Garcia directs his own story


Adria Watson

LMC Drama Department Chair Nick Garcia leads his students through and exercise during his DRAMA-021 class.

Samantha Hernandez

Originally planning to major in business, Drama Professor Nick Garcia has been teaching at LMC for eight years and has traveled many roads since his beginnings in a small divided town in Colorado.

Although Garcia has some early Southern California roots, he mainly grew up in Colorado, where the biggest nearby city was four hours away and was the size of Half Moon Bay. The town he grew up in was a mix of Hispanic and white residents with “A lot of respect,” but ultimately an “underlying distrust,” he said adding that there was “bad blood” but people wouldn’t acknowledge it.

As a result, he said, “My grandma wouldn’t teach us Spanish because when she was growing up, you would be beaten up and jumped if you spoke Spanish.” He explained this was to protect him because of the way she grew up.

“If you were called a Mexican, that was the worst possible thing they can call you,” he said. “It makes you devalue your culture in a way.”
His parents divorced when he was a toddler, and when his mother remarried, Garcia formed a good relationship with his stepfather, who was a football coach and teacher. When he was young, his stepfather got a job offer in Southern California, where his family relocated for about 10 years before returning to Colorado.

Garcia’s life as a teacher brought him to California, although he loves his job and new home, “I miss a lot about Colorado,” he said. “Especially where I grew up related to a lot of [people] and they are just wonderful people who really care about family and community. When you’re there you never feel like you have to go through something alone.”

Despite growing up in a divided town Garcia said his community was family orientated so he was able to create wonderful memories especially working his first job at his grandfather’s turquoise mine company.

“My family owns a mine in Colorado where I grew up, so my cousins and I would all work for him,” he said. “We would work with dynamite or drills and we would drill into the side of this mountain,” to find the different types of turquoise.

Garcia said that he greatly enjoyed the work because it was also an environment where he could spend time with family and his cousins came to be his best friends.

He worked in the family business until college and originally planned to major in business as a result. But he always had a soft spot in his heart for theater.

“I knew I always wanted to go into that I just never had opportunity. My local school couldn’t afford a theater program, couldn’t even afford a music or art program. I had to wait until college to see if I even liked it,” he said. “So I took my first theater class in college.”

It was the patriarch of the family business who taught him to follow what he loved.

“I had really great examples of people in my life. One person I really looked up to a lot and I still look up to, is my grandfather. He never finished high school and he loves working with turquoise, and because he loves working with turquoise he is extremely good and is one of the best. Most of the people who work with turquoise worked for him at one time,” he said. “He was really good at showing and being an example of doing what you love and knowing the money will come if you work good enough. Money doesn’t come from you chasing it, it’s hard work, you have to work and invest in being the best you can be.”

But Garcia’s parents had their concerns when he informed them of his new passion.

“My parents did the quite scared thing,” he said. “They were always supportive, they would always come to see my shows, so they knew there was talent there. They were proud of me, but they definitely didn’t think that I would make any money or create a career out of it.”
He advises students who have a similar issue to, “Follow your heart and follow the dream which you know you’re good at. Know that when your happy and you are confident in yourself, your family will see that and that’s what they support.”

Garcia went on to major in theater in college, but not right away. He had originally told his high school counselor he wanted to major in business. He participated in a summer business internship at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“I ended up being accepted into the business school and getting enough scholarships where I think I had to take out $1,000 in loans.”
He then received educational funding and was able to earn a living teaching drama at his old high school. He then returned to graduate school for acting.

When working toward his theater degree he had many people who inspired him and helped him out but the catalyst in his life was his former Professor Mollie Mook.

“She graduated from Iowa and gave me my first acting job. She also gave me my first teaching job and then told me about the University of Iowa,” said Garcia who went to Iowa for graduate school.

“Mollie helped me work on my monologues, get auditions for graduates schools and helped mentor me along the way. She was one of the most incredible people that I’ve ever met. I wouldn’t have become a teacher if it wasn’t for her, and I wouldn’t have gone to school in Iowa if I hadn’t met her, which also means I wouldn’t have met my wife and have my kids,” said Garcia.

After graduate school he was lucky enough to get a job with Mook’s help. And that job in turn, brought other opportunities.
“Every job that I have had has opened doors to my career,” said Garcia. “You learn so much about how to deal with people, how to deal with yourself, how to organize, and be successful, achieve things in every job, but the biggest part about a job is making friendships that open doors for you later.”

Garcia’s passion for the dramatic arts consumes much of his free time.

“My hobby, my job and my art are all intertwined,” Garcia said. “I get to walk into a classroom and teach people about something I love to do and would do for free, and I get to teach young artists and help the people who don’t come from money who are eager to learn.”
He said he loves being able to create, act out and direct his art with them. It is important to Garcia that his students “Achieve their dreams or start their journey.”

Garcia said despite his love for drama, he values his wife and children above all else.

“The hardest part is having to balance time at work and home life,” said Garcia. “There is nothing like getting a hug from your kid at the end of a day especially if it’s a hard day.”

As a teacher Garcia said his biggest accomplishments aren’t necessarily all the awards he has received, which include two awards from Congress and UC Irvine and being on the cover of Theater Bay Area. Instead, his greatest source of motivation comes from the heartwarming feeling of helping students become who they are.

Garcia describes the metamorphosis of some of his most cherished drama students who began either hiding or disliking themselves and later grew to trust themselves.

“The students who have made the biggest leaps are the ones I carry around me,” said Garcia.

His advice to students, “Find the thing you’re good at and work relentlessly to be the best at it. All of the success you want to have is going to rely exclusively on relationships, so make sure you value and treat everyone you work with, with respect because you can’t accomplish anything by yourself. You and your skill are a business.”

Much of Professor Garcia undeniable success as a drama teacher, family man and mentor to his students has come from following his own advice. Garcia’s mantra is, “Hard work always beats talent.”