In an age where young artists are charmed by the allure of Insta fame and reality TV, Bakersfield singer Itze Garcia prefers a time-proven slow burn shot at the big time.
Still digging into her studies as a senior at East Bakersfield High, the 18-year-old, curly maned diva has been making joyful noise all over Kern County with a powerhouse voice beyond her years. If you haven’t caught one of Garcia’s viral videos where she can be heard belting out renditions of hits by Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Ariana Grande and Etta James, take a listen and you’ll know what we mean.
“Music runs deep in my family,” said Garcia of her upbringing surrounded by rhythms that also helped keep family life in harmony. “My uncles, grandparents, parents and cousins had a big impact in my passion for music.”
Singing along with to tunes from her favorite singers around the house, Garcia says she knew something was brewing inside early in life. Garcia credits mom Elisa with instilling the harmonies of the spirit from the start: Her mother was in St. Joseph’s Church choir while expecting Itze.
Raising Itze and her older brother as a single mother provided its own set of challenges, but Elisa always made love and support a priority at home.
“She has been my No. 1 supporter even back when I was too shy to sing in front of people," Garcia said. "I looked up to my mother’s beautiful voice.”
Influenced by the classic soul singers of the 1960s, Garcia says repeat viewings of the musical comedy “Hairspray” that also featured vintage sounds of the period helped spark her interest towards rhythm and blues and jazz. Not that she wasn’t interested in more contemporary artists, she preferred to let the spirit guide her.
“I grew up listening to everything from soul music, pop, R&B, mariachi and Broadway, and also took some inspiration from singers like Christina Aguilera and Ella Fitzgerald.”
And it shows. Garcia’s powerful solo performance of Andra Day’s “Rise Up” was a highlight of the 2019 Kern County Women’s March.
“I’m drawn to all kinds of music," she said. "I have a wide variety of interests. As long as the music has a message and makes my souls feel something, I’m drawn to it.”
At 18, Garcia already has a resume of milestones including winning Bakersfield talent competition “The Choice” in 2017, earning a singing scholarship to practice and perform at All State Choir in San Jose last December, a string of featured appearances at the Padre Hotel, live radio performance on 103.9 The Beat, and starring roles in a number of high school musical productions including the upcoming “The Addams Family” musical in March. Garcia will play Alice Beineke, a housewife with secrets.
“I’ve always loved acting and singing. Performing arts is where my passion lies. My visual performing arts teachers have always seen my potential and encouraged me to be a part of every show.”
Garcia also flexed her skills at the Cal State Bakersfield Solo Fest where students are invited to perform classical works in front of a professional adjudicator. Qualifying students were invited back for a repeat showcase. Garcia got the call to perform. In a video posted to Facebook, Garcia’s performance is commanding and operatic, very different from the soulful sounds many have become used to hearing.
“What excites me most about performing is just being able to make people feel something. When someone comes up to me and says that my singing gave them chills, it’s the best compliment ever. I also love that I get to surprise people with my voice. Lots of people are amazed on how such a big voice comes out of a little body.”
After high school, Garcia plans to continue pursuing musical studies to improve and expand her vocal abilities while making time for auditions. That or taking over the world when time permits.
“I’m going to be a successful recording artist someday. I plan on touring the globe, and inspiring others. I am going to prove and show everyone that a Hispanic girl from the eastside of Bakersfield can make it big.”
Keep an eye on this one.
Katie Cash, 9 p.m. Saturday, Sandrini’s Public House, 1918 Eye St., $5. 322-8900.
When she’s not shredding and wailing with her band Year of Fist, Oakland guitarist/singer-songwriter Katie Cash can be found touching rowdy souls with a blend of California rock and roots with passionate lyrics to match. While her latest solo release, “Gift Horse,” is a departure from her heavier sound, there’s still plenty of edge woven in to please old fans while draw in curious new listeners. This type of artist is best experienced live and up close. Also performing is Ariel Dyer and Western Medicine. Highly recommended.