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Maria Carillo music teacher encourages excellence

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 | Posted by

Maria Carillo music teacher Justin Enright with one the school’s jazz bands. (Courtesy of Justin Enright)

By MELODY KARPINSKI / Santa Rosa Correspondent

When Justin Enright took over the music program at Mario Carillo High School, he told his new students one thing.

“I told them: ‘you’re going to be great, please don’t give up,’” said Enright, who began teaching at the Rincon Valley high school in 2009.

In the years before Enright arrived, the music program had dropped from over 130 to barely 40. The once vibrant program had suffered due to constant  shifts in staffing.

“The music program was almost non-existent when he arrived (because) it had kind of died a slow and painful death,” said Gabe Gladstein, a senior at Maria Carillo and member of the jazz band.

Since then, the music program is fresh with new life. The school’s jazz band, which Enright began in 2008 during his first year of teaching, recently won first place in the advanced division at the Delta Jazz Festival in Stockton.

“The majority of the band members were freshmen when he started as a teacher, (and) in a way, we all grew together,” said Gladstein.

Music runs in Enright’s blood. His mother played piano professionally, instilling in him a love for music early on. Enright began playing classical trumpet, an instrument he would pursue much of his life. He attended a prestigious arts program at the Hartt School with the University of Hartford in Connecticut.

After a year spent teaching in Connecticut, he moved with his wife to California so she could complete her studies at U.C. Davis. A job at Maria Carrillo opened up, and a new phase of music began at the school.

Enright leads six of the school’s bands, including the jazz band and the symphonic band. Jazz combos from the school took first place at the Reno Jazz Festival and the Folsom Jazz Festival in 2012. Members from the music program will also compete at the 2013 Folsom Jazz Festival this month.

Gladstein believes Enright’s standard of excellence helped shape the program into what it is today. “A lot of teachers want to force the band to play well,” said Gladstein. “(Enright) not only expected the band to play well, he also encouraged us and made the band want to play well.”

Enright is concerned over what he feels is a lack of support for the arts from the city’s school districts. “Research has been done that show SAT scores go up with music and art programs,” said Enright. “Yet here we’re cutting these crucial elements of our children’s education.”

If Enright had one word to describe music, he would call it “limitless.”

“Music brings such a power to the senses. It can make you laugh and cry at the same time,” said Enright. “It rocks my world.”

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Ann Hutchinson is our Santa Rosa correspondent.
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