If you’ve seen a stranger on a park bench playing music in downtown Winter Garden and the surrounding areas, chances are it was Alan Ogletree.
Ogletree, a Horizon West resident, is using his passion for music to spread love in God’s name.
Every day when he has breaks in his work schedule, Ogletree travels to some of his favorite places to share his acoustic guitar notes and soulful country voice with whoever chooses to listen.
Ogletree’s one ask of God is this: “Put the words that will change anyone’s life and let me share a song that people will be impacted with.”
“If I can impact one life and help you see that Jesus and God did something amazing for you … it’s just forever,” he said. “Any time that I’m anywhere, all I’m looking for is God in it. Faith plays as big a role as anything. … I just look for the smiles and the pain that are in people’s faces and I’m like. ‘Man, I wonder how God’s going to move that person.’”
Ogletree, now 44, was born with a pure passion for music.
“My parents’ record collections … I mean they had everything from Elvis to Michael Jackson,” he said. “Those vinyls were playing all the time. I just always loved music.”
However, the 1990s country era drove Ogletree to new heights in his passion where he idolized artists such as Garth Brooks and Jimmy Buffett.
Although he loved music, he felt he didn’t have the time to commit to it because of his heavy athletic activities.
Growing up in Atlanta, Ogletree played a wide variety of sports, but football took him to Western Kentucky University.
After graduation, Ogletree said he had decided he was done with the south — everyone was settling down and he wasn’t ready to do so. Instead, he moved to California and took a job in sales.
Two years into his new life in California, Ogletree met his future wife, Melissa.
As his athletic career slowed down, Ogletree attempted to invest himself into picking up the guitar and learning multiple times, but the breaking of a string always led him to setting the instrument aside.
Before his son was born in 2014, Ogletree finally committed to learning and playing guitar. He decided he would learn to play two songs: “Plush” by Stone Temple Pilots and “I Cross My Heart” by George Strait. With the help of YouTube videos, Ogletree was able to stick with his newfound skills.
Ogletree lived in California for about 18 years before Melissa’s brother, who had been living with the couple, passed away.
Ogletree said his death left a dark dynamic over the area and the couple traveled to Davenport to visit Melissa’s parents, where they then fell in love with Winter Garden.
Right before the onset of the pandemic, the couple started their new life with their two children — Jace, 9, and Jovie, 5 — in Waterleigh in Horizon West.
Ogletree’s faith and musical journeys are intertwined.
He turned his back completely on God and the idea of worship in his time in California, where he said the most successful people he knew were atheists.
“I thought it wasn’t doing me any good — even though I had an amazing life — and there were so many things that I just wasn’t. … I wasn’t thinking about the appreciation standpoint at that time,” he said. “I was just like, ‘I want more, I need more.’ And man, I’ll tell you I was so miserable. My marriage was suffering because we weren’t connecting. I was chasing dollars, and it just wasn’t me.”
Ogletree said, ironically enough, one of his atheist friends helped him to turn back around and find God again.
“I wasn’t even going to send my kids to a Christian day care because I was so out of it,” he said. “I didn’t want them being indoctrinated into something that I don’t feel I’m connected to anymore. … And he told me, ‘They’re going to grow up to be good kids though. The moral aspect of it is amazing,’ and I realized he was right and that’s way better than anything else. … Even as an atheist, he knew why God was important. … For me, it was a beautiful moment.”
During the pandemic, Ogletree found Elevation Church, led by pastors Steven Furtick and Holly Furtick, and he started to listen to the messages. He began to learn to love his faith again
“If I can share one thing, it would be that Jesus loves you,” he said. “Find some way to know who He is. That’s it. Just know what He did.”
More than two years ago, Ogletree and his family found LifeChurch in Horizon West.
Ogletree joined the worship band there, which cultivated his love of worship music and stoked his desire to give his time, talent and passion back to God.
When Ogletree has breaks in his daily work schedule with HD Supply Solutions, he sits down to write and play a mix of worship and soulful acoustic music on local park benches throughout town.
Through sharing of music, Ogletree said he has had the opportunity to meet and learn people’s stories.
“Helping people understand that whatever it is they’re going through, there’s a way or something that will help you get out of it,” he said. “There’s a bright spot in there even if it’s just the smallest inkling of light. Just focus on that and it will get bigger and shine through. Usually that’s God, and if you keep watching, He’ll grow and grow.”
Currently, Ogletree is working on perfecting his writing aspects.
“I always loved writing and I used to write a lot of poetry all the time,” he said. “Looking back, I realized what I was writing was more lyrics. I always heard a melody when I was writing so I would sing as I went.”
Ogletree is also working on being able to play what he hears in his head and learning piano.
With music being what he believes to be the universal language, Ogletree said he would love for the songs he writes to impact as many people as possible.
“It is what allows me to connect to any person ever,” he said. “Even if you can’t hear music, you can feel it. It has a presence and a power to it. … it’s almost impossible not to feel it.”