If you take music lessons at Villa Musica, you know that our Sorrento Valley facility is full of kind, intelligent, and qualified musicians who use their training to give extraordinary education to everyone who walks through our doors. While this community is the “headquarters” for our mission, Villa Musica is so much more than just the facility on Roselle St.
Over the past 13 years, we have striven to create San Diego’s first non-profit community music school serving aspiring musicians of all ages throughout the county. As Villa Musica continued to grow, it became apparent that our singular location was not enough, so we ventured out into the community in search of expansion that reflected the needs of the people who we were unable to reach in Sorrento Valley.
Our first initiative began in 2014 in collaboration with the Logan Heights Library. After hosting several VM concerts, the librarian and our strategic planning efforts both indicated that further programming would be a mutually beneficial endeavor. Together, the Library and Villa Musica designed a “community conversation” event in order to understand the best way that we could shape the programs to fit their needs. And in this way, Villa Musica’s first satellite site was born.
Villa Musica’s Director of Community Partnerships is Aaron Bullard, one of our full-time cello teachers. He says, “Our goal is to bring our programs to neighborhoods that might not have as much access to music. We always begin a conversation with an organization that can host us and our classes to ensure our missions and visions are aligned. Then we survey the community and potential participants to see what kind of classes they are most interested in joining.”
In the creation of our satellite programs we strive to acknowledge the community needs of the local families we serve. Because of this, we have developed programs specific to each site. Some of our most popular classes include group guitar, group violin, and group singing classes, but we also offer classes in music technology, and most recently a series of mariachi classes.
“Additionally, we partner with music programs at schools as part of our ‘Band Boost/String Zing/Choir Fire’ programs. By sending in one of our expert faculty as a coach, we can support the district music teacher in growing and developing their program. As our mission involves the lifelong joy of music, we also work with a few senior centers around the county, offering free lunchtime concerts,” Bullard says in regards to the diversity of initiatives available around San Diego. Villa Musica is proud to work with many schools across San Diego.
Enrichment Programs are offered at schools across the county as after-school programs for a fee. In addition to after-school music classes, Villa Musica also provides curriculum-based music education during the school day. These programs are usually supported by the school’s PTA and are designed to enhance the music education that the school district in that area offers. In low-income neighborhood schools (Communities of Promise) our programs are offered free of charge.
Our Satellite programs are usually hosted at community sites such as the Logan Heights and Malcolm X libraries. These programs give students of all ages a place to go after school where they can direct their energy and time towards something positive. They give our students the opportunity to actively engage in the arts and the benefits that come from them. While mastery of skills and improved playing are important, they are not the primary goal of our Access Initiatives.
Bullard speaks to the benefits and the goals of these programs, “The benefits of music on students is well documented not only in their academic performance, but also in their social development. What I think is an even more special opportunity is the chance we have to bring very different people together to learn and play on equal ground. The connections and bonds built in programs like these can help close the gaps experienced as communities, and even within our nation.” While musical competence is always something Villa Musica values, we heavily emphasize and prioritize the development of community and connections made between students, teachers, and families who participate in these programs.
Bullard says his favorite part of these initiatives is the instrument distribution, “Whenever I see a kid try to give us back their instrument after the first class, there’s always such a wonderful expression of shock and joy on their face when we tell them that they get to take it home to practice.”
Villa Musica is always looking for more support from our community to continue the development of these programs. Bullard says, “We like to always have a trajectory of learning for our communities. Once we get enough students to complete level one, we expand to a second level, and then try to offer ensemble classes as the community grows. Many of our programs are on the cusp of this third tier. One of our major inhibitors is our instruments. All of our satellite programs are free to the community, which also includes loaning an instrument to all the students during the course. We are always looking for donations to expand our instrument inventory.”
It is anticipated that Villa Musica’s satellites will be an ongoing resource for each community, enabling all participants access to quality arts education regardless of background or ability to pay. As the program evolves, Villa Musica intends to add new classes, summer camps and performance opportunities as requested and/or as space allows. Satellite staff have been extremely proactive in spreading the word about the programs, making space available for classes and performances and helping with communication and registration.
Help us expand our efforts and our Access Initiative by making a donation to our Tree of Promise campaign! We also have an “instrument dust-off” program where Villa Musica can take your old instrument and put it in the hands of a budding musician at one of our programs.