Gerente de Programa Back of the Yards, Ariel García: “Me esfuerzo por ser el adulto que necesitaba cuando era niño”

Ariel Garcia has been a part of The People’s Music School team since 2019. For years, he has been an integral part of the TPMS community, supporting families and managing volunteer service across all four programming sites. Now, as the Program Manager of our Back of the Yards location, Ariel works closely with this “tightly-knit” community where “everyone has a good heart.” What inspires him is simple: he’s committed to giving back. “I strive to be the adult I needed when I was kid.” 

Learn more about Ariel’s work at The People’s Music School and his dedication to serving his community.

Early Experiences with Music

Ariel teaches a strings class at the Albany Park program site in 2023.

Ariel began playing violin as a young kid in La Villita. It didn’t take long for him to realize that music was the future he wanted for himself. “When I was 13, I was awarded funding to go to a chamber music camp in the summer, and that pretty much sealed the deal as far as what career I wanted to pursue,” he says. “From that moment on I knew the ‘what.’ To this day I’m still trying to figure out the ‘how’. Currently, I’m content to be able to wear three hats: arts admin, teaching, and performance.

“I was beyond lucky not only to get to go to college, but to also get to study music,” says Ariel.  “I’ve earned degrees from DePaul University and the University of Nebraska, and I’m currently working on another degree from the University of Wisconsin.”

Ariel knows the gap in accessibility to the arts firsthand. “I was proudly born and raised in Chicago’s La Villita neighborhood, and as a child of immigrants, I find it can be tremendously challenging to navigate any space, let alone the arts,” he says. “My hope is that my mistakes can serve to empower others like me. This is what drew me to People’s – the idea that I could relate to and help students and families in this way.”

Ariel’s Work at People’s

Ariel (right) receives flowers from Dean of Learning and Teaching Natalie Butler, alongside Program Coordinator Jack Kartsotis at the Back of The Yards 2023 Winter Concert.

As a Program Manager, Ariel’s primary responsibility is “to ensure students, families, and colleagues are set up for success. Every day I work diligently to understand what each group of people needs so that as a team we can meet or exceed our goals.”

He wouldn’t be able to do it all, he says, without Program Coordinator Jack Kartsotis on his team. “I’m very fortunate to get to work with Mr. Jack – he’s a great teacher, a wonderful musician, and above all, an awesome person. Everyday before programming, we check in and talk about work which then leads to great conversations about life, music, and practicing with a metronome.”

Back of the Yards Community

Ariel has only been at the Back of The Yards program for six months. But it didn’t take long to see just how special this community is. “It’s tightly knit in the best way possible – people can count on each other to always come through in a big way. Everyone has a good heart.” 

“Like all of our other programs, BOTY has grown tremendously in a number of ways. What’s interesting to me is thinking about what’s been a constant over the years – and that is our relationship with the incredibly generous and hard-working staff at Lara Academy. Principal Schissler always takes the time to understand and meet our needs. The music teacher, Ms. Myers is a huge advocate of our program. And Pete, the security guard, goes above and beyond ensuring our kids feel both safe and welcome.”

Moments of Inspiration

Ariel teaches violin and viola in addition to his role as a Program Manager. It’s inspiring to be able to see students light up when they feel confident in their playing. “I love it when students get to a point in their playing where they try and learn songs on their own – especially ones they listen to on the radio,” he says.  

Outside the classroom, Ariel gets to continue his passion for performance. “I maintain an active freelancing career. If you or anyone you know needs musicians, I know people!”

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