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Community Song
Katerine Carmona Arbelaez, MM ’20 brings music to Oakland schools
Katerine Carmona Arbelaez, MM Class of 2020

Katerine Carmona Arbelaez, MM ’20 is confident about the importance of music, “Music makes a difference. It changes people. It gives us a voice and a community. Through music, we feel empowered and can express who we are.”

Originally from Cartago, Colombia, music has always been a part of Arbelaez’s life. An accomplished clarinetist, she has played with multiple symphonic bands and started teaching music to children while in Colombia.

Her love of teaching is what brought her to the US and ultimately to the renowned graduate music program at Holy Names. “I was drawn to HNU because the program offered a direct link to the local community,” she said. “This was the only program I could find in California that offered a year-long practicum in local schools alongside classroom lectures. It’s an incredibly unique real-world experience—I feel like I am part of the Oakland community.”

Arbelaez teaches music through an educational outreach program and local choir group, Cantare Con Vivo (“To Sing with Life”) at two different Oakland schools.

Maree Hennessy, director of the Kodály Center at HNU, explains that creative and inclusive approaches are needed to bring music to all California schools, “We partner with groups that share our mission—making music available to everyone—such as Cantare Con Vivo,” she said. “Our aim is to support and build leadership capacity in our graduate music students. They are the key to empowerment and transformation of individuals and communities through music.”

Arbelaez is an example of the success of this educational approach. “I feel like I am making a real difference in these schools,” emphasized Arbelaez, “because I can bring my life experiences and make connections with the students that I teach. At Melrose Academy, I teach in Spanish and use materials from the Latinx traditions. At La Escuelita Elementary, I use materials and songs from African-American and Chinese traditions to connect with and celebrate the students I work with.”

“Access to deep and profound musical experiences stays with us for a lifetime,” said Hennessy. “Music teachers in schools have a remarkable opportunity. In our programs at HNU, we explore how music connects people and how music is a vehicle for change, for inclusion and empowerment, for supporting and celebrating identity and culture.”