About Ulises Galarza
Get to know Ulises Galarza
The Gigs Begin
By this point I am 16 years old and have been serioulsy playing guitar all of 5 months. That was when I was invited to play with the church youth group. This proved to be extremely important because we never played songs straight through. When many songs are played live, they parts of the songs are always played in a particular order. In our case, the band leader would use hand signals to tell us which part to go to next and he didn’t always play the things in the original song order or play the song twice in the same way. This forced me to pay attention to my surroundings and flow with what was happening around me.
Slowly this youth group became popular in the area and became well known for our music. There was always a huge reaction from the crowd to our playing. We learned how to play with the rest of the band instead of standing out. If the keyboardist is important at a particular part of the songs, I don’t play as loud. If the band leader signals to drop to bass only, I need to be able to come back in without leaning on the drums for counting. This would come in handy with the next part of my musical journey.
Out of the Pan and Into the Fire
I had a choice when I graduated high school; become a lawyer or a musician. I started learning some law in high school but after talking with lawyers, I decided law would not be a good fit for me. Being a lawyer didn’t mean I could do all those cool court scenes in movies. It meant I had to fill out paperwork all day and I hate paperwork.
At the beginning, I was the worst guitar player at the Atlanta Institute of Music (now known as the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media). Everyone there had been playing since they were 10 with a guitar teacher. I had been playing for 2 years by myself. I had to practice just to catch up to where people playing at and then practice more to be able to pass the tests. After 6 months, I started learning the toughest songs in record time and people started asking me questions about music theory. All my teachers were proud of the huge strides I made during my stay there and I’m proud to say that of the thirty people who went in when I started, only two finished the course. Me and the other guy.
The teachers at AIM taught me so much that it’s difficult to describe. I was extremely overwhelmed but they helped me digest massive amounts of information, showed me the correct way of thinking, and demonstrated what were the most important parts of a song to pay attention to. The ideas taught to me became useful in the next part of my life.
Out of the Fire and Into Reality
I started teaching guitar a month after I graduated AIM. I was under the impression that giving lessons meant that people would come in and ask me questions. This proved to be wrong on many levels. A manager sat me down and explained me that the people coming in have no idea how guitar works. Show them how the instrument works and see what happens from there.
This is where I started taking all the ideas from my life and started applying them to my teaching. How can I compact the complication of guitar into thirty minute segments? I try to cut out as much as I possibly can when I’m teaching because we just do not have the time do things the old fashioned way. People don’t need to know the evolution of music to play their favorite songs.
My gigging and recording popularity grew to tremendous heights. I would teach during the weekdays, record randomly, substitute for guitarists who called out randomly, and played at church every Sunday. It took 8 years, but I finally burned out. I decided after all that, I’ll teach my students and let them be the rock stars.