The year is 2003. The location is the University of Florida Music Building, Room 101.
Chip Birkner (BMUSE ’01 MM ’03 PHD ’14) had just completed his Master of Music degree and was about to move to Texas to begin his teaching career. Mary Birkner (MM ’04 PHD ’14) was about to begin as a Master of Music graduate assistant to Dr. Kristen Stoner, professor of flute.
Through a huge stroke luck, both Chip and Mary were hired as counselors for Gatorland Band Camp.
“I was floored,” Chip said recalling his first impression of Mary. “She was a great conversationalist, a gifted musician and stunningly gorgeous.”
The two taught camp all day, and then would visit in the dorm lobby with their fellow counselors. At the conclusion of the camp, the two went on their first date.
Since then, the Birkners have been married for 15 years and reside in Gainesville with their two daughters and one son. They enjoy spending time with family, traveling when their busy schedules allow, and performing together as members of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra.
“It's wonderful making music together,” Chip said.
The Birkners say the secret to such a long and successful marriage is simply to “be respectful to one another and laugh together."