by Cherryl F. Cercado
When Ray Garza, junior, sits in front of his keyboard and begins playing one of his favorite songs from “Jekyll and Hyde,” the room suddenly quiets and his once boisterous friends are now attentively listening.
While Garza concentrates on the piece he is playing, he does not notice when one of his friends starts humming along nor does he notice the gentle bustling of paper in the background. For Garza, the room is filled only with music.
Surprisingly, Garza has never taken piano lessons but taught himself how to play by ear. His concentration in music is voice. He claims that his love for singing is the driving force behind his love for entertaining others.
Formerly a business management major, Garza changed his major to music in the middle of last fall. He started taking numerous business courses but soon realized that his heart lay somewhere else.
“I knew that I didn’t want to go straight into the business field,” said Garza. “I always wanted to go into musical theater or anything with music but I knew it would be a harder field to get into.
“So, I finally did it and now that I’m taking my music classes, it’s been the best thing that I’ve done. It’s really good because I’m getting everyone’s support like my family and friends.”
In return, Garza has introduced his friends to different types of music that most college age students would not normally listen to. His passion for musicals such as “Miss Saigon” and “Phantom of the Opera” and his affection for works by Vivaldi and Mozart have influenced those around him.
“Before, my friends didn’t like any of that kind of music,” said Garza. “After I sing it, they come up to me and tell me how much they like it and how much they enjoy it. It wasn’t something they appreciated before.”
Through singing, Garza challenges himself by learning pieces in different languages such as Italian and German and he focuses his efforts on parlaying the emotion and meaning of the song to his audience.
“When you sing these songs in German or Italian and everyone says ‘I didn’t know what you were saying but I got a sense of the emotion and feelings and of what the song was about’ then that’s when I feel really good,” he said.
Marjorie Hirsch, instructor of voice, said, “Ray, not just as a student but in every part of his life, is a beautiful person. He is dependable and intelligent and in vocal music he would speak emotionally and he has great depth because he can sing the music with such feeling.”
Garza is currently taking voice lesson from Hirsch and he credits her for teaching him breathing and tone techniques, among other things. According to Hirsch, Garza had bad habits; he broke them because of his determination to sing correctly.
“Ray almost doesn’t have any weaknesses,” said Hirsch. “He needs to build his singing range. He’s a young voice and he needs years. The only way to make a voice stronger is through time. Voices that are like Ray’s, don’t mature at a young age.”
Garza has performed at several functions such as weddings, Christmas programs and other banquets. He is also actively involved with the Chamber Singers and is currently working in “AWAKE! A Subliminal Chamber Opera” by Mary Anne Sellers and senior Skip Sams. But by far, his most exciting role has been a baseball player in the stage production of “Damn Yankees” with the Bakersfield Civic Light Opera.
“It was in the summer of 1993,” said Garza. “It was a big production with huge, awesome sets and I was honored to be chosen to be in it. The BCLO is really professional and everyone goes and watches their productions.”
It was, according to Garza, a chance for him to work with a great director and to do a highly respected show.
This is the path Garza wants his musical career to follow. He aspires to sing on Broadway and to earn enough money through singing to support himself financially.
“I don’t want to be a big musical star,” said Garza. “It isn’t my goal. I’ll be happy and I’ll have fun just doing musicals. But if I become a star, I wouldn’t mind it.”