Alfa Garcia: Indie musician in every way

She taught herself guitar at the age of 13.

Born in Mindanao, raised in New York and New Jersey, and now living in sunny SoCal, singer-songwriter Alfa Garcia has been creating music inspired by the constant shifts in her life.

She has released three albums and several singles of original songs, some of which have been featured on film and television, including “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and the Christian film, “Old Fashioned.”

Two milestones in 2020 have seen her through what would be a difficult time for many. One, she was featured in the nationally-aired PBS program “Songs at the Center” by Eric Gnezda. Two, her Bisaya-English song, “Alindahaw” was a Grand Prize winner at the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in the World Category. JLSC is an international competition co-founded in 1997 by Yoko Ono.

Alfa started as an instrumentalist. She learned piano under Dr. Raul Sunico and studied violin with the Children’s Orchestra Society in New York City. She was drawn to the personal expression in songwriting and taught herself guitar at the age of 13, eventually moving to downtown New York to cut her teeth in the live music scene in the mid-2000s. 

She discovered singing mostly by accident, she told The FilAm when interviewed by email. When she was around 12 or 13, she realized she would need to sing in order for someone to perform her songs. “I was always terribly self-conscious about my voice. It’s raspy and I was never properly trained on it.”

For about three years, she took voice lessons with Don Lawrence, Lady Gaga’s vocal coach. “This helped me get a better command of my voice to the point where I could finally consider myself a ‘singer,’” she said.

Alfa’s an instrumentalist who plays the violin, the ukulele, the guitar and the kazoo, a small pipe-like instrument that produces a buzzing sound when someone hums into it.

Born in Ozamis City in Misamis Occidental province on Mindanao, Alfa spent part of her childhood in Dipolog and Pagadian cities. After her mother came to the U.S. to accept a nursing job, Alfa and her elder sister joined her years later. Their grandparents came with them on a separate pastor’s visa. They eventually built a church in Queens in 1992, she shared, recalling the family’s immigration journey.  “The church they started is called the Filipino-American United Church of Christ, and it still stands to this day in Richmond Hill.”

In the U.S., she spent most of her childhood in Bergenfield, N.J. where she attended public schools from elementary through high school. She got her B.A. in international relations and immigration studies from NYU’s Gallatin School.

In 2011, she moved to L.A. “so I could focus on my music more and get a fresh start.” Also, her mother had moved to SoCal after she remarried. Alfa recently completed her teacher certificate program at California State University and is now working as an elementary school educator and a music teacher.

John Lennon contest

“I had known about the contest for many years and had entered it in the past. I just decided to enter ‘Alindahaw’ because I’d never been able to enter a non-English song before. No one ever goes into these things thinking, ‘I’m definitely going to win.’ You just enter and hope for the best,” she said.  

She didn’t think too much about it until she got the email saying that “Alindahaw,” a bouncy number about family love, had won the World Category. “That was definitely a nice validation, although it hasn’t changed the way I feel about the song. It was one of my favorites before the contest and it still is now.”

Alfa is an indie artist in every way, producing music and performing while on tours. She has done live solo shows in the U.S. and the Philippines where she got to accompany herself on guitar, ukulele, or keyboard. She has a YouTube channel — — where one can listen to music in her deep, raspy voice and maybe swing along. – Cristina DC Pastor

© The FilAm 2022

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