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Conversations with the Inspiring Jess Garland

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jess Garland.

Jess, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Music was in my family, both of my grandmothers had a piano and organ in their home. My first instrument was a clarinet that I still have where I played in elementary school through middle school. I became very interested in guitar in high school and received my first guitar from my parents when I graduated from Law Magnet High School. I signed up for guitar classes my first year at Eastfield Community College not realizing it was going to be classical studies.

My first guitar was a steel string, so I had to obtain a nylon-stringed guitar quickly. I studied classical guitar for two years before transferring to Southern Methodist University where I graduated in 2007 with a BA in Political Science. Once I transferred, I was offered a job to teach private guitar lessons in Park Cities and White Rock Lake areas. Once I graduated from SMU, for several years, I worked multiple corporate positions ranging from legal assistant/billing, customer service, operations, men’s tailoring, and human resources. While working these various positions full time, I would travel and teach in-home private lessons.

Ultimately, I decided that teaching guitar was what made me happy even though at the time it was not the most financially stable position. I decided to choose happiness, and today I have been teaching guitar for thirteen years. I have had opportunities to teach for myself and as well other music agencies and most importantly non-profit organizations. I found that teaching for non-profit organizations made me even happier. Through non-profit organizations, I was reaching students that wanted to learn guitar and needed those services because of either lack of finances and or access in their environment.

So today, not only do I teach in-home lessons, but I have students that come to my studio, and I have begun the process of starting my own not for profit organization. I am a two-time grant recipient of the City of Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs where I used the funding to provide more than one hundred hours of free music education.

Additionally, along the way, I grew as a performing artist and learned how to play the harp. Immediately I was embraced by the experimental and ambient music scene in Dallas and have had several performances in Deep Ellum, Denton, and Ft. Worth. I have traveled for art projects in Los Angeles and have played South by Southwest and Fortress Fest where I was able to open for Academy award winner, Gingger Shankar in July this year. Recently, I received a grant from Aurora to perform my art piece “Resurrecting Gaia” October 30, 2018, at Kettle Art Gallery in Deep Ellum.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Nothing worth having comes without overcoming adversity. Through these years, I have lost my father, and his parents, I got married and divorced along with experiencing other deaths in the family. Additionally, I have lost most of all of those corporate positions because I worked in environments where I was constantly told that I did not “fit the culture” of the establishment. I felt like I was in prison because I was not fully committed to the job. I honestly did not know what that meant and was not willing to “play the game.” It was like I worked in environments where no one had a dream or did anything inspiring.

Additionally, being female, I am constantly in a position where I am being treated as if I am not knowledgeable about something that someone is asking me to do for them. I think it is hilarious and yet concerning when someone asks you to do something because they know you have skills but yet treats you as if you are not intelligent. With all of these experiences, I am in a place where I can recognize these behaviors sooner than I have before and handle them accordingly.

My advice to all women would be to believe in yourself first and always. Secondly, my father always told me to be myself. So, be yourself, and believe in yourself. Each woman is unique and if you feel like you do not know who you are, then get in a spiritual practice to help you get there. My father would always say, “how can you appreciate what is good, without dealing with the situations that are bad.” Additionally, my father would say, “you have to know where you come from, to know where you are going.” All of these experiences have made me a stronger person.

What should we know about JESSSTRINGS? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
My services include guitar and harp lessons, sound therapy workshops, and performing arts. I think that the best thing that sets me apart from anyone else as a performing artist is the harp and how I use the instrument. I never thought about the instrument being rare, I have always been drawn to it, and it was divine in how I was introduced to the instrument.

As a teaching artist, I am not a typical music teacher. Many students do not like their music instructors because of the strictness with the discipline to the point where the interest is lost. We have to remember that while it should be taken very seriously with skill, that we should allow students to be able to live, breathe and create and have fun in the process. Teaching music and performing is also very serious because you are dealing with matters of the soul and it is important to be conscious of how you handle your students.

We all have experiences that we can remember and I would want anyone’s experience with me to be genuine and pure. I am most proud of receiving grants from the City of Dallas to be able to start my own not for profit, Guitar Lessons by Jess. As a performing artist, I am most proud of my recording work with Sunshine Village’s Slaves for Gods, and The Buffalo Trees Saved The Children of The Sun. With Sunshine, my music has been featured at South by Southwest Film Festival for a movie starring Chris O’Dowd for male cancer awareness.

Additionally, I will be performing live with Sunshine for the first time at Buffalo Tree Festival honoring the second album and helping people register to vote and promoting Beto O’Rourke for Texas Senate. Lastly, I am proud of receiving a grant from Aurora where I can be myself with the audience and offer inspiration and healing.

Who do you look up to? How have they inspired you?
My mother’s pursuit of education and dedication to her family inspire me because it takes a lot of focus, organization, and sacrifice. Her mother was also a healer as she was a nurse. I watched my mother and father as entrepreneurs, while maintaining additional jobs, and raising her children and others and caring for my father when he was sick with cancer and caring for my grandmother with dementia.

My younger sister inspires me because she never denied her passions and she was constantly in my ear about living my purpose. Sometimes, people do not think that you can learn from your child or even a younger sibling, however, if you are open, you are forever growing and learning. My sister is an artist. She played violin and viola when she was younger. I bought her, her first keyboard and skateboard. Today, she is a makeup artist and hair stylist. So, I have grown to learn that I come from a family of healers and innovators.

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Image Credit:
Ashley Gongora, Andi Harman

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