50 States of Guitar Class
Number 7: Land of Enchantment
By Thomas Amoriello Jr.
NAfME Council for Guitar Education Chair
Today we visit New Mexico with respected guitar educator Eduardo Trujillo. In addition to serving on the NAfME Council for Guitar Education as the Southwest Division Representative, he has been teaching guitar professionally since 2002. While attaining his second degree in music at the University of New Mexico, he became the guitar director at Cibola High School and has been a key faculty member of their award-winning music program. Eduardo is currently serving his second term as New Mexico Music Educators Association (NMMEA) District VII Vice President for Guitar. He has also hosted the NMMEA Guitar All-State Ensemble Auditions at Cibola High School since the dawn of its existence and conducted various ensembles such as the Guitar Honor Group. In addition to his day job, Eduardo remains active as a guitarist, both as a soloist and as a member of performing groups in both the classical and contemporary worlds. Eduardo has also recorded two CDs with the progressive rock group In The End and also performs Classical and Flamenco guitar at weddings, events, and restaurants.
Please tell us about your school and overall music program.
Cibola High School is one of thirteen comprehensive high schools and eight Schools of Choice in the Albuquerque Public School District with approximately 1,900 students in grades nine through twelve. We offer a comprehensive curriculum and a variety of extracurricular enrichment. Enthusiasm, positive attitude, classroom skills, professional activities, and academic preparation characterize staff members. The school’s curriculum meets both college and career preparatory needs.
The music program at Cibola High School offers a wide range of choices for young musicians who attend our school. These include: Marching/Concert Band, Orchestra, Steel Band, Choir, Piano, Guitar, and AP Music Theory. Cibola High School is a three-time recipient of the NAMM Best Communities for Music Education.
Please tell us about your own personal musical background growing up and your collegiate experience.
I was born into a musical family in Taos, New Mexico. All my siblings either sang or played an instrument. I was exposed to music at an early age and attempted to teach myself the piano and guitar by watching my uncles and older siblings. I received my first formal music training in 5th grade when I began playing the trumpet. I continued with the trumpet for five years performing in the Marching Band and Mariachi Band in junior high school and high school. During the same time, I continued my progression on the guitar as well. I performed with a rock band that consisted of three members. Although it was more of a garage band, we still did plenty of gigs including school dances and performances at community centers.
I first started my journey with classical guitar during my freshman year in high school. Although my guitar teacher at the time was not classically trained, he did see my potential and provided me with music and tutelage the best he could. After high school I attended the University of New Mexico and studied Classical Guitar with Michael Chapdelaine. After receiving my Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance (cum laude), I was offered a position at Cibola High School. During my first three years teaching I was required to go back to the University of New Mexico to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education.
How do the guitar family instruments fit into your teaching?
That is all I teach, with the exception of AP Music Theory
What obstacles did you face when you were first hired at your school?
The first obstacle I faced and still face is the size of my classroom. It was made to be a small classroom probably for a theory class or chamber group. Another challenge was having to go back to school at the same time that I was trying to gain experience as a teacher. Lastly, learning how to navigate around the bureaucracy that is essential to running a school district as large as ours.
What kind of classes related to the guitar do you teach?
My guitar program consists of about 165 students. There are four levels of guitar: Beginning; Intermediate; Advanced; and Guitar Literature. We primarily focus on Classical Guitar technique and rehearse and perform primarily as a guitar orchestra (large group). I also incorporate Jazz, Rock, Blues, and Flamenco to address other styles and techniques. Guitar is largely incorporated into my AP Music Theory class as well.
What would you like to say to the non-guitarist music educator who is about to or interested in incorporating the guitar into their program?
Guitar is necessary in creating a well-rounded music program. It is one of the most versatile instruments, and its popularity is immense. The stigma that guitar is just a folk instrument is outdated. Yes, it can be used as accompaniment, but it can also be a melodic, percussive, polyphonic instrument that can be used for almost any style of music. It speaks to young people in a way that other instruments do not, and it is relatively inexpensive to buy a student model guitar.
Do you have any success stories you would like to share about students (musical & non-musical)?
After teaching for 15 years, it is difficult to reflect on individual stories as there are so many of them. Instead I would like to focus on general successes:
- Seeing students gain more confidence in themselves as they obtain a skill from their efforts
- Providing an opportunity for students to make their families proud
- Giving students an outlet for creativity and emotional expression
- Keeping students involved in school when other subjects may not reach them
- Fostering an ensemble atmosphere that allows for team-building and belonging
- Many of my students have gone on to study music and perform, and/or teach professionally
What do you tell your talented students who are planning to pursue music or guitar studies in high school, college after they finish with you?
Get good at as many things as possible. Learn to sing. Learn other instruments. Learn to teach. Learn to compose/arrange. Learn music technology. Learn to perform. Learn to conduct. Most importantly, learn business management, especially if you plan on being a performer.
Do you have any networking or advocacy tools that have worked for you to help promote your program that would help other educators?
Getting involved with organizations such as Guitar Foundation of America and NAfME has really help me network with many guitar instructors. I have also served as a district officer which has also help with networking and promotion.
Getting involved with organizations such as Guitar Foundation of America and NAfME has really help me network with many guitar instructors.
What kind of future do you see for guitar in music education in the Albuquerque school system?
We are on the up for sure. New Mexico was the first state in the union to create an All-State Guitar Ensemble. We have many district and state events including: Solo and Ensembles; Honor Groups, Large Group Festivals, and summer festivals such as the New Mexico Classical Guitar Festival. We are training new guitar instructors at the university level, and the number of students involved in our guitar classes is holding strong and steady.
What type of arrangements and/or transcribing have you done for your school performances?
Arranging is not my strength. I am very fortunate that our All-State conferences provide workshops that expose me to many great arrangements of pieces that are out there. If I arrange anything, it is usually for my beginning students. I like to use rock and pop tunes to teach classical pedagogy, so I will arrange some songs to meet that challenge.
Do you host any musical performance or activities outside of your public school teaching duties?
I perform on a regular basis. I am not content in life without performing on the guitar. It keeps me balanced. Although teaching is very rewarding, I got into this to perform. Here are the things that I am currently involved with:
- I perform Classical and Flamenco guitar as a soloist for weddings, events, and restaurants.
- I perform with In The End, a progressive metal band that has recorded two CDs.
- I am a member of Tryptich, a classical guitar trio.
- I have my own band that I write music with and perform locally as well.
- Every now and again my family and I still jam together. The family that plays together stays together.
Any last thoughts to conclude our interview?
I love the guitar! I am happy to be a part of this global community. ¡Viva la Guitarra!
Past “Guitar Class in 50 States” articles:
- Number 6: The Sunshine State (Florida)
- Number 5: The Grand Canyon State (Arizona)
- Number 4: The Ocean State (Rhode Island)
- Number 3: The North Star State (Minnesota)
- Number 2: The Silver State (Nevada)
- Number 1: The Garden State (New Jersey)
About the author:
Thomas Amoriello is the NAfME Council for Guitar Education Chair and also serves as the Guitar Education Chairperson for the New Jersey Music Education Association. He teaches guitar for the Flemington Raritan School District and Hunterdon Academy of the Arts. Tom graduated from Shenandoah Conservatory with a Master of Music Degree in Classical Guitar Performance. He is the author of the children’s picture books; A Journey to Guitarland with Maestro Armadillo & Ukulele Sam Strums in the Sand, both available from Black Rose Writing. He recently made two vinyl record releases on the H42 Records label of Hamburg, Germany featuring former members of Black Sabbath, Whitesnake, Dio, Ozzy Osbourne, Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force and more.
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