In this month’s mentor feature, we take a glance into Elizandro Garcia-Montoya’s journey in music.
Elizandro’s vast array of experience is immediately noticeable. He brings a great depth of knowledge, empathy, and inspiration to the team. His experiences as a board member of the Chicago Philharmonic, past judge for Sphinx, and substitute professor at Lawrence University this past fall, allow him a unique glimpse into the music world. He is also a member of the Fifth House Ensemble, whose mission is community engagement. “With smaller chamber ensembles, it’s easier to go into the community. We engage with the community and listen to people’s needs using music as a tool for growth and social change.”
His involvement with CMPI began when Jenny Woodrum, CMPI student navigator, mentioned the project. Elizandro immediately became interested in the project. CMPI’s mission is special to Elizandro because of his first-hand experiences. He recalled his life as a young boy in his native Costa Rica. “I was about 12, lived in a small town, San Ramon. I took a two-hour bus ride by myself to San Jose for my clarinet lesson each week. Sometimes I went two to three times a week for ensemble rehearsals.”
When mentoring CMPI fellows, he enjoys helping them find music’s meaning within themselves. “I ask them why they play an instrument. I always like going to the core of it. The community aspect is also essential. I remember getting goosebumps when playing with others. You get excited! I try to motivate them to find the essence and pursue this idea.”
Elizandro recalled many musical mentors who positively influenced him. At Baylor University, his undergraduate clarinet teacher, Richard Shanley, played a pivotal role in his development. “Mr. Shanley treated me like a son. When you move to a different country, you feel uprooted. You miss your family but have this dream. Mr. Shanley was a great support. I’d do small tasks at his house to earn some extra money, whatever job he could imagine. We’d garden together. He was a great example of going beyond teaching. Baylor University also provided financial support for all the music festivals and competitions I did.”
Franklin Cohen, principal clarinetist emeritus of the Cleveland Orchestra, was another influential teacher. “He gave me subbing opportunities to play next to him in the Cleveland Orchestra. I fondly remember playing second to him! He believed in me, and those experiences are ingrained in me forever. I like to be in a position where I can motivate and nurture every aspect of the students. That’s why I love CMPI. I can be a role model for the kids. To give students a perspective of the journey and what it takes to be a musician. Not just to get into a school, but how to use music to better self and community.”
CMPI’s mission of supporting underrepresented communities is vital to Elizandro. “It’s an expensive field to go into. Buying reeds is costly! Having organizations like CMPI that provide scholarships for instrument repair, mentorship, and instructors is amazing! They give students the tools necessary to succeed. Whenever I have a mentoring session, I ask my mentees how they feel about the support and let them know we believe in them, allowing them to be thankful and appreciative.”
Top: Karjaka Studios