How Overcoming My Worst Nightmare Turned Into a Dream Come True

homestudio musicproduction synclicensing Jul 15, 2023

(Previously posted on

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated mainly by two things in life:

1. Music.

2. People.

I’ve accomplished incredible successes in my life by combining these two huge subjects. 

Music and people. 

My days are filled from morning ‘til night helping people with their music careers. 

But it has NOT been a smooth ride the whole way here. 

On this planet, I don’t think a single human being exists who can say that the road to ANY success was always smooth. In fact, I coined a word to describe and define life itself, since I could not find such a single word in the English language:


Life is definitely both brutal and beautiful. 


Surprisingly and luckily, growing up, and all the way until I turned 45 years old, my road towards success was amazingly smooth. 

On the way, I won first-place ribbons in state-run drum competitions. I was the star half-back on the City Championship football team, I was inducted into the school wrestling hall of fame. In my sophomore year in high-school I captured “first-chair” in the high school band and orchestra. (Trivia: The senior who grudgingly sat in the second chair next to me was none-other than Eric Doyle Mensinger (stage name Eric Singer) who went on to be the drummer for Kiss! The grudge soon ended and we became very close friends in high school.)  

I earned a music scholarship to the only private Big-10 University in the U.S., Northwestern University in Chicago. I attended Baldwin-Wallace College, home to the largest collection of Bach original manuscripts in the world at the time. I toured internationally with the Cleveland State Jazz Band. I studied at the world-famous Cleveland Institute of Music. I apprenticed under Ramnad Raghavan, a true and genuine guru, one of the top drummers from all of India. One of my fellow students? The legendary guitar god John McLaughlin. 

As a surprise gift for my 21st Birthday, my best friend introduced me to Phil Collins. Yes. THE Phil Collins, and I ended up traveling with Phil on tour, where he took me under his wing and mentored me – during the height of his popularity with the international hit song “Something In The Air.”

I was personally given a toast by Phil on the last night of our travels in my home town of Cleveland, as he congratulated me for closing my first national music licensing deal, for which I was being flown to New York City for the first time the next day.  

I met a wonderful woman, a singer named Cristi, and after we married, we moved to Hollywood to pursue our dreams like so many young people do. Several months later, I was working at Music Connection Magazine as the Director of Advertising and Promotion by day, and at night I was playing drums at Motown Records for the Street Opera production called “Heat Wave,” with my wife Cristi singing the lead role. Cristi went on to sing background vocals for Stevie Wonder (all those hours wearing out his vinyl records while singing along paid off for her!) Unfortunately, as is often the case with young Hollywood couples, we ended up going separate ways, but are still very good friends. 

I was responsible for managing the advertising and promotion campaigns for individuals and companies in the music industry, where I established relationships with most of the famous – and smaller – recording studios in Hollywood, along with major and indie record labels, and many many bands. Two of my clients? Metallica and Guns-N-Roses. 

One day at a meeting at Music Connection Magazine, one of the publishers announced that Frank Zappa was going to be interviewed by our sister publication, Songwriter Connection Magazine for a cover story. Everyone laughed when he cracked the joke that our Advertising and Promotion Manager, Gary Shay, was going to interview Frank (Gary Gray is my stage name). Except – it wasn’t a joke. He was serious. When he made that clear, I received some stern glares from the editorial staff members! 

His thinking?

“Gary is a serious musician. And a good guy. Good communicator. Frank famously hates reporters. Frank is a serious musician. A good guy. A good communicator. Frank also famously limits his interviews to 15 minutes to the second – and then he’s out of there. As I said, he does NOT like reporters. We can’t get a good cover story in 15 minutes. 

I’m going to take a chance and go with the strategy of giving Frank a break and letting him talk with another serious musician and let’s see where this goes.”

It turned out to be a brilliant strategy. 

Frank spoke with me for 45 minutes and the only reason we both ended off was because we both had other appointments to get to! 

The editorial staff was working night and day for three days to transcribe the tape of our conversation and edit the article so that it would fit in the magazine without having to add pages! They “complained” to me that I brought them too much work to do. Ha! 

The publisher was so happy, he actually let me keep the cassette tape it was recorded on. 

(Look for a future article where I go over the entire very lively and at times intense conversation in detail. Spoiler alert – I challenged Frank and disagreed with him on several topics, though we agreed on most. A good read for sure!)

After Frank passed away, I brought that tape to his wife, Gail. 

I could have made a copy of it, but I decided to honor Frank by turning it over to his wife. 

Gail, in turn, was so grateful, she gave me free hours of studio time in Frank’s studio, which he, in true Frank Zappa style, named The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen (UMRK). 

You can read the cover story of my interview with Frank Zappa here.   The byline in the article reads, “Gary Shay recently moved to Los Angeles from Cleveland, Ohio. His day gig is as an Account Exec for a California music magazine, and by night he plays drums for the Motown production Heatwave. He is an active songwriter and a persevering inquisitor.”

