Mentor of the Month: Following West’s music traditions

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By Don Pace

West Las Vegas High School principal Gene Parson said three years ago, a new teacher named Jose Muñoz “came to us.”

Parson said from the get-go, Muñoz showed a lot of maturity and a lot of drive. To go from a college graduate to a high school band director is something you don’t see often, and a reflection of his skills.”

Parson said Muñoz directs the high school and middle school bands and oversees all of the district’s music efforts at the elementary level and at the Valley Middle and Elementary schools.

“Mr. Muñoz is also involved in after-school programs teaching his passion. He’s a top-notch guy, we’re very fortunate to have a man of this caliber.

He has high goals for West Las Vegas and wants our brand to be second-to-none, and that is truly, truly appreciated by all Dons fans,” Parson said.

Muñoz, a native of El Paso, graduated from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and was the first in his family to graduate with a music degree. He said after picking up the trombone in seventh grade, he has played music ever since.

“As a music director, you have to take technique classes for every single instrument; it’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun and worth it,” Muñoz said.

Muñoz said he is following in the footsteps of former directors and musicians who built a strong tradition at West Las Vegas schools for a love of music.

“We never march straight forward. We dance, we twirl, we do horn flashes that make us stand out from the rest of the groups,” Muñoz said.
Muñoz said for three years running, the Dons band has taken first place at the New Mexico State Fair. It was just announced that band member Justin Killian made the 2011 All State Honor Band, he said.

Muñoz said his favorite thing as a teacher is to see students going from making sounds on musical instruments that weren’t meant to be to competing at the highest level.

Senior Amanda Delagarza said when Muñoz came to West, there were about 20 band members. The aspiring musician and vocalist is planning to attend UNM and Columbia University after graduation.

“When we have our drill team and everybody is counted, we are about a 70-piece band. I’ve learned a lot from Mr. Muñoz, as we worked on a lot of rhythms. Plus we’ve won the State Fair since we started,” Delagarza said. 

Billie Mathews has been teaching for 19 years; she directs elementary kids and assists in middle and high school band efforts.
Mathews said Muñoz was nominated for the 2011 Up and Coming Teacher of the Year.

“This is the best teaching atmosphere and the best teaching experience I’ve ever had. This is like a teacher’s dream to have this kind of working relationship with your co-workers,” Mathews said.  

The Dons marching band will perform in the Electric Light Parade on Dec. 4. The middle school band will put on a winter concert on Dec. 16, and the high school will perform on Dec. 17. The final concert of the year is scheduled for May 17.

Muñoz is the son of Eberido and Martha Muñoz. He has a brother Eberido Jr.