Gabby Garza is using her voice to make a difference. Literally. The freshman Music Education major has been singing for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Harlingen, Texas, she spent many holidays and gatherings performing for friends and family. Her love of singing, especially for others, developed into a passion for the stage.
“Theatre is a form of self-expression,” she said. “Musical theatre combines vocal performance and acting, and the thing I love most about it is the is connection the actors form with the audience. People can watch a show and be brought into the storyline and relate their life and feelings to the conflict of the characters.”
During her senior year of high school, the Harlingen Performing Arts Conservatory began as a specialized learning environment for students interested in careers within musical theatre, dance, acting, and technical theatre. With roles like Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” and the lead character of Vanessa from “In The Heights,” Garza ’24 is an advocate for the importance of representation in the arts, especially on Broadway. She was even recently interviewed by Primer Impacto Journalist Myrka Dellanos as part of the Libre Initiative’s work with the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA). The NHFA also recently debuted a special virtual performance of "In The Heights" on their YouTube channel.
“Vanessa is a young woman who works at a hair salon but has a dream of getting out of the barrio to pursue her dreams of becoming a singer,” she said. “As a Hispanic female from a small community in deep South Texas, it is inspiring and empowering to see women like me be showcased in these capacities. In the Heights tells another version of the American Dream, where first- and second-generation Americans like me, have hopes and dreams to build a better future in this great country. For these characters, the struggle and beauty of this is learning how to embrace the American culture they love while continuing to embrace the culture of their heritage. This, after all, is why embracing diversity and representation in the arts is so important because it gives children and young adults an opportunity to see stories like their own, told, and performed on stage.”
Assistant Voice Professor Liliana Guerrero has been working with Garza for several months and is amazed at how hard working and talented she is as a freshman.
“She believes in herself and her talent, and she wants to do the best she can to fully realize her goals,” Professor Guerrero said. “On top of everything she's already doing, she took me up on the offer of competing in the Texoma Region of the National Association of Teachers of Singing Voice Auditions. Almost 600 students submitted videos for the competition and Gabby is in one of the most competitive categories in the competition: Freshmen Women. She made it to semifinal by singing a piece that she only had for two weeks before performing it. She’s that fast and that good at learning music.”
Professor Guerrero also hopes Gabby is an example of how music majors can excel at a small, liberal arts school like TLU where first-year students have performance opportunities and are often featured in solos or key roles.
“I’m committed to each student's journey,” she said. “I’m also constantly on the lookout for external competitions and scholarships that fit the student's talents, and I have enough one-on-one time with them that they are able to prepare for these projects and be successful at them. They also don't have to compete for a spot in our voice lab and any time they’re ready to put a new piece on its feet for their peers, they have the chance to sing what they're working on without worrying about judgement or not getting enough time to really work on the smaller aspects of the piece. I know each student well enough that I can provide them with letters of recommendation and each student knows they can always contact me for anything.
Garza plans on using her TLU education to teach others how to use their voice to empower themselves through vocal performance.
“My experience at TLU has been exciting and motivating,” she said. “For any prospective student thinking about enrolling at the TLU School of Music they should know that all of the professors care about your education and success. I hope I can help inspire the next generation of artists to use their voice, whether it be to tell their own story, to express what is in their heart, or to represent the vision and thoughts of a character. Whether I’m in my backyard with my grandmother singing her favorite mariachi songs or on a stage in front of a large audience, I hope to always keep singing and share the beauty and power of music to heal and to change the world.”