Hello and welcome to my website. Since you’re here I suspect you’d like to know a bit about me — background information, if you will. Well, I was born at a very early age. (That’s a one liner for you Henny Youngman fans out there.) But seriously folks, I was born in Paris, Texas, and attended college here in the Lone Star state, majoring in music. I’m self-taught on guitar and piano, both of which I’ve been playing for over 40 years. I’ve written almost 800 songs and have had a handful published and/or recorded — both solos and choral pieces.
My performing career has taken me to a variety of places, both figuratively and literally. Back when I lived in Nashville I did some studio work and the same holds true for my time in Los Angeles. I’ve worked with church groups, comedy improv groups, big bands, small bands and vocalists of all styles. I was even the singing emcee for a rare holiday traveling venue called the Santa Claus Express, an actual train that went from town to town doing Christmas shows. In short, I’ve spent my adult life as a working musician. If it’s a venue that requires music, most likely I’ve done that gig at one time or another.
Back in the early 1980s my love for theatre prompted me to channel more and more of my energies in that direction. While in LA I had a revue of my songs, Music By George, performed at the Crossley Theatre in Hollywood. Since moving back to Dallas in 1992 I’ve played guitar and/or piano for several local musical productions. There have also been occasions when I did the musical direction as well, particularly for my own shows. These shows, produced by the Pocket Sandwich Theatre, had their beginning in 1989, when Rodney Dobbs and I first got together to write Dues and Don’ts of Dating, featuring my music and lyrics with Rodney as the book writer. Since then, with Rodney sometimes being a co-lyricist, we’ve collaborated on other shows including The Cloak trilogy (a spoof of a 1940’s radio hero featured in Cloak and Dagger), Spy in a Mini-Skirt and the latest, Stars and Spies Forever.
My involvement with the theatre scene in Dallas has afforded me the opportunity to work with a variety of production companies including Undermain Theatre, where my musical direction of The Joy of Going Somewhere Definite earned me a Leon Rabin nomination, a local theatre award. On Our Endeavors Theatre Collective’s production of Gorey Stories I was once again musical director and I’m pleased to say that show won a Leon Rabin award for best production of a musical that year.
In 1996 I received a commission from C.A.T.S. (Creative Arts Theatre School in Arlington, Texas) to collaborate with local playwright Natalie Gaupp to create a children’s musical based on the Japanese folk tale, Urashima Taro. I’ve also written incidental music for various plays produced here locally, including Ms. Gaupp’s drama, Big Band. A few years ago I was pianist/arranger for How to Eat Like a Child and The Boxer at the Plano Children’s Theater.
My association with the Pocket Sandwich Theater continues, as I’m one of the regular pianists for their popular popcorn-throwing melodramas, for which I also compose incidental music. These include Captain Blood, The Final Adventures of Hercules and Camp Death — to name a few.
One of my most rewarding endeavors in recent years is my work with the Jesters program at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, where I work with special needs adults, helping them create songs for an original musical. Along those same lines is my work each July with the Kiddzz on Stage program sponsored by the Winnsboro Arts Center in Winnsboro, Texas, where I help children create original songs for their musicals as well. The skill set for these two programs evolved from my initial pet project, “Makin’ Up a Musical Together,” where I provide the assistance and know-how to those who want to create their own original musical — in schools, churches, etc.
Having spent a great deal of my life inside the church walls, I’m very much at home with the people of faith and continue to enjoy many opportunities to share my music with fellow “seekers” on the way. A CD of mine from 2003 attests to as much even by its title, Poet and Pilgrim: Reflections of One Man’s Spiritual Journey.
One important part of that journey has been connecting with kindred spirits and even more so kindred musical spirits. Certainly gospel music legend Cynthia Clawson falls into that category. It’s primarily through her efforts that my songs have made the inroads into the mainstream that they have. In fact, “Words and Music,” a song of mine Cynthia recorded, was nominated for a Dove award in 1980. A few years later she recorded “My Finest Hour” and it was the title cut on an album that was nominated for a Grammy. In more recent years, three of my songs (“Episode,” “What About the Children” and “Doubter’s Prayer”) were featured on Cynthia’s 2008 album, Episodes. In 2009, she and I collaborated with the music staff and choir of Wilshire Baptist Church to present The Journey Home, a concert that included several of my arrangements and a couple of original songs. My CD Poet and Pilgrim features a song that Cynthia and I co-wrote, “How Do You Build A Bridge (To That Other World?).” In 2013, Cynthia sang on a special concert that became my album, Somebody Ought to Record That!
Speaking of recordings, Songs Unsung … Until Now is a recording of a solo concert I performed in January 2011. The program featured 19 of my original songs, both sacred and secular, that for one reason or another had never been performed publicly. My newest release is His Story … My Songs, which tells the life story of Jesus through my original songs. (You can hear samples and find out how to buy a copy of all my CDs on the Music page of this site.)
In recent years I’ve begun performing with a variety of groups on the Dallas scene. On a given day you might catch me playing with AChord trio, Dave Washburn’s Three Quarters Fast Jazz Band, Matt Tolentino’s Singapore Slingers, Mark McKenzie Jazz Quartet or even the Dallas Banjo Band. Plus there’s always an occasional solo gig here and there. As if guitar and piano weren’t enough, I’ve taken up tenor sax in my spare time (ha!) and play in the Wilshire Wind Symphony, a concert band at Wilshire Baptist Church. I’ve also written a handful of arrangements for the group.
Besides performing and writing, I do a good deal of teaching. Mostly that means teaching private guitar lessons, but some years ago I was involved with Young Audiences of North Texas, a program run by the Big Thought organization that brings music to public schools.
— George Gagliardi