Later, I traveled back to Cleveland to visit my family, and while there, I was hired by a young drummer in tears, asking me to please teach him so that his bandmates wouldn’t kick him out of the band. He’d heard about my successes in Hollywood, 

After 6 weeks, his band asked for a meeting with me. These were some very sharp 14 year olds. They said they didn’t know what I did with their drummer, but he had gone from zero to hero and was now their band leader. The band asked for another meeting with me and their parents. They asked their parents to pay for me to prepare them for the Cleveland Rock-Off, a prestigious Rock-n-Roll competition,  now held at the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. Except there was only one problem. One of the parents asked, “Don’t you have to be 18 years old to enter that contest?” 

The drummer walked up to the front of the room and slammed down a big stack of papers on the table. “Nope,” he said, “These are a copy of the rules and there’s no age limit.”

Long Story Short 

I was hired by their parents to prepare them for the Rock-Off Competition. We only had three months. The result?  

That band, Eclyptic, WON FIRST PLACE at the Cleveland Rock-Off in 2005! 

They are still the youngest band to have ever won the prestigious award. The band was awarded cash, equipment, a television appearance and free recording time at the same studio used by Trent Reznor of The Nine-Inch Nails. Here’s a track we recorded as part of their prize which I produced and arranged the strings for called “Just Like You,” written and sung by their 14-year old lead singer. The string quartet I hired was the award winning Kashi String Quartet. 

The Nightmare

And then, all of a sudden, my dream was severely interrupted and the worst nightmare of my life set in. 

In a scene out of the Johnny Depp, Amber Heard accusations, a person who I went to high school with (we were both single and 45 years old at the time), accused me of sexual misconduct. This was 17 years ago as of this writing, in 2005. 

The accusation hit me like a ton of bricks and, not knowing anything about the justice system (the most serious infractions I had previously were traffic tickets), I figured all I had to do was to fill out the affidavit I was being asked to sign and that would be that. It was impossible for any evidence to exist because none did.

I was asked to attend a hearing where the attorney I had to hire told the judge that no evidence existed and that I should be free to go. However, there are laws that protect women from being taken advantage of by men in the court system, whereby any accusation is to be treated seriously in all cases. And I agree with those laws.

This put me in a position whereby I could have gone to trial to defend myself, and I wanted to because I was innocent, but after getting a second and a third legal opinion, I was told point blank that 75 – 80% of these types of cases can result in an innocent person going to jail because the accusation is most often believed – true or false. I learned that one of the hardest things to do in life is to prove one’s innocence. The only other option, I was told, was to plea bargain.  

Well, after overcoming the worst nightmare in my life, which included me having to plea bargain (I never served jail time) to a crime I did not commit (attempted gross sexual imposition), I vowed that if I ever made it out of this nightmare, I would devote my entire life to helping as many people I could, as much as I possibly could. THIS was the genesis of my focus on true Artist Development and Character Development. To compound matters, an administrative error at the DMV in Florida where I moved in 2006, saw me “charged” with failure to report. This is all being cleared up legally within the system. 

I realized that there were certain red flags I did not see, or saw and ignored, when meeting up again with my friend from high school. I could see, but denied that I saw, a change in her. And my sister, who had come to know her well, even warned me. She said, “Gary, don’t get too close to her.” I didn’t have my life fully organized and in good order at the time and as a result I ignored the red flags. I consider this nightmare to have been caused 100% by me. I own it. I created it, not my accuser. Why do I say that? Because, had I had my life in full balance I know for a fact I would have clearly seen and not ignored even a small red flag. 

From that day forward for 11 years, I lost friends. I lost jobs.

My bosses at the time, owners of the Aurora Academy of Rock and Roll, did everything they could to keep me on the job. They even went to the judge and received an OK from the judge to have the court publish the following additional information: Gary has OK to work with children, the elderly and the mentally disabled. 

Most parents knew me and fully trusted me and this accusation didn’t phase them. Several parents, however, refused to have their children taught by me and finally forced the school to have to fire me. I will never forget the day that two of my best friends in the world, the owners of the Aurora Academy of Rock and Roll, and myself, sat in a room crying for five minutes because I had to go. 

I HAD to go. 

I had no other choice. 

I did not want my best friends to lose their business. 

They told me I had helped them transform their school into a much better place for both the children and their parents..

I worked very hard to put my life back together so that I could continue helping others. Starting over from scratch, I slowly built momentum, one small success at a time. I vowed to never give up. 

At one point, I was asked to produce a live radio broadcast album (and play drums) for the legendary jazz pianist Kenny Drew Jr. Here is a cut off the live radio broadcast album (It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing) featuring an incredible piano solo by Kenny and a drum solo I felt so honored to have played with Kenny. 

