Spotlight on Rafael Maldonado

When San Jose State University music major Rafael Maldonado first picked up a musical instrument, it was a pair of drumsticks in the fourth grade. His older sister had been in band, and he decided that he wanted to be a part of music too (an inspiring episode of Spongebob Squarepants that featured a band also helped him make his decision). Little did he know that it would lead him to the career in music that he is currently pursuing. Rafael is a magnificent musician with an absolutely inspiring passion for the arts, and with his talents he is helping students become well-rounded individuals while also working to spread the joy behind the universal language that is music.

Although he began on percussion, Rafael’s primary instruments are clarinet, flute, and saxophone (and he sings a little too). He teaches both clarinet and flute, and he presently has five students that he works with. He focuses on helping his students with their embouchure and creating the best tone possible, as the hardest part in learning how to play an instrument is sounding good, not just moving your fingers in time. However, he also teaches them how to be responsible and well-rounded. Throughout the lesson, he has his students take notes in notebooks so they know what to work on, and he makes sure that they are the ones doing the writing to ensure that they are fully participating in the lesson and learning. By teaching and also being a student himself, he has learned to better manage his own time and to work to truly understand each of his students as individuals. For example, one of his students has ADD —  he has done research to find how he can better accommodate his student to make sure they have a fun and engaging experience.

I have seen Rafael’s passion, dedication, and willingness to help others firsthand; he was my section leader in the Spartan Marching Band this last season, and I can genuinely say that I am honored to call him my friend. Without music, I probably would not have met him and all of my other wonderful friends from band, and that is one of the most beautiful things about music: it brings people together. In interviewing Rafael, he explained that he loves music so much because it is the “universal language” — it does not matter what your background or skin color is, and the admirable acceptance of this community should be applied to all areas of life. Music connects people, and there is nothing else it can be compared to, for it speaks when words fail. As Rafael so thoughtfully put it, “Music gives feeling, words only give descriptions for feeling.” This is why music is so important in a child’s education.

Catch Rafael in action at his Junior Clarinet Recital on April 19 at the San Jose State concert hall. More information can be found here.