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A Cello In The Jungle

Steve Valez understands the power of a single musical encounter. His life in music started in the fifth grade, when a classical string quartet visited his elementary school. “The thing that intrigued me the most was the bow,” Velez says. “I had no idea it was from the tail of a horse! As a kid I found that fascinating.” That moment led to Velez becoming a string players. He started on the violin, but switched to the cello in the eighth grade because of the Beatles. “Before I could read music, I taught myself to play the cello by listening to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ over and over again and trying to make those sounds.”

A professional cellist for more than 20 years, Velez continues to give the gift of music back to children through his work with the Orange Country Philharmonic Society’s Meet the Musicians program.

But his influence on children extends far beyond Orange County; he has made three trips to Belize with classical musicians from two groups, the Fiddlers on the Reef and the Da Capo Players. This educational outreach program, founded by violinist Alex Horvath, has brought classical music to the elementary school children in the remote areas of Belize for 20 years. “It’s hard enough traveling to that part of the world, but try squeezing into a tiny plane with a cello!” Velez says. “but it’s worth it. I try to help the kids realize that music is so powerful. When you see their faces as they touch the cello to feel the vibrations, you realize that wherever you are in the world, kids are kids.”

Author: Darcy Rice