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Like Pete Rugolo, Garcia attended San Francisco State University and then studied composition (with Castelnuovo-Tedesco in Garcia's case) before going to work as a professional arranger and composer. He worked with Horace Heidt and Al Donahue before settling in LA to work with a theatre orchestra. He then moved to studio work, first for NBC radio and later with Warner Brothers, Disney, and others.
He freelanced around labels, working with singers such as Anita O'Day and Frances Faye as well as several mainstream jazz artists. He also wrote scores for films such as "The Time Machine," "Atlantis," and "The Pad and How to Use It" and contributed music to the television series "Rawhide" and "The Virginian." In the mid-1960s, he wrote several original works for Stan Kenton's "Neophonic" orchestra. He also published a book on arranging and orchestration that's still considered a primary text.
An avid sailor, he and his wife Gina, a former big band singer, sailed around the Pacific in his trimaran in the late 1960s. They moved to New Zealand soon after and live in a small cottage on the Keri Keri Inlet on the North Island.
Garcia's Fantastica is one of the choice pieces of space music, although critic Ralph Gleason dismissed it as "More like the soundtrack of a horror movie than anything else." "There is a wide range of sound," Gleason wrote, "and a sort of ominous overtone throughout.". Sounds in the Night, which features Marni Nixon's soprano on wordless vocal effects and a power-packed swinging chorus is one of the best vocal group albums ever.
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