Feature

THE MUSICAL SOUL OF ST. ANNE’S

By SPENCER GRANT AND MARA CASEY     5/10/2022

You cannot miss St. Anne School’s music program.

When the band is practicing, it echoes for blocks up and down South Sycamore Street in Santa Ana. The school’s website proclaims that they have an exceptional music and band program, and any passerby might agree that music is the soul of the school.

SR. TERESA LYNCH CHATS WITH MUSIC STUDENTS. COURTESY OF SPENCER GRANT/DIOCESE OF ORANGE

When Principal Sr. Teresa Lynch arrived at St. Anne’s from Los Angeles seven years ago, Bishop Kevin W. Vann paid a visit and recollected he’d played a musical instrument back in college. Sr. Teresa replied that her dream was to have a band program like the one she’d had at her previous school. A player of flute, clarinet and guitar, she understood the potential of music to create a community for students at all academic levels.

Seconding her dream, Bishop Vann donated $1,000 to get the project started. Soon after, Sr. Teresa’s friend Tom Gray chipped in $25,000 and she began shopping on eBay for 90 “used but playable” instruments. The program was then launched at St. Anne’s as well as at St. Joseph, another Santa Ana Catholic elementary school.

Since then, the two schools have organized three music programs: jazz band, regular band and a competitive drum line which recently placed fourth in a competition among high schools. Music is taught from fourth to eighth grade. The band program covers fifth to eighth grade where students learn to play an instrument: flute, trumpet, saxophone,
trombone, drums or violin. The band has become a community within the school.

“It has so many positive benefits for all students, culturally, academically and intellectually,” observed Sr. Teresa. “They learn coordination, self-confidence, focus and teamwork.”

She mentioned that a student who went on to Mater Dei High School wound up being accepted at Penn State on the strength of her clarinet playing proficiency. Two others who played the saxophone got into Orange County School of the Arts, thanks to their music audition.

The program’s strong right hand is Band and Drum Line Director Bruno Cilloniz, a percussion expert, as well as a pianist, who believes St. Anne’s is the only Catholic school band in California. His first step with new students is to observe them for a couple of weeks to determine what instruments would suit them. He adds that while some students may misbehave in class, “they’re serious and dedicated in the band because it makes kids more focused and helps their academic scores.”

According to Sr. Teresa, “This is because music makes more connections with the neurons of the brain. It also brings out their personality and talent by using sight, hearing and touch.”

Cilloniz agrees, “The band experience shows them that in addition to having fun, they can also succeed in the classroom. I hope the band can be a launching pad which gives students a sense of purpose.”

Eighth-grader Allan Lopez has been drumming for six years. “I like my bass drum because it’s the biggest one,” he said. “This year we made it to the semifinals.” His classmate Eduardo Castellanos plays tenor drums, four at a time. “It’s a challenge and fun,” he said. “It helps me get through things like a bad day.”

Seventh-grader Ashley Lucio favors the snare drum. “It helps me relax and helps with my schoolwork,” she said.

She had extensive surgery on her foot and music aided her recovery. Her bandmate Isabella Smith also favors the snare. “It helps me take stress out,” she said. “It’s fun to play and it helps me bond with other members of the band community.”

Sr. Teresa welcomes donations of instruments to further St. Anne’s music program.