News Column

The Santa Fe New Mexican Learning Curve column

June 17, 2013


June 17--Adam Griffo was letting loose with a dynamite saxophone rendition of the Charlie Parker composition "Moose the Mooch" as he walked the halls of Gonzales Community School one day last week. School is out, but the halls of Gonzales were far from empty, what with four different summer programs, including Santa Fe Public Schools' Summer Music Camp, in session there.

"I love Charlie Parker and I love bee-bop," said Griffo, who will be entering the seventh grade at Gonzales next semester. This is his second summer spent in the music camp, now in its fourth year. "There's a lot of talented people here and a lot of really good instruments," he said. His favorite approach to music is "improv," and yes, he plans to become a working musician when he grows up.

Griffo is one of about 70 students taking part in this summer's four-week camp, held from 8 a.m. to noon every day through Thursday, when the students will give a 10 a.m. public concert in the gym at Gonzales. Each of the four groups within the summer camp -- general music class, acoustic guitar class, string orchestra class and band class -- will perform for about 20 minutes each.

The camp gives newcomers to music the chance to learn more and play an instrument, while those taking music classes during the school year can continue playing and learning, according to Todd Hansen, who directs the summer program and who teaches music at E.J. Martinez Elementary School. Students in grades K-12 can take part in the program, which costs $200 in tuition fees. The district supplies the instruments. Students must have at least one year's experience in band or orchestra class in order to take part in those courses in the summer program, but both Hansen's general-music class for elementary-school kids and Jesus Gachupin's acoustic guitar class are open to students who have no music background.

Gachupin was leading 10 of his guitar students through a rendition of the tune "Chasing Cars." "Feel the beat," he told them. "Don't get ahead of it. It's not a race." He teaches at Ortiz Middle School but said this four-week intensive program offers more of a "direct, functional approach" that immediately tosses the students into a musical sea of learning.

Student Lucy Robertson, who will go into eighth grade at the Academy for Technology and the Classics next semester, has played piano for some time but wanted to take Gachupin's guitar class at Gonzales. "Guitar hurts your fingers more," she noted. Music, she said, "Helps me get through things. If I feel sad or angry, I play music. It's a good way to forget about things temporary. I want music to always be part of my life."

In his class, Hansen was leading about 20 elementary-schoolers through the basics of playing the recorder. Each student walked to the front of the class, introduced him- or herself, named their school and the piece they were playing, and set about performing. In general, they all exuded great confidence.

Among the more-sure of-themselves was 7-year-old Zoe Kountoupes-Wilson, who said she is a second-grader at Acequia Madre Elementary School. She said she has been playing the violin for somewhere between three and a half and four years -- partially because her mother is a violinist. "Without music, it would be pretty boring in the world," she said. She plans to always play music, but right now she is set on becoming an astronaut.

But her friend, El Dorado Community School third-grader Ella Tyroler, said she wanted to grow up to be a musician.

All these kids will likely be soaring as they perform the summer-camp music concert on Thursday. It's open to the public and it's free, so swing by. And maybe you will hear Griffo wailing some be-bop Charlie Parker tune on his sax.

Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or


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