Alba Gonzalez-Arredondo, St. Helena High School’s new music teacher, is recruiting all types of students to the music program, including some who have had no formal training, yet like to sing.
When she first arrived in St. Helena seven months ago, Gonzalez-Arredondo noticed a lack of Latino students in her concert choir and jazz choir classes. So she walked around the campus asking, “Hey, do you like to sing? Come join me in choir.” Several joined.
“These new kids had no training,” said Gonzalez-Arredondo, a native of Mexico who received her classical and traditional musical training at the Conservatory of Music in Morelia, Michoacán. She went on to California State University East Bay, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Music Education with an emphasis on voice, along with her teaching credential.
“I’m sharing my goals and my story with our students,” she said.
Her story revolves around her father, who showed her how to pursue creative passion; her professor at CSU East Bay, who showed how to pursue teaching; and her husband, who has been very supportive in her decisions and goals.
“In St. Helena, we must show professionally, as, at a university, everything will show professionally, and I am preparing the students for the real world,” she said. “I want to take my our choirs to the East Bay to meet one of the best professors I ever had at CSUEB, Dr. Buddy James, and sing for him as part of our tour.”
Dr. James, she said, is “one of my inspirations -- a great person, so positive all the time. When I joined CSUEB, Dr. James wanted me to be part of his choirs, The East Bay Singers and Chamber Singers. With the choir, we were invited to participate in choral festivals in different countries such as Mexico and Lithuania. We met extraordinary singers and choral conductors. These professional choirs were from around the world: Venezuela, Serbia, Uruguay, Mexico, and Lithuania.
“Dr. James is such an inspiration, and I want to become a teacher like him. I gained my confidence from him. It’s so important to give confidence to students, especially here, where we have kids with different backgrounds. I want to bring them together and work together as one community where everybody depends on each other; and, in choir class, we all succeed when working together,” she said.
District officials who interviewed Gonzalez-Arredondo were very welcoming, she said.
“Prior to coming to meet St. Helena High School administrators, I had other opportunities waiting for an answer,” recalled Gonzalez-Arredondo. “I did my research about the area and told my husband I was curious to know more about the district and the community. I loved the picturesque landscapes, the driving, and especially the administrators who interviewed me.
“I met with school and district staff, and they were so nice to me, saying ‘We want you to develop your own program, and we want to give you all the help you need.’ I felt this was the place I wanted to be. The students are wonderful, the administrators are very supportive, parents have been wonderful, and the teachers all love their jobs.”
At 29, Gonzalez-Arredondo could be the youngest teacher at the high school. In addition to two choir classes, she teaches acoustic guitar. One of her goals is to offer community performances that can reach to all audiences.
She said following in the footsteps of such a great music teacher as Craig Bond has given her a chance to try something new.
She is producing “Saints Music Idol,” inviting the school’s best singers and instrumentalists to perform the song of their choice, a short tour (at the moment) to the East Bay, and a private jazz fundraiser with food and featuring solo performances.
Even the teacher is getting in on the act. Gonzalez-Arredondo, a mezza-soprano, will be performing the Flower Duet from “Lakme” by Leo Delibes at an event from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Caldwell-Synder Gallery. The evening also will feature a children’s choir and students from her acoustic guitar class performing the love song from “Titanic” as well as the choir singing “A Mother’s Prayer,” by Carole Bayer Sager and David Foster, arranged by Teena Chinn.