You never know where opportunity will find you. For Zach Garsson ’25, an Arts and Entertainment Management major with a concentration in Technical Theatre, that opportunity was the Installation Celebration for President Kenneth Elmore and Chancellor Edward M. Augustus, Jr. Zach attended the ceremony in the fall, where he was so inspired by President Elmore’s words during his investiture address that he took notes during the speech. As a rapper, singer and a dancer, Zach then turned his inspiration into a song: “Opportunity.”
As an artist, Zach goes by Louie Z – a name that is a tribute to both his Uncle Louis and Louis Vuitton, with the “Z” as a nod to his own name. He writes and records his music in his traveling studio, which currently lives in his dorm room. He finds inspiration for his songs in everything, from nature to life experiences to things like the president’s investiture address. And then he turns that inspiration into music that crosses all genres.
“You could say it’s alternative, because there’s no one genre,” Zach said about his music. “It could be R&B. It could be pop. It could be dance music. I like to blend a bit of everything.”
“Opportunity” was no exception. In the opening lines of his investiture address, the president said, “We are poised with opportunity.” And at that moment, inspiration struck.
“I got fired up once he started talking,” Zach explained. “That first sentence, ‘We are poised with opportunity,’ immediately hit me, and something in my mind just said, ‘Zach, get out your phone and start writing.’ I didn’t know why, but I just started taking down the things that he said, and then afterward I turned it into a rap.”
Zach later met President Elmore while ushering for “All Shook Up” and mentioned he had written a song inspired by the president’s remarks. After finishing recording it, he reached out to share it with Elmore. President Elmore, who gets songwriting credit on the song, invited Zach to his office to play him the song, as well as a few other Louie Z originals.
“I was just so proud of him as one of our students, and Zach just made my day,” President Elmore says. “To see him integrating all of his experience into this piece was wonderful. The song itself was such a joy, but my real joy was seeing him when he played the song for me. I could tell he had such joy in creating this thing and then to play it for me. That’s what gave me incredible joy.”
As evidenced by the song’s title, the message is about opportunity – a theme that is clear throughout President Elmore’s investiture address and throughout the entire Dean experience. Elmore noted that not only is Dean poised with opportunity to solve challenges and allow students to participate in all the opportunities offered here, but also that Dean is a place of social mobility and that students will be able to take advantage of countless opportunities once they graduate.
“We have people who have been doubted,” Elmore said. “We have artists who were told they’re not good enough. We’ve got entrepreneurs and innovators where people said they have silly ideas. And yet, they’re going to move out into that space in the world and say, ‘You were wrong, because here we are.’”
The song is also about how you take advantage of opportunities as they come.
“Everybody has opportunity,” Zach explained. “It’s all just about how you show up in life.”
For Zach, he hopes those opportunities keep him immersed in the performing arts. After Dean, he would love to teach, to dance on the side and to work in technical theatre. But as an artist, Zach knows there are times when the work won’t always be consistent, and he points to his music as his release.
“You need an outlet to keep yourself going,” he said. “When you’re not working, you need to put your experiences someplace. You’ve got to take that with you, you’ve got to carry it, and you’ve got to turn it into something.”
In the meantime, Zach is staying involved in the arts at Dean, including ushering, technical production, sound cues and scenic work. As Louie Z, he’s also working on more songs, including putting together an EP and an album for release later this year. And the opportunities have only just begun.