Struggle to student: new horizons for local artist
At one time or another, everyone has been given a second chance. A chance to retake a test, to reconcile with a friend, or to undo a mistake made with a boss. For Isaiah Garcia, a second chance was the difference between spending the better years of his life in prison or taking the opportunity to change his life.
Garcia, 30, is a business management student at OCCC whose path to college has included some detours.
“I just got out of prison two years ago,” said Garcia. Garcia said he chose to be a college student at OCCC because it’s been difficult to find a good job with his criminal record so getting an education is vital to turning his life around.
One of his professors described Garcia as an excellent student.
“He was one of my best students last semester as far as really exhibiting a genuine concern for the course and for improving his position in life. And for rising above his circumstances,” said English Professor Lynette Bloomberg. “We talked about his background, he wrote about his background.”
“He worked really hard and performed very well in class with other students. I see a very promising future ahead of him.”
Garcia’s business goal is to one day have his own sports bar in Oklahoma City with a music feel, combining his love of music with his knowledge of the hospitality industry.
If I wasn’t here [OCCC] then I would be in jail,” Garcia said.
He grew up in south Oklahoma City where he currently lives. Garcia said he didn’t have much growing up. Although his parents were present when he was younger, Garcia said he was always with his friends. His friends were there to help him and showed him love, but those friends also showed him the lifestyle that got him into trouble, he said.
“The first time I got shot at was in seventh grade,” Garcia said. Garcia said he was involved in robberies and a high speed chase both as a juvenile.
Big trouble came for Garcia five years ago when he was involved in an altercation at a strip club in Oklahoma City where shots were fired. Fortunately, no injuries or deaths occurred. But police and prosecutors identified him as part of a criminal element they wanted off the street and in prison.With the different charges against him and his already lengthy record, Garcia said he was expecting a split 40 year sentence, 20 years in prison and 20 years probation.
The decision to start making positive changes in his life came while Garcia was awaiting his sentencing while at the Oklahoma County Jail. Garcia said he prayed he would get a good deal, promised to change his ways, and keep his word. During his time in jail, Garcia knew he had to let the judge know his side of the story. Up until this point, Garcia said, he had not testified or had any chance to talk. Garcia decided to send the judge a four-page letter taking responsibility for his actions.
While waiting in court the day of his guilty plea and sentencing, Garcia observed another inmate who got his sentence right before Garcia, an inmate with fewer violent crimes who received a life sentence. Garcia admits he got nervous while he waited. The judge asked Garcia if the content of the letter was all true, and Garcia said yes. A second chance for Garcia came when the judge sentenced him to only five years in prison but with one condition: the judge told Garcia that if he ever saw him again, even for the smallest offense, he was done. At the time Garcia was 25 years old.
Garcia said he was in three prisons while he served his time. He was moved to Carver Transitional Center in Oklahoma City where he was able to get work experience before his release. Garcia attended various programs while in prison including anger management and drug counseling. He is taking his second chance seriously so when he feels stressed or upset, he said he turns to music as his outlet, instead of making bad decisions that could lead him back to his old ways.
Garcia first started turning to music at the age of 19. Music was an outlet for all the anger he was feeling inside. He used his personal experiences to write his own lyrics. Garcia said he would meet up with a friend with a laptop, go to a cheap hotel, and begin creating music. Garcia would write his own lyrics and sing. It was a hobby for Garcia and a way to express his emotions. A new opportunity arose in October 2015 when Garcia said he met a more experienced sound engineer at a Halloween party. Garcia said the guy knows everything about the technical side of making music and has a music studio.
He goes to the music studio and records once a month now that spring semester is underway, he said.
Garcia has three songs recorded available to listen online, all with different beats that give the hip hop feel. Garcia takes time writing then goes into the studio.
He said he is excited to be working with a more professional engineer. Garcia admits that before, when he tried handling the technical side of music, his laptop would get a new virus.
“You create your own reality, think about it and it comes into existence,” Garcia said about meeting the experienced engineer.
Garcia wants others to listen to his music and pay attention to what’s happening in the world. His music concept revolves different religions and world issues. Garcia studied religions by reading books while in prison. Garcia said he would like to hear his music played on the radio someday but after spending a total of seven years behind bars, his main focus right now is getting an education. Garcia also works full-time for a furniture manufacturing company.
He has seven college classes under his belt, all with passing grades. By the end of this semester, he should have four more class, making him a full-fledged sophomore.
To listen to Garcia’s music, visit the following link on SOUNDCLOUD at https://soundcloud.com/user-396339742/choppin-heads?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=email.