Jess Garland, a Dallas multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, intends on expanding her community impact and musical advocacy for social and cultural issues with her new membership at The Recording Academy. 

“I get to do what I’m doing within the Dallas community. And I’ve been doing a lot of like equity in music, education and performing arts globally, but now I just get to continue to serve my community and represent music professionals,” Garland said. 

Garland recently accepted her invitation for membership to The Recording Academy, known for its Grammy Awards. With a mission centered around advocating, serving, celebrating and educating, the Academy focuses on unifying musical professionals to ensure recording arts continue to play a vital role in music culture while providing musical support and resources.

With historical music prevention displays such as the GRAMMY Museum, advocacy efforts shown by musical artists and assistance for musical artists with MusiCares, The Recording Academy is a renowned society of musical professionals that works to create a more encouraging society for creatives. 

Photo Credit: Ciara Elle Bryant

“You get to do different things like vote for who is receiving the Grammys,” Garland said. “It’s a different way to kind of work on equity and music by expanding on the different genres that are represented and who gets represented. So, there’s also a lot of different mentorship programs that happen as well, too.”

Inspired by artists like Sheila E., Prince and Lauryn Hill, Garland started at a young age playing the piano at her grandma’s and clarinet in middle school. When she attended Southern Methodist University, she learned classical guitar and majored in political science to practice entertainment and music law so she could continue to serve the Dallas community. 

While working in the legal field and with human resources, Garland got involved in the nonprofit world. Garland had been teaching music for almost 17 years by having in-home private sessions that soon turned into her teaching at a nonprofit organization in Oak Cliff called La Rondalla. After the nonprofit closed, Garland used her first grant, provided by Dallas, to open a guitar summer camp in South Dallas. 

During that time, Garland was performing, mainly in the Deep Ellum community, with her guitar and her harp, an instrument that was not easily accessible to most people even in the music industry. Garland’s social media and community presence grew along the way. 

Photo Credit: Ciara Elle Bryant

Garland’s most recent performances included the Dallas Arts District Pride Block Party, Juneteenth for the Deep Ellum Foundation and Luminescence. 

Garland also credited performances like Luminescence, her advocacy and her community involvement for her recent membership offer to The Recording Academy. 

Luminescence featured an all Black cast of musicians at the Wyly Theatre, and Garland performed with a new 3D printed sculpture laser harp to bring issues surrounding lack of racial equity in the Arts District to light. While showcasing her musical passions and raising awareness of a societal concern, Garland unified Black musical artists to celebrate Blackness while also acknowledging her personal experiences with love and life. 

“It’s really kind of rare to see black musicians that have a classical background receive that kind of a platform,” Garland said. “Equity is all about resources, and that’s just something that I’m gonna just continue to advocate for.”

Garland is the president and founding director of Swan Strings, a nonprofit organization that gives people the opportunity to engage in free music education, community concerts and sound therapy services. Garland served 350 children in the organization and offered 850 hours of music education to those lacking access. Garland provides youth with representation in the music world as they learn and a safe haven for them to express themselves and get the resources and support they need. 

Garland’s global impact is also represented with her involvement as executive director for Girls Rock Dallas, an organization committed to uplifting girls, women, trans and gender-expansive individuals with music education as they develop the confidence they need to creatively express themselves. 

Garland has also created various works in the creative world including her film “Harp & Sol”, an experimental film that focuses on environmental racism in Dallas through the perspective of Black feminism. 

Along with opening for artists and musical groups like Gingger Shankar, MNDSGN, Jackie Venson and Madame Gandhi, Garland has been featured as a recording artist on Truth to Power Project, Sunshine Village’s The Buffalo Trees Saved The Children of The Sun album and These Machines are Winning‘s Slaves for Gods album. 

Garland recently released her debut single “Glow” as well. 

Garland plans on expanding Swan Strings and has been working to provide the organization with more mental health resources and community concerts. Along with her work with the Academy, she also plans to focus on her solo recording work that she plans to release soon.

Purposefully, Garland wants to continue to change negative societal views on Black women creators and push a better narrative that shows Black women creators as innovators of new sound and genres.

“Believe in yourself. Believe in your community. Believe in others,” Garland said.“I’m looking forward to working with the Academy to continue to change that narrative and help improve that for creators worldwide.”