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Children's Author is Music to Education's Ears

Jose Luis Orozco shows parents, children and teachers how song can guide cultural understanding

By Chris Neely
Corpus Christi Caller - Times
Friday, September 15, 2000

It was hard to tell who was having more fun Thursday with the children's songs: the parents, the teachers or the children.

Jose Luis Orozco, a children's author and recording artist, brought his guitar to Wynn Seale Academy to show parents how music can teach about different cultures.

In Orozco's hands, for instance, the Macarena became a bilingual lesson on the months of the year. Also, it was an opportunity to embarrass a few teachers lucky enough to be called to the stage to dance. Star Martinez, 11, said she was there to learn some new songs to play on the piano.

"She can hear music and go play what she hears," said her mother, Esther Martinez.

Deborah Reyes, Parent Teacher Association president at Prescott Elementary School, brought her 7-year-old daughter, Zuzzette Uballe, to the standing-room-only performance both for the fun and the learning.

"Nowadays," Reyes said, "we need to do whatever it takes. We need to be educated to educate others."

Orozco, who holds a master's degree in multicultural education, said he loves playing for the children, but he spends most of his time as a consultant to school districts in the United States and Mexico, where he performs for parents and teachers.

Today, he will lead a workshop for teachers from several area districts.

No matter the audience, Orozco said, his message is the same.

"Mainly, it's to present music as a motivator for education," Orozco said. "With the parents, it's to share with them material that they can use at home so that when their children go to school, they are prepared in terms of the language, the culture and the history. With the teachers, it's the same idea, but it's how to use the music in the classroom for motivation, for self-esteem and for oral language development."

Orozco emphasizes cultural diversity through his music, but he said his methods can be used to teach other concepts.

"Music is a non-threatening tool, as opposed to doing it in a formal way in the classroom," he said. "Games, poetry and sing-alongs are a relaxed way to learn and to pass on information to kids on any subject matter. You can teach science to music."

Elena Mendez, educational consultant for the Education Service Center Region II, said she has seen Orozco perform before and has been trying to get him to come to Corpus Christi for some time.

"He does wonderful work with oral language development, and that's what I hope to accomplish with the workshop," Mendez said. "I have about 25 teachers coming in, and what I want is for them to use music as a means to develop oral language in two languages, both English and Spanish."

As much as Orozco loves his music, he said he enjoys teaching even more.

"The rewarding part is that teachers and parents come to me and tell me my music helps with the learning process," Orozco said. "Also, for me to meet other people and to know that the music is used and is having an impact, that's very important to me."

Staff writer Chris Neely can be reached at 886-3794 or by e-mail at [email protected]