Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Amazing Story of Vol State’s Flute Playing Graduate

Vol State grad, Gareth Laffely lists among his many accomplishments: president of PTK, Honors student, and Outstanding Graduate nominee. But that is only the tip of the iceberg for this young man. Gareth is the youngest artist to ever reach No. 2 on the Billboard New Age charts, which he achieved at the age of 17. As a Native American flute player and an advocate for change, he recently received the “Rising Star” Award from the Native American Music Awards. Gareth is of Mi'kmaq/Cree descent.

“I actually started out at 4 years old playing drums, I was then classically trained in piano and violin. I didn’t really find myself musically until I started with the flute, singing and songwriting,” he said.

Gareth explains how his very first flute changed his life forever, “when I turned 13 I wanted to go on a coming of age trip with my family, so we went out to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and while we were out there, I had a minute to myself and I went off to a little shop. I saw a little $45 flute, I picked it up, and the very first thing that I said was ‘I am never going to do anything with this.’ I started to play it and something felt right, so I bought it.”

The next week during a tour of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, Gareth realized that he was destined to become a flute player. “I asked the tour guide if I could play the flute and just see how it sounded on the edge of the canyon, he was mistaken, so he announced to the entire tour group that a young artist from Nashville was going to give a concert on the edge of the cliff. So, I’d had the flute for a week, so I got through as much as I could on the flute, and as soon as I started to play, something just clicked, and I thought, this is what I want to do.”

Gareth has worked with an organization called Thundering Hooves in Texas, where they worked to spread awareness about horse slaughter. The documentary titled Their Last Ride included Gareth’s song is titled “The Last Ride.” 
His music was also used in a memorial for a young boy named Regen who lost his battle with brain cancer. Regen's family had told Gareth how much his music helped their family through the process. “It touched me on a deep level to know that my music can be used to heal someone like that. So I walked over to my piano and just started to play something, the first thing I played stuck, then I grabbed my flute, and the first thing stuck. It became “Regen’s song,” named after the boy.” Gareth collaborated with New Age Grammy winner Laura Sullivan on the song, and all of the proceeds were donated to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

Gareth has started an anti-bullying campaign across North America, which is centered around his song titled “This Time.” Gareth says that he has experienced bullying in his past, and encourages others to talk about their experiences.

“The song says, ‘this time I am going to rise above – this time, I am not going to take it,’ I had the opportunity to take the song into elementary, middle, and high schools around North America. I like taking something that can be hard to talk about, and using music, the universal language, to make it more accessible to everybody.”

After Vol State, Gareth plans to continue his education at MTSU, to pursue a degree in marketing. He aspires to grow his music business, and ultimately start his own music-for-film company. Gareth is currently working on developing his own recording studio, and will tentatively be releasing his next album this summer titled “Voices of the Guardians.”

Brought up by two fellow musician parents, Gareth’s path was clearly laid out for him. His father is a music therapist, and his mother a singer/songwriter, who is also now his manager. “My parents are not the typical parents. They also recognize what I want from my life, and they’re never going to steer me from that.”

“For my vision of my life, I want to see myself being able to step out, and go one step further than I did the previous year to touch more lives to make a larger impact on the world. I like to go out and encourage other people to find their gifts and talents and use that for good.”
For more information on Gareth and to keep up with his continuing story, check out the links to his website and Facebook page below.

-By Rachel Keyes