Julia McGarrity is classically trained pianist and former PSU Symphony Orchestra violist who will be entering into a Master’s program this June. Julia’s compositions are no doubt beautiful, and at times haunting. Julia’s story is one of strength, perseverance, and navigating a childhood with PTSD, anxiety, and multiple behavioral differences in-bedded in her family. The calculated album is a reflection of her roots, a hymn of forgiveness and acceptance of her upbringing.

Julia is of the mindset that music and sounds are shaped from a young age. Pitch is learned from your parents, your elders, the environment around us. For Julia, these musical imprints came from her mother. Her mother was raised in Korea and would sing “emotionally polarizing” lullabies. These lullabies sounded more like “crying, wounded, and brash, speech-like sirens.” Julia’s latest album reflects that.

So I listen to my mother’s voice and I feel all of the tensions.. the miseries. It doesn’t stop there either. I feel the weight of all of the ancestors that have come before her in her voice. From there I take that inspiration to find my own voice to sing my own songs. By reclaiming the pains of the past I am attempting to let them rest. I am singing to the child within my mother to help lull her…if not to sleep…than at least into the moment of the music.” – Julia McGarrity

In our Keep Oregon Well Storytelling Series. We asked Julia a few questions regarding the personal and community importance of her upcoming album. Her responses are below.


What drove you to create music?

“Trying to heal myself was what drove me to create music. I spent most my childhood voiceless. Growing up I suffered from panic disorder, generalized anxiety, and depression. This stagnated energy needed a healthy outlet to express itself. Music became my sanctuary. I was able to finally hear my own voice. Through this outlet I was able to express my childhood, and reconnect with my mother. Most of the songs I wrote are more so meditations. I was writing to let go of the highs and lows of the past. Every time I played through one of these meditations I was able to let go a little bit more. I’ve been creating music to heal myself and those around me.”


What’s your relationship like with your mother?

“Most recently the relationship with my mother involves quite a bit of humor. My mother loves to laugh and enjoys clever jokes. I really have to focus on staying in the present moment with her when I visit her. Topics can rapidly change at the drop of dime if she becomes triggered.

In Korea she was abandoned as a baby, malnourished, and abused by the distant relatives she was living with. When it became unbearable she ran away. Growing up with her was really hard. She was finally in a safe place to start unraveling the abuses of her past. My mother didn’t have any tools to help her cope, and refused professional help because of her unbending survivor mind frame. In turn my childhood was spent feeling every tremor of the effects of her lived neglect and abuse. I was constantly walking on eggshells making sure that each step would never wake the sleeping lion. My mother continues to suffer from alcoholism, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. I choose to no longer define her by these terms. I choose to be proud of what she gives,what she grows, how she smiles, and what we can talk about on any given day.”


How does the release of this album play a role in shaping one’s understanding of mental illness?

 “This album is about no longer hiding mental illness. It’s about making yourself vulnerable. It’s about being honest and asking for the help you need. Outside of my own work of regularly seeing a psychologist, and meditating; music was paramount to my healing. All of the musicians on this album were my witnesses. Not only did they listen to my story- they brought their love and voices to help me reclaim the pains and joys of the past. I am making music inspired by mental illness. I am redefining it. I am giving it a name, a color, a tune, and I want to share it with the world.”


June Magnolia Album Release from Julia McGarrity on Vimeo.


Dinner, Drinks, & Live Music at Circa 33
An Album Release Benefit for
Julia McGarrity
Tuesday May 23rd, 2017
7pm-10pm in the

Cocktail Attire Encouraged
Reception Style Dinner
Hosted Beer + Wine
Live Music by Julia McGarrity and Special Guests
Silent Auction
No-Host Cocktails Available

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