Understand the importance of live music

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Hiram Garzaro   Understand the importance of live music

By Ralph De Palma

Hiram playing timbales at the 2019 Havana Tropicana concert at the Key West Theater.

Born in Valencia, Venezuela, Hiram Garzaro had a hearing problem, at a very young age, that reduced his ability to hear by almost 80%. The condition was corrected by an operation when he was twelve. After waking up from the operation, Hiram could immediately hear the drone of the air conditioner motors in his room. It opened up the world to him again.

After regaining his hearing, Hiram became interested in learning music. His parents encouraged his study of music and paid for his instruction. He was warned by his father after completing his music study, he had to move go out and make a living. His father never outwardly showed how much he enjoyed his son learning music and then performing. Sadly, it wasn’t until after his father passed away, Hiram discovered how very proud he was of his son’s music success.

Early in his life, Hiram benefited from a very good music instructor, Frank Polo, who taught him all types of percussion and especially all types of music. He was like a sponge soaking up all the music knowledge possible. Hiram skipped the intermediary steps that most musicians go through and was picked up by a touring band immediately after school.

Performing at the Key West Musicians Festival with Rick Fusco, Hiram, and Claire Finley

Most touring events in Venezuela were sponsored by cigarette or alcohol companies. They had very high budgets and paid very well. In 1999, Hugo Chavez was elected President, and he almost immediately banned events sponsored by these companies. The government of Venezuela began to sponsor large events, select the performers, and collect the profits. Hiram went from making more money than his parents, playing and touring, to virtually no gigs.

Several family members had already moved to Miami, and Hiram followed them in 2003. He had a total of five performances in his first year in Miami. Today, in Key West, Hiram often has five gigs over a weekend.

A friend encouraged him to move to Tampa for more gigs. In 2005, they formed a band and began playing weddings, private parties, and various clubs from Sarasota through the Tampa area.

While playing a wedding in Sarasota, a Key West photographer at the wedding recommended them for a private birthday party in Key Haven in 2009. The party was attended by several wedding planners from Key West. They began coming to Key West frequently for weddings.

After a chance meeting in 2010 on a sunset cruise aboard the Fury’s “Commotion on the Ocean” with Cory Heydon, Tom Conger, and Terry Wetmore, Hiram introduced Terry to the electronic drum kits he had been using. It was difficult and time consuming to setup and breakdown a full drum kit aboard the sunset catamaran, the electronic drum pad would make the gigs much easier for Terry. The next day Hiram met Terry at his home and gave him one of his drum pads to try out – they became very good friends.

They continued to speak and the next Summer, Terry had to go up north for three weeks and asked Hiram to play the Fury gig with Cory Heydon and he could stay at Terry’s house – basically a free vacation. This practice continued for several years and would expand from a few weeks every year until Hiram was in Key West for almost four months at a time. He basically became ‘Terry Wetmore’ when Terry was out of town for the summer months.

Their friendship continued to grow. Hiram would often just hang out with Terry and his wife, Jane, discussing music. When Hiram decided to move from Tampa to Key West, after covering for Terry in 2015, he was already relatively established as a local musician. He had played with Rolando Rojas, Claire Finley, Tony Baltimore, and many others.

Terry, Jane, and Hiram evacuated from Hurricane Irma together to Terry’s Virginia home. Hiram and Terry remained the closest of friends until Terry unexpectedly passed away in February of 2020. Jane gave Terry’s favorite, and very beautiful, Gretsch drum kit to Hiram. He plays it’s often and when he does, says he feels Terry’s spirit is with him.

The diversity of music available to Hiram in Key West is one of the most important features of our music scene. Key West audiences from all over the world appreciate original music, blues standards, reggae, rock, Latin, and jazz. One of the results of the two-year COVID era is Hiram began to understand the importance of live music to his audience. Performing every day, a musician can take for granted the value of a live performance. After COVID some members of his audience were moved to tears just to be able to enjoy a live performance.



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