Nothing beats the satisfying feeling of unwrapping the perfect Christmas present or opening a long-awaited school acceptance letter. Azusa Pacific University alumnus Erick Quintanilla ’11, MM ’13, had the same magical feeling the first time he opened a saxophone case in his 7th grade band class. From the moment Quintanilla laid eyes on the shining instrument, his world opened up to new possibilities. For the first time, he experienced the power of music to inspire young minds. Little did he know he would use his gifts and talents years later to lead his own school orchestra program, allowing the next generation of young musicians to experience the same feeling.
Playing the saxophone in middle school allowed Quintanilla to succeed in a difficult school environment. “Growing up in the 90s in downtown LA was pretty tough,” he said. “In my neighborhood, there were a lot of crime and gang problems. Music was my outlet. I had music after school and practiced over lunch so I was able to stay away from the bad crowds.
In high school, Quintanilla joined the All-District Honor Band where he discovered his love for the tuba. When he was discouraged, his band manager affirmed his potential, motivating him to pursue his musical studies.
“I remember there were times when I wanted to quit snorkeling,” he said. “But the director of my group said to me: ‘You have to stick to it; I promise you if you keep listening to music you will get scholarships and opportunities later. I didn’t know he was right – the tuba ended up helping me pay for my education.
It was also in high school that Quintanilla realized he wanted to become a music teacher. From his time in the band, he knew he was destined to pursue music for the rest of his life. After high school, he joined the US Air Force, working as a musician and jet engine mechanic for eight years. Quintanilla was the main tubist of 562n/a Air Force band, as well as a bassist and musical director of the Air National Guard’s only Latin/pop/rock ensemble, Fuego Azul. After his military service, Quintanilla studied at the APU School of Music, earning a BA in Music Teacher Training and an MM in Tuba Performance.
Reflecting on his upbringing, Quintanilla credits APU for equipping him to be the teacher he is today: “I really appreciate APU’s God-first mission. All my classes had this objective. This has greatly contributed to nurturing not only my teaching and musical skills, but also my spiritual beliefs.
In the fall of 2014, Quintanilla was hired at Hollenbeck Middle School as a long-term substitute music teacher while simultaneously completing his teaching degree. “Thanks to APU’s flexible program, I was able to complete my accreditation process in the evening while continuing to work as a teacher,” he said. “This opportunity led me to land a job as a full-time music teacher.”
When Quintanilla started working at Hollenbeck, he found that the music program lacked good equipment and resources. The music equipment was old and in need of repair, with some instruments barely held together by paperclips and tape. Rather than viewing these circumstances as debilitating, Quintanilla took it as a challenge to find a way to give her students a high-quality musical experience.
“When I was first hired, the program was severely lacking in leadership and equipment,” he said. “However, I knew that my students had great potential. I imagined a competitive and inspiring program. The first step towards this goal was to get new instruments for my students. »
Quintanilla spent time seeking grants and funding for new equipment. His former teacher and director of the all-district honor group, Tony White, recommended that he look into Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, an organization that helps schools obtain grants and instruments for education programs. music. Through this organization, Quintanilla obtained several grants totaling $170,000 to fund program resources. Thanks to these grants, the group was able to buy new instruments and equipment, participate in festivals and competitions, and even perform at Disneyland’s California Adventure.
“In some communities, music programs are often overlooked,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that the passion and abilities of the students could be showcased. These grants made that happen.
Recently, Quintanilla made an appearance on the Kelly Clarkson Show, where he shared his inspiring story. On the show, Quintanilla’s program received $20,000 in donations from Pandora and celebrity hosts. One of his former students, Lidia, was in the audience, with a special message for her teacher: “Thank you for having a great impact on my life. I thought that because I was a girl, I wasn’t going to play my instrument well. I didn’t trust myself, but you showed me that I had potential and that I could do anything I wanted.
Just as his teachers poured out on him, Quintanilla is making a difference in the lives of his music students. “I believe our mission as humans is to serve one another. I learned how to serve others well in the APU and in the military, and now I have the chance to serve others here in the communities that need it most.
Posted: January 28, 2022