Antonio J. García is leaving the VCU jazz program he has directed for 21 years at the end of this semester.
During this time, he has been a joyful force within the programme, welcoming leading guest artists, establishing a memorable relationship with the University of KwaZulu-Natal and championing innovative programs that have crossed traditional category boundaries, as well than a course on the music industry. to prepare students for real-world challenges.
It hasn’t always been easy. He replaced the program’s founder, brilliant composer/conductor Doug Richards, whose uncompromising standards appealed to serious gamers as much as they were at odds with a growing middle school state university. Garcia has put his own stamp on the program, which has long been a vital center of gravity for Richmond’s rich and unique local music scene.
As a performer, García has also “worked as a trombonist, bass trombonist, or pianist with more than 70 nationally acclaimed artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Doc Severinsen, and Phil Collins,” as noted in a VCUNews article in 2021.
Garcia liked the work, but it was very demanding. Last September, he told VCU he was quitting his demanding role to spend more time in his native New Orleans with his daughter’s family. He announced his decision, and that this would be his last semester at VCU, via email this week. For the foreseeable future, he remains in Richmond.
When he first came to town for his job interview, he remembers being struck by the fact that they were playing serious jazz as background music at local restaurants. “I have long said that there is more art per square inch in Richmond than in any city its size,” he wrote in his farewell announcement.
When asked about his accomplishments in the role, Garcia is generally brushed off.
“It’s all about the students,” he explains. “Our greatest achievement is helping them become leaders as performers, writers, producers, entrepreneurs, whether on stage or behind the scenes. We have a unique level of community engagement, social justice and interdisciplinary work. And I hope it will continue. »