Julia Aguilar Jerez | December 2015

Hometown: La Verne, California

Major: Ethnomusicology

Minor: Visual and Performing Arts Education


Q: A little background about you: Name, Hometown, degree major, year of graduation (or year of study if you are not a graduate yet) and the type of arts that you focus on.

A: My name is Julia Aguilar Jerez and I am from Bell Gardens, California. I graduated in Spring 2015 with a B.A. in Ethnomusicology and a minor in Visual and Performing Arts Education. My focus is in Music Education that combines both World and Western music.

Q: How did you discover your interest in the arts and how did you know that it was something that you wanted to pursue professionally, as an artist or as an artist teacher?

A: I started playing clarinet in 5th grade. However, it wasn’t until high school where I was exposed to different musical styles, such as mariachi and Afro-Cuban music, that I knew I wanted to study ethnomusicology. Being Guatemalan-American, I learned about my heritage country’s music and culture through my family. However, this type of cultural learning was not intensely included in my formal K-12 education. World cultures were treated as an added extra and were not a strong part of the K-12 curriculum. I knew I wanted to study ethnomusicology so I could one day emphasize the teaching of world cultures, especially through the Arts, and include it as an integral part of K-12 curriculum.

Q: Describe what the young artists in your VAPAE studio sessions are working on and the process they’re using.

A: The Art & Music sessions at St. Thomas are exploring their dreams, both fantasy and goal-based. Their final project includes a visual representation of their dreams through a watercolor painting. The young artists are also composing a soundtrack to their dreams using their handmade thumb pianos and tambourines. Each young artist creates rhythmic patterns that they play on their thumb piano continuously. The tambourine provides a percussive accompaniment where the students manipulate the sound of the tambourine to reflect their dreams.

Q: Why is an enrichment opportunity like this important for those participating? What do they gain?

A: The young artists involved in the Art & Music Sessions have a hands-on experience in the creative process. Not only do they get to learn about different art styles and music genres, they also create pieces based on those art styles and play along to various music genres. This creative and interactive opportunity allows the students to discuss art and music found both inside and outside the classroom.

Q: Did you have an opportunity like this when you were a younger artist? If yes, how did it help shape your love of art? If no, in what ways could a program like this have helped you?

A: My K-12 education offered music and art classes. However, due to budgeting and scheduling conflicts, you had to choose one or the other. Even though I was involved with the music program, I did not have an interdisciplinary opportunity like this when I was younger. I would have appreciated a program like this since you get to experiment and create with both the visual and performing arts. Instead of viewing each art form separately, you get to experience the role music and art can have with one another.

Q: What has this experience as a teaching artist or arts facilitator taught you about yourself? What do you personal gain as a teaching artist, arts facilitator?

A: My experience as a teaching artist has taught me how necessary it is to be adaptable and open-minded. I have learned not only to value the perspectives and experiences each of my students bring into the classroom, but also to use those experiences in their education.

Being a teaching artist has reaffirmed that I am always learning. Whether it is music techniques, teaching methods, or fun facts about my students, each session I walk out with learning something new. I learn which classroom management skills work and which don’t, what type of music my students like to listen to, and how creative my students can be. I appreciate being in an environment where I can share my knowledge with my students and I am also able to learn from them.

Q: What are the benefits to you as a student/graduate in the UCLA VAPAE program? Was this program a good choice for you? If so, why?

A: I wanted to be involved with the UCLA VAPAE program because it is interdisciplinary. This is a great benefit since VAPAE exposes you to other art disciplines and allows you to communicate and collaborate with other teaching artists. This program was a great choice since ethnomusicology involves not only music, but it also expands on the role that music can play with dance and visual art. The VAPAE program has provided me with the resources and teaching experiences to include different aspects of the Arts into my music classroom.  

Q: Are there any anecdotes from your VAPAE Studio Sessions (or Arts Education Teaching Sequence) that stand out to you? Perhaps you had a break‐through with a student or saw some particularly noticeable growth in that student through this program, collaboration etc. Maybe something surprised you or made you think about art or teaching in a new way.

A: When the students at St. Thomas were first experimenting with their thumb pianos and composing a short rhythmic pattern, many students went above and beyond what I asked them to play. Some created a funky rhythmic pattern and played it using two keys at a time since it sounded more futuristic and like a robot. Other experimented with only using loud and low notes since they wanted to create a melody that reflected their dreams of living with dinosaurs. It was great seeing my students know what sound they wanted to create and the steps they took to achieve their desired sound.

Q: What are your short-term and long‐term career goals?

A: My short term goal is to get my teaching credential in Music Education and then apply to graduate school for a Master’s in Ethnomusicology. Eventually, I hope to be a multicultural music educator at the K-12 level. I want to implement world music into the K-12 curriculum and other educational settings, such as museum education and after school programs.