The Full Wiki

Russell Garcia (composer): Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Russ Garcia at Kerikeri.

Russell Garcia (born 12 April 1916) is a composer who has written a wide variety of music for screen, stage and broadcast.

Garcia was born in Oakland, California, but is a long time resident of New Zealand. Self-taught, his break came when he substituted for an ill colleague on a radio show. Subsequently, he went on to become composer/arranger at NBC Studios (for such shows as Rawhide and Laredo), MGM and Universal Studios and later movies like the George Pal, MGM films, The Time Machine (1960 film) and Atlantis, the Lost Continent, as well as his orchestrated themes for Father Goose and The Benny Goodman Story. He collaborated with many musical and Hollywood stars - Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Anita O’Day, Mel Torme, Julie London, Oscar Peterson, Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, Walt Disney, Orson Welles, Jane Wyman, Ronald Reagan, Andy Williams, Judy Garland, Henry Mancini, and Charlie Chaplin doing arrangements and conducting orchestras as needed.[1]


Personal life

One of five brothers, he grew up in what he says was an “ordinary” household where music was something that came out of the radio.[1] When his family noticed the five-year-old Russ standing by the radio every Sunday morning waiting for the New York Philharmonic to come on, it was obvious the young man had a special interest in music. One of his brothers presented him with an old cornet he bought for $5, which Russ taught himself to play. In school he started a jazz band to play his new horn, and ended up using the band as an outlet for his compositions and arrangements of standards – all self-taught. “I’ve been able to read music since I was little,” he says. “I don’t know how, because I had lessons only when I went to high school. Call it instinct, call it a gift, I’ve never questioned my musical ability. I’m thankful for it. If I take up a sheet of manuscript paper and a pen there’s a whole orchestra playing in my head. At times I can’t write quickly enough to keep up with what’s flowing out of me.”

Garcia and his wife Gina Mauriello Garcia, a published author and singer-lyricist-writer in her own right, have been members of the Bahá'í Faith since 1955.[2] In 1966, at the height of his career they sold their home and possessions, bought a boat, and on 1 June set sail. Neither Russell nor Gina knew anything about sailing and Gina didn't know how to swim and the early arrival of Hurricane Alma forced them to return with damage after only two days at sea. It was December before the boat was finally repaired and they set forth once again. This time they reached Nassau without any further complications and spent several years as "travel-teachers" for the Bahá'ís as they went around the world to places like the Galapagos Islands, Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands.

When they reached Fiji in 1969, some musicians from Auckland, New Zealand invited Russell to do some live concerts, radio and television shows and to lecture at the various universities around the country on behalf of the New Zealand Broadcasting Commission and Music Trades Association. Russell, finished with his lectures and concerts and on advice of friends, drove up to the Bay of Islands in the north of North Island. He and Gina fell in love with the location and bought a house on the waters edge of Tangitu Bay in the Te Puna Inlet, east of the Purerua Peninsula near Kerikeri.[1]

They spent many years there but have moved into Kerikeri, and still working regularly, Garcia continues to compose and arrange both in the U.S. and around the world, including one of his most recent projects being his and Gina’s first opera, The Unquenchable Flame. Together, the Garcias also volunteer their services regularly to teach primary school children in New Zealand about virtues through the use of songs, raps, stories, games and creative exercises.[1]

Events and awards

Memorial Day weekend, 2003, Russell Garcia and Buddy Childers had an event Contemporary Concepts Presented - A 4 Day Jazz Festival Celebrating The West Coast Big Band Sound in Concert in Los Angeles, California. Speakers/Panelists included Russell Garcia, Buddy Childers, Pete Rugolo, and Allyn Ferguson.[3]

On 27 May 2005 the L.A. Jazz Institute honored Garcia for his more than 60 years of contributions to jazz. The evening was hosted by Tierney Sutton and guest speakers included Bill Holman (musician), Duane Tatro and Bud Shank.[4] Charmed Life: Shaynee Rainbolt Sings Russell Garcia is a recent CD release featuring his work in collaboration.[1]

Russell and Gina Garcia both received the 2009 Queen's Service Medal for New Zealand for their service to music.[5]

Professional career

When he was eleven years old, the Oakland Symphony Orchestra performed his arrangement of Stardust. By the time he was in high school, he was working five nights a week playing music and earning more than his father who was a credit manager in a large department store. After one year at San Francisco State University, he dropped out because he felt he wasn’t learning enough and instead, went on the road with several big bands. But Russ still wasn’t satisfied, because he says “I wasn’t advancing fast enough.” He recalls, “I quit and went to Hollywood and had lessons with the best teachers I could find.” He studied composition, harmony, orchestration, counterpoint and form. He took lessons on every instrument so he could write for each with a deeper awareness, rather than just by ear as he had done in the past. He also conducted the West Hollywood Symphony Orchestra once a week for two years, a remarkable experience for a young man in his 20’s, and he says it primed him for what was to come.

