Conor Garruto – Westlake High School: The Brother He Lost Inspires His Passion for Music

Editor’s Note: We have published Ventura County Office of Education’s “Shinning Stars” from the High School Class of 2017 for the next few days.  Mr. Garruto is the last of the spotlighted students, but far, he is not the least.  Thank you VCOE for sharing their stories.  

Conor’s brother Dylan passed away at age 24

It was just before Thanksgiving last year when Conor Garruto received the biggest shock of his young life. His beloved older brother Dylan had died at age 24 after battling addiction. “It showed me that life is fleeting and you don’t have all the time in the world,” Conor says. “It motivated me to live life to the fullest.”

Dylan and Conor shared a love of music and, like his brother before him, Conor is a band member at Westlake High School. Dylan played the saxophone and French horn. Conor plays the clarinet and bassoon. 

Band director Brian Peter knew Dylan and played a big role in helping Conor in the aftermath of his brother’s death. “He influenced me to never give up and to persevere,” Conor says. “He notified all the band families and alumni that Dylan had passed away, and that meant a lot to me and my family.” Conor also remembers the kindness of his American Sign Language teacher Tina Carlisle, who offered her classroom as a refuge when he needed some time alone to grieve after returning to school.

Conor has also had to overcome a mild form of dyslexia, which makes it hard for him to tell certain letters apart. With high school coming to a close, Conor is holding down a job at a music store and will attend Moorpark College in the fall. He plans to transfer to a four-year university and pursue a career in hotel management.

As he begins the next chapter of his life, Conor continues to find motivation in this quote from author Neil Gaiman that his brother Dylan posted on his Instagram account: “The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

Conor Garruto


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