“Music can change the world because it can change people.” – Bono.
Vivian Gonzalez ’04 and ’07, an FIU alumna, is one of only twenty-five semifinalists for the Music Educator Award presented by the Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation. In total, more than 30,000 initial nominations were submitted from all 50 states for this inaugural award, making her accomplishment that much more commendable.
Gonzalez knew from an early age what her passion was in life. She began studying the violin at age of five, and by the time she was ten, she had made her solo debut with the former Philharmonic Orchestra of Florida. Her teachers included members of Miami String Quartet, Felicia Moye, Ivan Chan, and Margaret Pardee of the Juilliard School. Upon graduating from New World School of the Arts High School, Ms. Gonzalez atended University of Florida, where she graduated with honors in 1999 with a Bachelor of Music, violin performance. She continued her music education at Florida International University, receiving a Master’s of Science in Music Education in 2004 and a Specialization in Curriculum and Instruction with a Specialization in Reading Education in 2007.
While pursuing her master’s degree, Gonzalez studied violin under Professor Ivan Chan, an accomplished player who “taught [her] to strive for perfection.” Gonzalez credits professor Chan with helping her realize her calling as a teacher, recollecting that “according to everyone I was supposed to be a professional violinist. It was what I had trained for my entire life. Ivan knew this, but still was compelled to ask me what I wanted. Not what was expected of me, but to really think about the life I wanted to have.”
Gonzalez also remembers her early days in the Specialist Degree program, “thinking that I was probably going to be the only music teacher in the Specialist Degree track for Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Reading Education. I was right. Everyone did their introductions and I was the only music teacher. At first it was a little strange, but Dr. Kingsley Banya quickly made me feel very welcomed.” Dr. Banya quickly became a mentor of Gonzalez, encouraging her to “find the sequence of learning in [her] program and make sure that it built through the three years.” He was always very interested in the current trends and issues facing public school teachers, which was especially important to Ms. Gonzalez as she had become a public school teacher after graduating college. She herself is a product of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Magnet Programs, having attended Rainbow Park Elementary Music Magnet, Southwood Middle School Strings Magnet, and New World School of the Arts Music Magnet.
In her fourteen years of teaching, Ms. Gonzalez has had the great privilege of teaching thousands of students including students with special needs and music magnet. Currently, Ms. Gonzalez is a National Board Certified Teacher teaching the magnet music students at the South Miami K-8 Center. When asked about her favorite part of her job, the love she feels for her students is obvious:
“Touching the lives of the students I teach is my favorite part of what I do. Every day I am given the opportunity to positively impact the lives of the children in my class through music. I get the opportunity to show each of my students that they can do and learn anything that they put their minds to, as long as they are willing to work hard for it. I strongly believe that music teaches students more than just music. It teaches them discipline, focus, persistence, dedication, and perseverance. It also teaches them reading, math, science, social studies, study skills, abstract thinking, aesthetics, and so much more. Music is an art and a way of thinking and experiencing the world. Every day I look forward to sharing the world of music with my students.”
Gonzalez is also quick to point out the importance of dedication and effort in life, believing that hard work will trump talent when talent is lazy. One should always keep an open mind, and remember that “you don’t know everything, and that every person you come across in life can teach you something, even if you’re not sure what it is. Be humble, listen before you speak, and remember that people will remember how you treat them long after they have forgotten how you performed.”