Cover photo for Norton "Norty" Garber's Obituary
Norton "Norty" Garber Profile Photo
1937 Norton "Norty" 2024

Norton "Norty" Garber

September 21, 1937 — January 13, 2024

Westminster West, VT

Norton Garber, husband of Barbara and father of Rachel, died at home of pancreatic cancer on January 13, 2024.

Born in 1937, in Cleveland, Ohio, Norty graduated from Harvard College, and, after earning his medical degree from the New York University School of Medicine, went on to do post-graduate work at the Yale Department of Psychiatry and the Yale Child Study Center. He trained as well at the Western New England Psychoanalytic Institute.

Music was integral to Norty’s life. He was a gifted, classically trained violinist. In the early1960’s he became intrigued, inspired, and, ultimately, profoundly influenced by the work of the avant-garde musician, John Cage. As the era progressed, he embraced experimental music in all its aspects, including amplification and the use of electronic devices, and devoted himself to making music that was original, unorthodox, interdisciplinary, and freely improvisational.

In 1964 Norton Garber married Barbara Rosen, a visual artist studying at the New York Studio School. Their marriage signaled the beginning of a long creative collaboration. They settled first in New Haven, where their daughter, Rachel, was born.

 When Norty finished his formal training the Garbers decided to leave New Haven and move to southern Vermont. Norty then proceeded to set up a clinical practice and soon, in Brattleboro, working under the aegis of the Winston-Prouty Center, he started the Children and Parents Project, a therapeutic pre-school-through-first-grade program designed to identify and help special needs children from low-income families before they were mainstreamed into local schools. He also became a consultant at the Franklin Medical Center where, for ten years, he evaluated the neurodevelopment of children and assessed the effectiveness of treatments. He served, too, over the next 25 years, as a psychiatric consultant for the Putney and Greenwood schools. 

Two years after coming to Vermont, the Garbers bought and renovated an old barn in Westminster West. The multi-level structure was spacious enough to accommodate a painting studio and a music studio, replete with an eclectic assortment of instruments and electronic equipment. Working separately and together, the couple catalyzed each other’s work, collaborating on a series of multimedia installations for galleries in Vermont, New York, and Boston. 

When Norty retired, in 2006, from clinical work with children, he dedicated his time to music, playing regularly with a rotating group of local musicians. These improvisational collaborations, which he called, “grown-ups at play,” remained at the heart of his artistic work as it evolved and he branched out from playing free-form music to working with pure sound and video.

 The Garbers shared an insatiable appetite for art in all its forms, and went frequently to New York, where they would spend a few days going to museums, galleries and concerts. 

 Norty’s last video installations, Ways to Strength and Beauty, The Person You are Trying to Reach, and The Closet, elicited this comment by the digital artist Michel Moyse: “Norton combines contemporary techniques of media installations and performance through sensibilities that engage—as all good work does—the heart and mind in delightful, mysterious and profound ways.”

Norton Garber is survived by his wife, Barbara, their daughter, Rachel, Rachel’s husband, Leo Burd, and their two sons, Noah and Gabriel. He will be missed by a wide array of loving relatives and close family friends.

 Donations in Norty’s name can be made to Brattleboro Area Hospice.

Ker Phaneuf Funeral Home has been entrusted with arrangements. To view an online tribute, leave a message of condolence or for more information please visit www.phaneuf.net. 

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