All the World's a Stage
Adam Galarza started at Valencia College with one wish: to major in musical theater. Today, he's a valued member of the team at Universal Studios Florida and inspires colleagues and visitors alike.
— by Linda Shrieves
When Adam Galarza started taking classes at Valencia College, he knew right away what he wanted to major in – musical theater.
There was only one problem. Valencia didn’t offer a musical theater specialization.
So Adam turned to his advisor and asked if he could take a wide array of classes that would make him a triple threat – a singer, dancer and actor.
To his surprise, she said yes.
Today, Adam is indeed a triple threat – an actor and singer at Universal Orlando Resort, where he also teaches new employees the ropes during orientation.
“You may start your educational journey with one goal in mind. And those things may happen, but not in the way you think they would,” says Adam, who has traveled all over the world in different stage and musical productions. “I love the choices that I’ve made, and the people that guided me along the way. They've helped shape me into the person I am today.”
Now 36, Adam’s journey from teenaged music lover to valued employee at Universal came quite naturally.
He got hooked on theater when, in third grade, he was a Munchkin in the school’s “Wizard of Oz” production. In middle school, he focused on band and playing the piano. And then in high school, when a music teacher told him he had a great singing voice, he decided to audition for chorus and later the high school theater troupe.
When it came time for college, he applied to Valencia and UCF, but Valencia got his attention by offering him a full scholarship through Bridges to Success. When he told his Bridges advisor that he’d like to take music, theater and dance classes, she supported him.
“Basically what I did was general studies – but I took all the theater classes, all the music classes and most of the dance classes,” he says. “I was at East Campus all the time. I took classes like piano, music theory, dance classes, script analysis – I was piecing together everything Valencia had to offer. That’s one thing that I really admired was that Valencia allowed me to explore.”
Along the way, his professors became his mentors and he still rattles off the names of those who influenced him – including Suzanne Salapa, Alan Gerber, Julia Gagne, Carla del Villagio and more.
“It was really lovely to see working professionals who were instructors at Valencia. Not only were they professors and mentors they were professionals in the industry. That made a significant difference that I did not realize when I was there,” Adams says.
He realized how important that had been years after graduation. “I emailed them a few years ago, saying thank you. They all emailed me back,” he says. “Back then, I was so young, but these professors were so loving and nurturing and supportive. They had a lovely combination of real-life experience and the academic world.”
After Adam graduated from Valencia, he transferred to UCF, where he auditioned for UCF’s Bachelor in Fine Arts program in theater performance. After graduation, he jumped straight into the work world – doing regional theater, TV commercials, and working on stages at local theme parks.
“When I went to school at Valencia and UCF, my intention was to go to Broadway. I remember auditioning at a theater conference… multiple theaters show up and they’re hiring for traveling productions,” he recalls. “That's when I got hired by Herschend Family Entertainment, the company behind Dollywood Company and Wild Adventures. After Herschend, I thought, ‘Theme parks? Cool, but I still want to be on Broadway.’ “
Yet, as time went by, more opportunities came his way in Central Florida.
After Dollywood, where he helped create and open a new show, he worked at Disney as an actor for a number of years, including several roles in Disney’s “Finding Nemo the Musical” – and where he later was hired to help create the Star Wars: Galactic Star Cruiser, a two-day immersive experience, in partnership with Walt Disney Imagineering, Disney Live Entertainment and Disney Beyond Parks.
But Universal has been his primary home since 2010, when he got his start as a singer and dancer in the Beetlejuice show (playing the Wolfman). He later went on to roles in the frog choir in Hogsmeade, working on the Grinchmas musical, dancing in Universal's Mardi Gras, singing with the Ragtime Gals, and hanging out with Wolverine from the X-Men.
Along the way he also filmed a commercial for the “Tonight Show” and has worked with Jimmy Fallon and his team several times, singing with Fallon on occasion.
He’s so versatile that, five years ago, Universal tapped him to join its Talent Development Operations team, where he teaches orientation, company culture lectures, and immersive theatre courses through improvisation techniques – workshops that he leads for many of Universal’s business units.
And two years ago, as work slowed down because of Covid-19, Adam utilized the Comcast-NBCUniversal Tuition Reimbursement program to earn his master’s degree in entertainment business, where he graduated as the valedictorian of the Full Sail University program, with a 4.0 GPA.
Now 12 years after joining Universal, he’s still doing gigs all over the world with almost every vendor entertainment company in Orlando – and has no regrets.
Universal tapped Adam Galarza to join its Talent Development Operations team, where he teaches orientation, company culture lectures, and immersive theatre courses through improvisation techniques – workshops that he leads for many of Universal’s business units.
Years ago, he went to New York and auditioned for a role in “Hair,” the musical – and was offered a role in the national tour. “I was like, ‘Ok great,’ but I respectfully declined it. I love the work that I do in Orlando, and I’m already traveling all over the world. The Orlando entertainment community has given me all kinds of opportunities to develop, to make an impact.
"I’ve sung the national anthem at the Pentagon for the United States Air Force; I’ve performed in Japan, the Philippines, London, Portugal, Alaska, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Hollywood, and so much more," he says. “I've been so fortunate to travel all over the world with my work.”
“In the entertainment industry, the most beautiful careers are formed from non-linear pathways” says Adam. “It's a big universe out there, and anything is possible!”
At Valencia College, we work every day to create a level playing field for college students of all backgrounds, fashioning a college where every student can succeed. And our students continue to amaze and surprise us. Read more of their stories.