The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has designated March as Music in Our Schools Month. To celebrate, the jsquared music performance center will be sharing the stories of people who played instruments in grade school and the impact it made on their lives.
Today, we feature Juan B. Lascano, Jr. Juan is a teacher at Charlotte Learning Academy in Charlotte, NC and a graduate student at The Johns Hopkins University School of Education.
Juan B. Lascano, Jr.
What instrument do you play?
Trumpet and French Horn
At what age did you begin to play your first instrument?
Why did you start playing?
I was always interested in the music that my mother and father would play around the house, but I started playing the recorder in elementary school, which started my interest in music. That following year, my aunt persuaded my parents to place me into a music program in middle school. It was then that I acquired a passion for music and the sound of brass instruments.
What was your experience with music during your elementary, middle and high school years?
My initial involvement with music started in middle school with the jazz band. I remember when we played a song by Norah Jones that was being played on the radio. It felt cool to play music that was playing on the radio. When I joined the high school marching band we started playing popular radio songs more often, and that was a great experience for me. I was excited to see the crowd respond to our songs, dances, and formations on the field. Peers would tell us about how much they enjoyed our halftime shows and would express interest in joining the band because we were a family. I wouldn't trade my high school band experience for the world, for many of the friends I met at my high school are my lifelong friends today. Without the bonding nature of music, I wouldn't have met the brothers that I call my friends today.
Who was your favorite music teacher? What made them your favorite?
Edward Woodis was my favorite music teacher! His teachings still guide me through my everyday life as a teacher and adult in society. I remember learning about the circle of fifths, chord progression, and true musicianship while being a member of the concert, jazz and marching band programs at Nansemond River High School. I remember him showing us videos of his college days playing the tuba, and that served as a motivating factor to get into college to join a college band. In addition, he worked hard to give us access to National Band Competitions and parades across the nation. We traveled to Georgia, North Carolina, Washington DC, and other states, which opened my eyes to the joys of traveling with music programs.
What is your favorite band memory from grade school?
My favorite band memory was when I marched in my high school band battle against I.C. Norcom High School. This was one of the best band battles that I participated in while in high school because we were able to showcase our strength as a band in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Prior to this battle, I.C. Norcom was the reigning champions of the National High Step Band Competition. I remember marching into the high school gym and hearing the fans cheer. We battled for 3 hours and at the end of the battle the fans were able to decide on the victor. This battle introduced me to the intensity of HBCU band battles, and really increased my interest in playing in a college band once I graduated.
Did you play an instrument in college? Did music impact your college choice?
When applying to colleges as a senior at Nansemond River High School, I auditioned to play trumpet and french horn at North Carolina A&T University, Bethune-Cookman College, Norfolk State University, Hampton University, and Howard University. I was offered a music scholarship at every school that I auditioned; however, I chose to accept the Dozoretz National Institute for Mathematics and Applied Sciences scholarship at Norfolk State University. This scholarship was a rigorous 4-year academic program, so I was unable to march with the Spartan Legion. Although I did not pick up my trumpet in college, I did continue to record music and produce music in my spare time in the dorm.
What is your current occupation?
I am a teacher at Charlotte Learning Academy in Charlotte, NC. I am also a graduate student at The Johns Hopkins University School of Education where I am receiving my Masters of Science Degree in Education with a concentration in Secondary Studies. In addition, I serve a community leader in various community-based organizations that include O.N.E. Charlotte, Profound Gentlemen, and The Collective-Charlotte.
How has music helped you in your current occupation?
In addition to teaching biology, earth science, and physical science, I teach a creative writing class at my high school where I am able to assist students with song structure and music production. We currently have 20 students enrolled in the class, and they find joy in creating science songs related to the content that I am teaching. Students are assigned roles that include an A&R, a publicist, and a marketing director. Each of these students plays a role in ensuring that our music is marketed to the proper market and that their music is creative enough to attract the attention of their peers. This course teaches students about the music business and the hard work that goes into creating a business on their own.
How has music played a part in your adult life?
As an adult, I have started a collection of vinyl record due to the pristine recording that occurred in the early 70s. I now use my spare time to create music with the use of my MPC- Renaissance, and ASR-10 sampling synthesizer. As a teacher and graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, I use music as a release from my long days. There is nothing more relaxing than coming home and listening to the melodic sounds of Ahmad Jamal, the groovy bass lines of Wes Montgomery, or the rich brass sounds of Lee Morgan. It's something about the equipment and techniques that were used between 1968-1973 that made their music sound organic and pure. I use sampling as a way to mesh those sounds of yesterday with the sounds of today's popular music.
What advice do you have for young musicians?
Keep striving for your goals. The arts and music are a lost passion in today's society due to the increased demand for science, engineering, and technology; however, music is an essential component to student growth and maturity. I think that it is important for striving musicians to know that they are fully capable of making a living from music if they are willing to work at their craft. Although I am not making a living as a musician, I would encourage those students to continue to work towards their goals and aspirations without letting anyone deter their vision.
I currently teach high school science, and although I do not play my trumpet as often as I would like, I used music as a teaching device for my students to retain science content. I have attached the link to our SoundCloud page and my personal sound cloud page below.