Jose Vergara smiling and giving a thumbs up to the camera. He is holding an electric guitar and standing in the middle of his classroom.

Teacher Feature: Jose Vergara

Meet Jose Vergara, a music educator, modern band workshop trainer, and a Music Will board member who teaches 2nd through 8th-grade students at Miramonte Elementary of LAUSD. Jose has been teaching for the past 22 years beginning with an after-school program. He noticed the impact music had on his students and 6 years ago he became motivated to pursue a full-time position. He believes that music is an art form that reaches people in ways like nothing else, allowing people from any background and socioeconomic class to come together. 

I focus on creating an environment where music makers can freely explore various instruments. I want my students to grow and find their voice through music.” 

While Jose was running his after-school program, he had minimal space and instruments which broke his heart having to turn kids away that wanted to be a part of the class. One day, the Assistant Principal at Jose’s school noticed that he was bringing instruments into his classroom and told him about Music Will, formerly Little Kids Rock which trains teachers and donates instruments. Little did he know this training was going to change his life. 

It was Dave Wish, Founder & Chief Visionary Officer, who led his first modern band training and his story inspired Jose to start his own music program. Jose shares, “Music Will not only provided me with my first 10 acoustic guitars but more importantly they believed in me. They validated the way I learned music and that it was ok for me to teach music with non-traditional methods.” 

After implementing modern band, Jose has noticed his students’ self-confidence skyrocket over the years, clearly seen in their body language and character. “Students walk around proudly with their instruments and their heads high up. Their attendance improves because they are excited to come to school.” Recently, Music Will highlighted student alumni, Rubi Chavez, a former Music Will student of Jose’s and an active classical vocal performance major at the University of Southern California. She often reflects on her time in the modern band program and shares, “[Jose] was the one who raised me in a way, I grew up with him.” 

Not only did Rubi perform lead vocals with Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter, Allison Rusell at Music Will’s 2023 Benefit, Jose’s middle school students kicked off the show with an epic performance of Bohemian Rhapsody. Additionally, his students have had the chance to perform for Carlos Santana, shoot a video with Mexican pop duo, Jesse & Joy, perform on stage with Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas, and Rascal Flatts, and join Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys in the studio to record, “Love & Mercy.” However, Jose’s favorite moments happen during their performances. He says, “This is when I get to share with the community all of the hard work my students and I do during our rehearsals. They are always magical and a culmination of countless hours of music making.” 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 02: Miramonte Elementary School teacher Jose Vergara (R) and student guests attend Music Will Benefit 2023 at The Novo by Microsoft at L.A. Live on May 02, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Music Will)

Jose and his music students at Music Will’s 2023 Benefit.

It is no surprise that Jose has been recognized as an outstanding teacher and asset to the Music Will community. He has been awarded the UTLA’s (United Teachers Los Angeles) Apple Award, voted by his colleagues who recognized excellence in the classroom, and the Heroes in Education Award. Recently, his modern band ensemble received an award for their participation in LAUSD’s Instrumental Summit and they were given the highest rating – Superior. Jose acknowledges this as “an important achievement because [they] were the first modern band ensemble to participate in this event [which] can hopefully open the door for more ensembles to participate. 

In his free time, Jose enjoys traveling as “visiting different countries provides you with a unique perspective of the world.” Similarly, he enjoys music and genres from all over the world, including Cafe Tacvba, Radiohead, Manu Chao, Son De Manera, Gorillaz, The Beatles, Miles Davis, Joao Gilberto, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Porter, Soda Stereo, and Chet Baker!

You can follow what his students are up to in the classroom on Instagram, @miramontemusic. If you would like to learn more about our Modern Band workshops, check out our professional development calendar.

We are deeply grateful to have such dedicated teachers like Jose in our community. Thank you for all you do to change the lives of our students! 

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