. In 1982, back in London, Rachel and Joe started a family – Paul born in October; Sarah and Nick followed in 1987 and 1988, respectively – and she resumed full-time music teaching with the Brent Music Service while playing the bassoon in the Brent Symphony Orchestra. Her many other activities included staffing at Forest School Camps and managing the Explorers Club for the National Association for Gifted Children.

In 1998, Rachel and family moved to Wendover to live in the Chiltern Hills and to allow Sarah and Nick to attend the grammar schools in Aylesbury – Paul finished his A-Levels in London. Here, as in other places of residence, she built up a devoted circle of fellow musicians and pupils. Always a dedicated music teacher, Rachel also inspired her pupils to achieve and develop in other ways. Donations in her memory may be made through this link: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/rachelgarver.

Rachel Garver
Rachel with music students
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