Latin Musicians Drum Up Funds for Santa Ana Schools

Sheila E. and her father Pete Escovedo performed at Willard Intermediate School Nov. 3 in Santa Ana to raise funds for their struggling music program. / Liz Monroy / el Don

By Mahdee Gill

In an effort to assist two struggling music education programs in Santa Ana, three legends banded together Nov.3 for a concert to keep the beat going in collaboration with New Hope Presbyterian Church of Orange.

Sheila E., her father Pete Escovedo and her brother Pete Escovedo III, performed with the Santa Ana High School Jazz Ensemble and the Willard Intermediate Drumline.

“[Music is] very important to us and we love playing for the kids. Music helps them stay grounded. It’s where we came from and we just want to give back as many times as we can,” Pete Escovedo said.

The Escovedo’s spontaneously gave back by auctioning off Sheila’s designer pumps for $1000, while her dad Pete was able to drum up another $500 for the cowbells on his timbaleros. The items were autographed and the proceeds were donated to the schools.

Many Orange County schools have contended with budget cuts that have impacted their art programs. Some were deeply affected. Others, like Willard Intermediate have been able to operate at a higher level with the help of charity, frugality and a commitment by their leaders to maintain the arts.

“Our board has always ensured us that these programs will not be cut. Other districts have had tremendous cuts. We recycle sheet music, repair our own instruments, have become wiser about how we use our resources and the partnership with Newhope allowed us to have a drumline and a better show and that is fantastic,” said Lisa Hinshaw principal of Willard Intermediate.

Following the National Anthem, the newly founded Willard Intermediate drum line marched out and performed In the Box. The drum line was formed with help from Alumni Amy Beltran in conjunction with New Hope Presbyterian. As a music student she knows firsthand how it benefits a pupil.

“It fosters a sense of belonging, self-worth, confidence and propels them to succeed in life,” Beltran said.

Three years ago, Reggie and Chineta Goodjoin of Newhope met with the superintendent of the district at that time. During their meeting the couple were informed funds for the music program had been reduced at Willard Intermediate. The school had no music instructor in place. They realized that something had to be done and were willing to implement a plan of action.

“We just decided to take this school, connect with them and see what we can do to help their music program grow. They now have a music director, a string program and a band. We are glad to have had a hand in that,” Reggie Goodjoin said.

The concert was a part of an ongoing effort to keep music in the student’s curriculum and to prepare a generation of future musicians.

The show featured students from the Santa Ana High School Jazz Ensemble, led by music Director Victor de los Santos who said that studying and performing music is vital to ensuring that students are well rounded.

“Music builds character. By studying music, students gain lessons in self-expression, collaboration and discipline that carries over into every aspect of their lives,” Santos said.

Accompanying the ensemble was Paolo Falfan, a graduate of Santa Ana High School and a music major at Santa Ana College.

She appreciates the Newhope alliance and the chance to perform with the Escovedo family.

“It went very well and I really appreciate Newhope for giving me my cello as a gift when I graduated from high school and I have a lot of respect for them and what they do and they have made me feel very welcome,” Falfan said.

As All Around, the last song of the night was performed, Sheila went into the crowd and escorted attendees to come upstage. As the show came to a close, out she had a crowd of children and adults all around. Dedication and perseverance are the keys to fulfilling aspirations of becoming a musician, Sheila said.

“Stay grounded, focused and really learn your instrument. Understand that the no’s are opportunities and you only fail when you don’t try,” she said.

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