EJ Villanueva knows that instilling a love for music at an early age can be transformative. That’s why he aims to provide a variety of opportunities for students in TK through 6th grade at Orange Grove Elementary to engage in musical instruction regularly. In one of his “40 Under 40” nomination letters, a colleague wrote, “Even during unprecedented times, Mr. Villanueva makes music instruction relevant. He takes the time to provide engaging lessons so students have the opportunity to connect with music.”
Even with distance learning, Villanueva has found ways to make his lessons fun and interactive. He has hosted live YouTube sessions to teach rhythm and provided synchronous weekly instruction via Microsoft Teams. Most notably, he planned a socially distanced grab-and-go for all 6th graders to pick up their ensemble instruments. “I determined which instrument each student would be assigned through a Google survey and made my decision based on their preferences and living situations,” Villanueva said.
Students at Orange Grove, look forward to entering 6th grade because they have the opportunity to join the 6th grade band that Villanueva started. “Save the Music Foundation provided instruments and music stands,” he said. “With the support of the 6th grade team and fellow music educators in the district, I introduced students to band instruments and helped them choose which ones to play.”
Prior to the pandemic, Villanueva conducted winter and spring concerts and invited the entire school community. He also accompanied groups of students to perform at different musical events around Orange County. “I often volunteered my students to perform at these events to help them build performance experience and showing them the importance of community outreach,” he said.