By James Alfaro
Special to the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol
Las Palmas Senior Citizen Center in San Fernando offers several classes for its older residents, but one that consistently receives high notes year after year – is “musica para el alma –Violeta Quintero’s music class.”
Alfonso Covarrubias Jr., 74, has attended her class for the past 15 years and describes Quintero as an “excellent and patient teacher”. It was actually his mother who encouraged him to participate after he retired in 2003 and moved back to the San Fernando Valley.
“When I lived out of state, during my visits on vacation, I would occasionally go to some of her [Violeta’s] classes with my Mom and watch her play the tambourine and sing,” Covarrubias Jr. said.
After making the decision to move back to be close to family, he found himself looking for a hobby.
“I signed up for another music class here at the senior center, but I like how Violeta’s class makes me feel — like I’m part of a family. They nicknamed me ‘The Baby’ — even though I’m 74 years old,” he laughs. “I’m very grateful to be embraced by such a welcoming community,” Covarrubias Jr. said.
Quintero has credentials both in music and gerontology, but her students are an example of the more than 50 years of commitment that Quintero has had to teaching and the love of music.
Sara Diaz has been taking lessons from Quintero for 45 years.
“When I met Violeta, I used to work a lot during both the day and night shift for about nine years, so I didn’t have that much time to attend her class since I was so tired from working a lot.
But, I eventually came around to practicing the mandolin with Violeta once I stopped working,” said Diaz.
Diaz said Quintero’s music class has given her years of positive memories, helping to lift her spirits and singing the Spanish language music has done the same for many other seniors by encouraging them.
Diaz said that most seniors her age have trouble learning the music since it’s new to them, but that they have a good time in the class because all their worries and problems leave as soon as they step into the classroom.
Quintero’s classes are artistic testimony that age does not prevent older adults from continuing to learn or play music. In fact, they are a popular group often requested to play at community and special events.
During the pandemic, Quintero kept offering her classes online until it was safe to resume in person.
Margarita Montañez started in Quintero’s class halfway through the pandemic. The class was recommended to her by her daughter.
“It was an in-person class instead of on Zoom when I started in her class. I loved singing and playing the guitar, so I decided to try it out again.”
Montañez said she had played the guitar for several years and started out playing at a church. Montañez said she’s grateful for Quintero’s patience as a teacher because regardless of her students’ level of experience her goal is to help them improve.
“I wish more people signed up for Violeta’s class because I don’t want them to feel discriminated against if they don’t know how to play. Music should lift them up instead,” Montañez said.
Quintero said that she hopes to continue being an inspiration to people as her own personal faith has helped her so much over the years and helped to shape who she is as a person. She believes anyone can be who they want to be if they believe in themselves and continue to persevere in pursuing their dreams, regardless of their age or circumstances.
“I believe that if you have one person to believe in you and give you an opportunity, it can make your life worth it,” Quintero said.
Quintero’s class is held at Las Palmas Senior Citizen Center every Tuesday from 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Diana Martinez contributed to this article.