Guitar, Piano, Percussion, and Voice instructor Juan Méndez appreciates all kinds of music, but has shown an obsessive taste for the indigenous music of his home country, Guatemala, and Jazz (Latin, Blues, Bebop, Dixieland, Straight-ahead, Free, Avant-Garde, Big Band, Cool, Fusion, Gypsy, Post-Bop, Modal, West Coast, Soul, European Free, etc.). In Guatemala, he studied at the Music Conservatory Jesús Castillo and with Byron Campo at the school of Polirítmos. In the U.S., he had the opportunity to continue his studies working with different recognized musicians of which Berry Harris stands out. Studying with Barry in New York City has been a fundamental base in his music, philosophy and jazz path. His areas of expertise are in music education, composition, and music production.
As a music performer, Juan has had diverse experiences that have also shaped him to be the musician that he is today. In Guatemala, he played lead guitar for the artist Alizabeth Lee Kaiser, traveled to Mexico with the group Altavoz and participated in many music festivals, the most pronounced being the International Jazz Festival of Guatemala as part of the band Cleff Jazz. During his last four years living in the U.S., he has performed with many musicians in the DMV area such as harmonica player Howard Herrnstadt, drummer Keith Butler Jr., the distinguished Doctor of Music and double bassist Phill Ravita, bassist Sheryl Wilson, and drummer Art McKinney. Currently, he is recording his first solo album at Divine Order Studios under the production of Allyn Johnson (piano) and the participation of Herman Burney (double bass) and Kelton Norris (drums).
As an instructor, Juan believes that creating a student-centered approach is the key to success in the experience. He pulls from his educational background and practical experience to create engaging curriculums for Guitar, Piano, Drum / Percussion, and Voice students. Juan loves the moment when students are able to bridge the connection from what is “on the page” to their own, unique expression and interpretation. As part of his initial classical background and training, Juan emphasizes the importance of understanding the language of music from the start. His extensive jazz background and training has allowed him to open the art of improvisation and arranging to his students early in their study as well. Together, Juan believes these elements create the “full experience” of learning an instrument and making it your own.
Teaching is a great way for Juan to inspire others to love music as he does and reinforce what he has learned as a musician. Juan’s fresh, lively energy promotes student immersion and has worked well during his years of teaching. He has taught students ranging from children to adults, beginner to advanced levels, in both individual and group classes. He has utilized various methodologies in all instrumental instruction, as well as composition and ensemble courses. Juan believes that openness to new methodologies that have student success and development at heart is the key to adaptable teaching and excellent instruction.
Conservatory Jesus Castillo