Jose-Luis Orozco performs a bilingual concert at Jimenez Elementary in Santa Maria

Consider for a moment how you were first able to commit the alphabet to memory, beginning your journey into literacy. Does the familiar tune “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” come to mind?

The incredible potency with which music aids in learning can be easy to forget about, but José-Luis Orozco hasn’t forgotten. The musical artist, children’s book author, and educator knows full well the power of melody to aid in memory. He uses it to teach young kids basic concepts in not one, but two languages: English and Spanish.

click to enlarge Jose-Luis Orozco performs a bilingual concert at Jimenez Elementary in Santa Maria
ONE VOICE, MANY LANGUAGES: José-Luiz Orozco uses music to teach kids about basic concepts in both English and Spanish. He performs at Jiménez Elementary School in Santa Maria on April 7.

Orozco has written books and albums that educate youngsters on various topics, and his most recent album is titled ¡Come Bien! Eat Right!

“Music is an amazing tool that can be used to teach children about math, colors, letters, culture, history, geography, basic skills, and now about having good nutrition,” Orozco said in a release. “I’m very happy to have been able to combine my two biggest passions in life, music and bilingual education, and help hundreds of children, families, and teachers by touring the country with my guitar and my music.”

The next stop on Orozco’s ongoing tour is Santa Maria’s Jiménez Elementary School on April 7 for a free concert open to local families.

The concert was organized by parents and funded by a grant from the Fund for Santa Barbara, explained parent volunteer Jessica Duarte.

“Basically, our idea is to bring the community together and praise the different languages we have here in our community. And we wanted to invite everybody so they could have a good time with the kids and their families,” Duarte said. “We hardly have any family events in Santa Maria, so we’re hoping that it brings out a lot of different people.”

Numerous albums, DVDs, and books color Orozco’s career as a passionate educator. He originally moved to the United States from Mexico at the age of 19, and went on to earn a master’s degree in multicultural education.

Jose-Luis Orozco performs a bilingual concert at Jimenez Elementary in Santa Maria
LISTEN AND LEARN: José-Luis Orozco performs a concert of bilingual music for kids and parents on April 7 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Jiménez Elementary, 1970 Biscayne St., Santa Maria. More info: 928-1783.

Growing up in a musical family, Orozco knows firsthand the power of music and song to inspire young people, not just to learn colors and numbers, but as lifelong learners and lovers of multiple cultures. 

“Music is one of the best tools to promote the traditions of our countries in an entertaining, fun and educational way, to promote the correct use of the Spanish and English languages, and to foster our future leaders,” he said in the release.

Duarte personally knows how helpful Orozco’s songs are in teaching two languages simultaneously. She used to be a schoolteacher who taught dual immersion to youngsters, and through the music, she said, even native English speakers were having fun singing and learning in Spanish.

Today, Duarte uses Orozco’s CDs regularly with her own small children, teaching and playing with them all at once.

“I have two little ones, and whenever I put on his songs they start dancing, and they’re learning colors, numbers, and other things,” she said. “The songs are catchy, colorful, and whenever even I listen to some I can’t stop singing them either.”

Arts Editor Joe Payne is currently trying to learn Spanish, and he’s sure music can help. Contact him at [email protected].

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