On the Record with Faculty Folk and Country Band Twila and the G’Tarvins


Courtesy of Ben Garfinkel

Chair of the Biology Department Mary Garvin (left), Biology Administrative Assistant Twila Colley and Professor of Biology Keith Tarvin make up Twila and the GiTarvins, a folk and country band that played last Friday at the Cat in the Cream as part of Folkfest.

Phoebe Hammer, Arts Editor

This week, the Review sat down with Twila and the G’Tarvins, composed of Chair of the Biology Department and disease ecologist Mary Garvin, her husband, Associate Professor of Biology and behavioral ecologist Keith Tarvin and Twila Colley, the Biology Department’s administrative assistant. The band discussed its changing name, favorite genres and hidden talents.

How did your band get started?

Keith Tarvin: Last fall Debbie Mull, who was the facilities manager of [the Science Center] retired, and we had a retirement party for her. Twila wrote a song and wanted to sing it and told me about it, so I said ‘All right, I’ll back you up.’ Then, we discovered Twila can sing … very well. We said, ‘Hey, we have to get a band in.’It was organic. Once we learned she knew how to sing, there was no way to do anything otherwise.

Twila Colley: Yes, we had a good time.

KT: There was this hidden talent for 13 years.

What kind of music do you play?

TC: Country and western.

KT: Some people probably call it “classic country.”

Mary Garvin: Honky-tonk.

KT: Forties, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s. At least the seven songs we knownow come from that period!

What about modern country and folk?

KT: I talk about them in completely different realms. Modern country I’m not a big fan of.

MG: We like modern folk, though.

KT: I don’t know — Twila, do you listen to…

TC: I love modern country. I listen to it all the time.

I know you played at Folkfest last Friday [May 2]. What other events have you played recently?

TC: We did the Relay for Life [on April 26].

MG: [And] Feline Riot [this past March]. That’s it so far.

KT: You could say our world tour is concentrated in andaround Tappan Square.

When you’re not in “professor mode,” where do you hang out and practice?

MG: Our house, I guess.

TC: Mary always cooks me a fabulous dinner.

MG: [Laughs.] Yeah, that’s the lure.

Do you ever play with students?

MG: We have. The G’Tarvins and Spring Ephemerals have played at Folkfest with our research students the past couple years.

TC: Not yet, for me.

I’ve seen your band name written as “Twila and the Gui’Tarvins,” “Twila and the Spring Ephemerals” and “Twila and the Biohazards.” Which one is actually yourname?

MG: We have a fluid identity, I guess.

KT: Yeah, we are going to see if we can keep this trend of having a different name for every gig. It keeps people guessing.

MG: For G’Tarvins, it’s G apostrophe T.

TC: I thought it was just “Gi,” then a capital T.

KT: No, G’Tarvins, because with Garvin and Tarvin together,we sometimes just go by Arvins.

MG: This is clearly a work in progress. When we hit Nashville, we’ll get it ironed out.

What are you working on now?

MG: There are some more popular country songs we are thinking of doing. What else?

KT: I want to do that Buck Allen song “Heaven Sent.” We don’t have any gigs lined up yet right now, but if we can come up with another name for the band, then we will book another gig.

MG: We are just waiting for Nashville to call.

On a slightly more serious note, why is it important to you as Biology professors to also be involved in the arts at Oberlin?

KT: I guess I don’t think of it in the way that it’s important because I’m a Biology professor — it’s just something that comes out organically, which I think is the case for a lot of it. We play with some other [faculty] in different groups, like a chemist and someone from the English department. Oberlin is a great place for people with similar interests to find each other.

MG: Speaking of “organically,” Keith and I started playing at the field station where we lived in graduate school because that was what the community did at night after field work. We weren’t near a town or anything, so we just played music.

KT: Yeah, for these six-month field seasons, when you’re out in the boonies of central Florida and you’re not near a town, what do you do on Friday night? [You get a] six-pack of beer and a bunch of guitars.

MG: Or whatever is sitting there.

KT: Yeah, could be a bass or maybe a fiddle. And Twila, she was just born with it.

MG: And Twila, she’s been singing since she was a kid.

TC: Oh, I just grew up with it. My dad was such a fan.

KT: She’s from southern Ohio. She’s got cred.