His first break came in 1939, when the composer/conductor of the radio show This is Our America fell ill and Garcia got recommended to fill in. He so impressed the director, Ronald Reagan, that he was kept on for two years. Reagan was then married to Jane Wyman who recommended Garcia to NBC where he was hired as a staff composer and arranger. As word got out, he says he never had to look for work: “It’s always come to me. I do lead a charmed life.” Soon after Henry Mancini called on Russ and his extraordinary talent of transcribing note for note, instrument for instrument, to work on The Glenn Miller Story. Charlie Chaplin hired him to do all the arrangements for Limelight, and Universal Studios contracted him to work as composer, arranger and conductor. He did this for 15 years. In the mid-1960s when Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald needed an arranger/conductor for the record album Porgy And Bess, they looked no further than Russell Garcia. It is still an international best seller. He did three more albums and a concert at the Hollywood Bowl with Armstrong.

Bethlehem Records often called on Garcia’s arranging abilities since he was one of the few Hollywood soundstage and studio veterans who could easily and naturally switch from film scoring to jazz arranging without missing a beat.[1] Developing a parallel career, not only did he provide arrangements for many singers and instrumentalists, he recorded over 60 albums under his own name, as well as composing for cutting edge projects such as the Stan Kenton Neophonic Orchestra.

He has always been an innovator with his music using experimental frameworks on which newer and greater presentations could be fashioned, as he proved, assembling his unexpected and groundbreaking four-trombone band [6]with famed brass players Frank Rosolino, Tommy Pederson, Maynard Ferguson and Herbie Harper. Marty Paich can even be heard on some of these sessions at the piano. He used this instrumentation and sound to great success in collaborations with singers like Frances Faye and Anita O’Day, and now brings it back to us in his most recent collaboration: a recording of all Garcia originals with New York vocalist, Shaynee Rainbolt.[7]

Yet even though he loved what he was doing, in 1966 he decided to walk away from it all. “I fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II and vowed that if I ever got out of it alive, I was going to dedicate myself to world peace.” The Garcia’s decided to sail the Pacific Ocean, carrying the message of peace and the Bahá'í Faith to the remote islands of the South Pacific. Russ says, “Not many people have the chance to follow their hearts with no financial worries. We had the “charm” working for us: we knew the royalties would see us through for some years.” They spent the next six years on their 13-metre fiberglass trimaran the Dawn-Breaker, as “traveling teachers,” anchoring in such exotic locations as Jamaica, the Galapagos Islands, the Marquesas and Tahiti.

In Fiji, in 1969, the “charm” spun again when musicians visiting from Auckland invited Garcia, on behalf of the New Zealand Broadcasting Commission and the Music Trades Association, to do live concerts, radio and TV shows as well as lecture at universities around the country, a perfect fit seeing as Garcia is also known in music circles as the author of what are considered the definitive textbooks on composition: The Professional Arranger Composer Books 1 and II. The have been translated into six languages and are used in universities and conservatories around the world.

His music

  • 1950 - Radar Secret Service
  • 1953 - Limelight, miscredited 1972 Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score given to someone else[8]
  • 1955 - Wigville
  • 1955 - Four Horns and a Lush Life
  • 1956 - On Four Horns and a Lush Wife
  • 1956 - The Johnny Evergreens
  • 1956 - Peggy Connelly with Russ Garcia--That Old Black Magic
    • Note: This discography is incomplete


  1. ^ a b c d e f Charmed Life: Shaynee Rainbolt Sings Russell Garcia Liner Notes - This Bio Was approved by Russell Garcia and Gina Garcia in connection to their collaboration on Charmed Life: Shaynee Rainbolt SINGS Russell Garcia
  2. ^ Russell Garcia
  3. ^ Russell Garcia and Buddy Childers in Concert
  4. ^ L.A. Jazz Institute honors Russell Garcia
  5. ^ 2009 Queen's Service Medal
  6. ^ Russell Garcia And His Four Trombone Band
  7. ^ Shaynee Rainbolt Official Webpage
  8. ^ Myers, Marc (2008-09-19), "The Case of the Misplaced Oscar", Jazz Wax,  

External links



Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address