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(Photo by Blake Liverson)
(Photo by Blake Liverson)

Musical Phenom Brings His Talent to Las Vegas

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The lights are on, the ballroom is set and Gary Hill, 18, is asking God if he was intended to become a full-time musician.

The date is Feb. 16, 2012 at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, where thousands of hopefuls audition in front of various talent scouts for the reality television series “America’s Got Talent.”

After two previous unsuccessful preliminary auditions, Hill’s goal is to receive a positive reception by the talent scouts, and begin a career as the next great definitive jazz vocalist.

Hill, however, attained more than a positive reception. Instead, he received record producer Jim Bacani’s business card from one of the talent scouts.

One month later, Bacani signed Hill to Avatar Records of Los Angeles, becoming the youngest artist to sign a contract (and release an album) in the label’s history.

His debut album, entitled “The Beginning,” was released on Dec. 13, 2013, selling more than 1,000 copies as of April 2015.

Unlike many young musicians who gravitate toward the latest rock ‘n’ roll or hip-hop trend, Hill chose to study the definitive artists of the vocal jazz community.

The ambitious musician envisions his creations as a revival of the genre of music invented by Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.

Prior to breaking records and signing a recording contract, Hill’s most frequent audience were the patrons of his uncle’s restaurant in Thousand Oaks, California. He simultaneously played piano and sang at the restaurant from 2007 until 2011, performing a combination of self-arranged standards and original compositions.

During his time at his uncle’s restaurant, Hill was discovered by Michael Winderlaiter, a record producer for Walt Disney Records of Anaheim, California.

In 2008, Winderlaiter helped Hill release his first extended play, an album comprised of six tracks, titled “Pieces of Me and Him.” The extended play contained four of Hill’s arrangements of Frank Sinatra standards, and two original compositions.

Upon the release of the extended play, however, Winderlaiter did not express further interest in working with Hill.

“Once the extended play was released, he told me that, while he really enjoyed my talent and presence, I was too young, and still needed to mature musically,” Hill said. “I was still eternally grateful that he helped me get my first album out, though.”

Hill believes that the exposure of performing at his uncle’s restaurant allowed him to attain various jobs within the entertainment industry throughout California.

He often received gigs performing background vocals at concerts for pop music artists, including Barry Manilow, George Michael and Elton John.

Hill has also appeared in more than 20 television series in a cameo role, such as “Malcolm in the Middle,” “CSI: Miami” and “George Lopez.”

As he was working more than 30 hours per week within the entertainment industry, Hill completed his education via online correspondence courses, earning his high school diploma by age 14.

Hill began arranging and writing music at the age of 8, after receiving the debut albums of vocalists Harry Connick, Jr. and Steve Tyrell as Christmas presents.

He respected their debut albums in particular more for their arrangements of popular standards, rather than their vocal talent.

“I’ve always despised hearing other people perform Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin songs when they don’t do anything original with the tune,” Hill said. “Then I heard Tyrell and Connick, Jr., and, as a performer, I officially knew what I wanted to do, and never looked back.”

When he is not performing or rehearsing, Hill said that he spends at least five hours every day arranging and writing music.

Some of Hill’s arrangements include Paul Anka’s “You Are My Destiny” and “I’ve Got the World on a String” by Frank Sinatra.

After living in California for 17 years, Hill moved with his family to Las Vegas in December 2013 for networking purposes.

During his initial months living in Las Vegas, Hill attended UNLV for two semesters, where he majored in jazz music performance under the tutelage of Professor Dave Loeb.

He left UNLV after the fall 2014 semester, and said that he will more than likely not return.

“Gary was, indisputably, one of the most talented and hardworking vocalists I have ever worked with, but he attended UNLV more for communications,” Loeb said. “Nevertheless, I expect his name to be featured in lights on the Strip very soon.”

Hill currently alternates his time between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

“For the very most part, I perform in Las Vegas, and record in Los Angeles now,” Hill said.

Hill’s next album is tentatively scheduled to be released by the summer of 2016, featuring six arrangements, and five original compositions.

“This kid takes dedication to a whole new level,” said Hill’s childhood friend Daniel Daal, 18. “He really is a gift from God, and rightfully deserves a higher level of prominence.”

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