Kenny was considered somewhat of a legendary, even mythical, superhero among jazz musicians and fans, able to memorize a piece of music by simply reading it once and then playing it back perfectly, as well as playing better with his left hand only than most pianists can play with both hands! 

Kenny and I became friends and I helped Kenny get off of drugs. He thanked me and asked me to manage him, which I gladly accepted with honor. I later moved and could no longer manage him. Sadly, Kenny passed away in 2014. 

The Miracle

One day, in 2016, a miracle arrived. Eight months previously, one of my students contacted me and said, “Gary, you have changed my life. You have helped me so much I cannot thank you enough. I would like to offer you help from my sister, a paralegal, who has seen the change in me and wants to see if she can do something about the accusation you received.”

Eight months later I received a registered letter in the mail from the office of The Attorney General of the State of California. 

I opened up the letter, my heart racing. 

The Attorney General of the State of California took me off the registry for good, which in California is enforced for life.

Artist Development and Character Building

Since then, I have helped hundreds of people through life-coaching, assisting individuals to empower themselves and improve their personal character, which allows them to achieve their dreams for real, and to shatter the glass ceiling put there by character flaws and bad decisions. 

My nightmare, my glass ceiling lasted 11 years. 

But, it lead to me learning the biggest lesson of my life and has since then allowed me to work hard, work smart, and make my dreams come true! I am now stronger for it, smarter and more dedicated to helping others than ever. I have helped thousands of people internationally – and regularly work on incredible projects for major film production companies and indie artists.  And ultimately, I have been able to assemble some of the most incredible people I have ever met and we, collectively, as Transcend Entertainment and Music (TEAM) are helping others conquer their challenges and achieve their dreams!

As I said, two things fascinate me more than anything in life: music and people. 

I have been able to transcend my lowest lows to achieve dreams I never thought possible, and all by helping other fellow human beings.  I have achieved an inner Renaissance and am now ready to achieve my personal mission statement:

“To create a Renaissance in the entertainment industry, which will then create a Renaissance in the world culture.”

You are welcome to join us and help create a new Renaissance – both personally and with your new family – TEAM! 

TEAM is a comprehensive, end-to-end professional music education and licensing company focused on delivering advanced training, support and opportunities for music production and licensing.  

For musicians, composers and producers who wish to significantly improve the quality of their music and secure lucrative music licensing and sync placement opportunities – TEAM is a rare business partner.

TEAM utilizes a personalized approach and proprietary techniques to help artists dramatically increase the marketability of their music and their personal success as musicians, composers and producers. 

TEAM Premium Access focuses on core areas such as music licensing, composition, songwriting, arranging, music theory, and music production.  But in addition, we offer personal development training along with the business of music, music marketing and how to network.  This life coaching helps musicians, composers and producers expand their foundation and build the interpersonal skills needed to make it in the industry.

The Total TEAM Process includes a proprietary 10- step “Assembly Line”  approach to music success which is unique and found nowhere else.  Our dedicated group of professionals stand behind each of our clients, helping as they create their own “Assembly  Line” to success in music licensing and production.

“TEAM is helping to create a Renaissance in the music industry through artist development and empowerment. Nowhere else does the priority focus fall upon the artists themselves. Our goal is to create success for musicians by developing their strengths by connecting life coaching, education, and opportunity.”
– Gary Gray / TEAM Founder

Check out our free music production and licensing resources and join us at one of our live events to learn more!


The Total TEAM Process

The Complete Assembly Line For Your Success!

The Total TEAM Process is a blueprint detailing the exact actions and steps any musician, composer or producer can take to achieve greater success in the music industry.  It lays out the ideal ASSEMBLY LINE for any musician. 

This proprietary ASSEMBLY LINE can be applied by EVERYONE – regardless of their previous experience, at ANY LEVEL of their career. 

  1. Strengthen Yourself with Artist Development & Character Building
    Build your character with our deceptively simple personal development process.
  2. Leverage Music Theory
    Create masterpiece quality productions by applying the core essence of music.
  3. Tap into Revolutionary Music Production Techniques
    Proven game-changers for artists, producers and engineers around the world.
  4. Recognize that “Life Is A Group Activity”
    Leverage the power of people to build your own team for success.
  5. Be Eloquent in all Communications
    Apply these simple rules so that people will pay attention and never forget you.
  6. Network by Helping Another Human Being
    Follow this simple approach to networking and your career will flourish.
  7. Become a Music Business Ninja
    Develop the confidence needed to make informed career decisions for yourself.
  8. Conquer Social Media
    Proven steps to establish the core values that will guide all your campaigns.
  9. Practice Perfection by Doing Re-Records
    The single most powerful habit to develop your ear and boost your career.
  10. Shop for Lucrative Licensing Deals and CLOSE Those Deals!

Master the deliverables and understand the buyer types to get them to say yes.

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