Who Paved Your Way?

We're celebrating one of the best days in a Rebel's life — graduation — and we want you to help celebrate through social media. Who helped paved your way? Was it your grandma? An inspirational professor? Or even the anonymous donor behind your scholarship? Tell us in the comments section below or by sharing this story in social media with #UNLVGrad. For full ceremony details, visit the commencement website.

The UNLV Foundation’s You Paved the Way video was made to share gratitude for the donors and other individuals who have helped our students to achieve their dreams this year. The video features a composition and vocals by jazz studies student Gary Fowler as well as students Henry Castillo, Wei "Katrina" Liang, Patrick McCaw and Salma Paz.

To reflect a bit on that message, we sat down with Gary Fowler, the UNLV student who composed and sang the video’s catchy tune, to learn more about him and some of those who paved his way. 

Fowler, a jazz vocalist in the critically acclaimed UNLV Latin Jazz Ensemble, has been singing since he was 8 and came from a family with creative backgrounds: His mother wrote and his father penned music for movies. Fowler moved with his family to Las Vegas two years ago. 

He didn’t know anyone here, but he did know that he wanted to get right back into college without taking a break. There was just one complication: The late-summer timing of the move made it difficult for him to start on time. “There were auditions… but I had just missed them. And there were a bunch of prereqs that I hadn’t done, too,” Fowler said.

“I knew I needed to get in, so I walked into [Beam Music Center] and saw David Loeb, who is the director of jazz music here. I auditioned with him on the spot. I practically just walked in off the street,” he said. “I had none of the paperwork done, nothing.”

Loeb clearly liked what he heard because Fowler was accepted into the program and received the Joe Williams Every Day Foundation Scholarship.

Since then, Fowler has become immersed in both the campus and the local music community and has grown as an artist. “The program wasn’t very vocal-based when I first came here, so they treated me like an instrument. And that was the best training I could get,” he said.

If you liked him in the video, you can usually catch Fowler at a few venues around town. He credits Jo Belle Yonely, his jazz vocal teacher at UNLV, with connecting him with pianist (and UNLV Latin Jazz Ensemble leader) Uli Geissendoerfer for a performance at Dispensary Lounge. That one-time show turned into a monthly performance.

As much as he enjoys recording — just look at how much fun he’s having in that video —  Fowler’s future ambitions are on stage.

“Live performance is always better to me than recording,” he said. “The dust in the air, the people around you, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s the rawest performance an artist can give.”

Tell us: Who paved your way? Leave a comment below or share your story in social media with #UNLVGrad.

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