Meet the talented Bernadette Etcheverry from the YouTube channel Bernadette Teaches Music. Recently I had the privilege of working with the funny, down to earth and photogenic talent in the beautiful coffee shop Vongo & Anchor. Bernadette’s passion for life and music combined with the location made for a photoshoot that I’m proud of.
1. Tell me about your favorite scene from your favorite movie? I think this answer changes as I age, but the closing scene in Schindler’s List always comes to mind. The Jewish people presented Schindler with a ring that had “whoever saves one life saves world entire” engraved in it.
2. How did you get started with teaching music? It was the summer of 2005, and I had been accepted to a pre-veterinary school. I was working at a pet shop/veterinary clinic, and I saw how horribly animals were treated. I had always seen animals as companions and part of the family, but I quickly learned that in the pet shop industry, animals were seen as products. I also learned that the people who could not afford health care for their animals would have to euthanize. I knew that I would never be happy in this industry and had to look inward to think about the things that made me happy.
3. What’s the most interesting thing about you we wouldn’t learn from your resume or social media? I have been to the hospital in four different countries: Mexico, United States, Malaysia and Japan. I think being hospitalized in Mexico was the most memorable hospitalization and also it happens to be the one I take about the least. I was about 12 at the time, and my parents’ business had gone under. We had lost our home, there was very little to eat, and I got food poisoning. I didn’t know I had food poisoning… I just remember an unbearable pain running through my body and coming in and out of consciousness. My family didn’t have health insurance at the time, so they decided that taking me to the hospital in Mexico would be the most affordable solution. It was approximately midnight when we finally made it to a hospital in Mexicali, Mexico. There were two nurses at my beside care for me when, all of a sudden, we heard a man screaming in desperation. The nurses bolted out of my room and ran to his aid. I later learned that them and had been brought in by a taxi driver who had spotted the man lying on the side of the street. The man had just been mugged and beat by a group of men. Apparently one of the muggers had used a baseball bat. One of the nurses came back to my bedside and told me them and screaming had broken limbs and was in desperate need of their attention. She asked me if I could hang on for a little bit longer. I nodded, “yes” and blacked out.
4. Who are your musical influences? List your last five songs that were played from your cell phone. I would say that my biggest musical influences growing up were the members of the worship team at my church. I played the saxophone for the worship team during the middle and high school years of my life. Up until then, I had only played for my school band, where sheet music was always handed to us. In band we never had to play by ear or improvise, we just had to read notes on the page and play them. But while on the worship team, there was on sheet music. Improvising and harmonizing on the spot was all we ever did. I grew as a musician and as a performer being in church on stage for all of those years. I don’t think I wold have chosen a career in music if it hadn’t been for that worship team.
My last five songs played from my cell…
1. El Duelo – La Ley
2. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
3. Is This Love – Bob Marley
4. Umi No Koe – BEGIN featuring Kenta Kiritani
5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps – George Harrison/The Beatles
5. As a music teacher describe a time when you felt it was necessary to modify or change your actions in order to respond to the needs of a student? I was teaching in a Japanese private school and found a section in the Japanese music standards that stated that children were expected to learn specific Japanese songs at different points throughout their education. My only problem was that I didn’t speak or read Japanese, so I didn’t know how I would “teach” these songs. Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do, I focused on what I could bring to the table. I could read and play the music on all of the songs, so I relied heavily on my students to do the reading. The first few songs were a bit challenging, but when the students realized that I desperately needed their help, they rose to the occasion. Two years later, the students had all met and exceeded the Japanese standards, and the parents were shocked to find out that their children were learning Japanese songs from a Mexican music teacher.
BONUS: What has been the best advice you’ve received about education young minds in music? “If your students don’t understand what you’re teaching, change your teaching.” This idea comes from Ignacio Estrada’s quote, “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” Anytime I present new content that my students did not understand, I change my delivery and try to teach it a different way. I will change my delivery every day until I find a way that connects with the students. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that music is for everyone. Anytime I hear someone say, “I don’t have a musical bone in my body” I respond with, “then explain to me why you like music.” We are all musicians and artists, we just need someone to guide us in our journey of self-discovery.