Washington Garcia’s international music career finds perfect balance in Omaha

El Perico feature on Washington Garcia
Sources: Interviewed Garcia, press-web content
Photo contact: wagarcia@unomaha.edu
NOTE: You can access high res photos of him on his website – HYPERLINK
“http://washingtongarcia.com/”

UNO School of Music Director Washington Garcia’s destiny was set the first
time he tickled the keys of his grandmother’s piano at age 4 in his native
Ecuador.

“I’ve always considered myself blessed to know my purpose in life from very
early on,” Garcia said. “That’s a gift not many people have. My family knew
my mission was to come to the United States one day. They trained me from a
young age to prepare for it. They had me learn English. They mentored me so
I would mature to be in a leadership position.”

Though born into a musical family, he’s the only one to have made music a
career. His father’s a retired neurosurgeon. His mother, a retired accountant.

His talent was so evident that by 6 he enrolled in Ecuador’s National
Conservatory of Music. His first public performance came at 7. Recognizing
the prodigy in their midst, conservatory leaders created a program for him. He
advanced quickly enough to debut with the Ecuadorian National Symphony
Orchestra at only 15.

He won several prestigious piano competitions. He made his international
debut in Chile. He’s since performed all over Europe as well as in Canada,
Israel, Mexico, Colombia, Japan and China.

Whatever he’s done and wherever he’s gone, he’s felt his parents’ support.

“They knew instinctively music was going to be my tool to connect Ecuador
with the world. My parents opened many doors for me because of their
perseverance.”

He enjoys national hero status in his native land as a recipient of the
Outstanding Cultural Achievement medal – the highest recognition the
Ecuadorian National Assembly awards an individual for artistic excellence.

Getting this far has meant sacrifice.

“I didn’t really have a normal childhood practicing piano five or six hours a day
in addition to going to private piano and English lessons, doing regular school
courses and homework and attending the National Conservatory.

“These were highly intensive academic and artistic activities I invested all of
myself into. I don’t regret it. I would do exactly the same thing again.”

He feels in music he’s found the great common ground.

“Music has the power to connect us all,” he said. “When I travel abroad,
language is a barrier, but the moment I perform music it connects us. Music is
the language of the soul. I’ve created so many relationships and associations
with people who don’t speak a word of English. They understand immediately
that music is a bridge between cultures.”

The University of Nebraska at Omaha School of Music he leads is all about
making connections.

Said Garcia, “Music has so many angles that impact community. We place
music teachers in the schools. Our faculty tour the nation and world. We host
an international music festival and visiting teaching artists.”

“We have been able to enhance our visibility on a national and international

level. It allows us to bring the world to Omaha. We’re like an ambassador for
the city.”

Coming to Omaha culminated a love affair with America.
He first came to the U.S. in the late 1990s as a Kennedy Center Fellow in
Washington D.C. That led him to the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore, where he earned his master’s and doctorate.

“I was the institute”s youngest Latin American graduate in piano
performance.”

He taught there before being hired by Texas State University. He became
assistant director of TSU’s music school. Then “the right opportunity”
appeared at UNO. A national search for the founding director of UNO’s newly
established school of music led recruiters to Garcia. He and his wife Valeria
moved to Omaha in December 2015. He assumed the post the following
January.

In addition to administrative duties, he’s a full tenured professor of piano at
UNO.

“I run my life based on mission and one of my missions is to teach and give to
others what I have received in terms of artistic and academic knowledge.”

He arrived in the middle of the school year during an accreditation review.

“It was a challenge,” he said, “but I’ve always loved challenges as
opportunities to learn and grow from. Still, it almost felt like somebody
dropped me from a plane and I had no idea if I had a parachute or not. I pulled
the plug on what looked like a parachute. It opened and then I looked for the
safest place to land. I landed and started running and I haven’t stopped since.

“It’s been a really fast pace. We’ve accomplished a lot of initiatives and
collaborations. We would like to establish the School of Music as one of the

top academic and artistic institutions in Nebraska and the nation. We have
everything it takes – a great faculty and support from the community and the
university – to make this happen.”

Like his faculty, he also performs. He’s played with the Omaha Symphony and
he does special engagements nationally and internationally.

Every performance is an opportunity to serve.

“I pray every time before I perform that God will help me inspire those who
hear me with the gift of music. I want to be for young people who desire a
career in music but may not have the means what my parents were for me.”

He feels fortunate.

“The U.S. gave me a free education, a job and continues giving me the
opportunity to serve others. That is why this is my home. When I go to
Ecuador or anywhere abroad I feel like a visitor. After a week I’m ready to go
back home.

“My wife and I know we have a mission to complete here in Omaha. This is
our family.”

He and Valeria have a 2-year-old child and are expecting their second child in
December.

Visit washingtongarcia.com.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.com.

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