Glendale music teacher aims to educate, inspire with bilingual music

When Sara Quintanar volunteered at her daughter’s Spanish-language full-immersion kindergarten classroom at Franklin Magnet School in 2010, she didn’t expect to be recruited by its foundation to serve as a volunteer music teacher that same year.

A year later, she was hired to teach music in all language classes at the elementary school.

Parents began requesting CDs from Quintanar so their children could practice Spanish at home. Encouragement from another local parent who owns a recording studio in Glendale prompted her to record her first album, “Canciones en Español.”

She posted a few tracks online and began receiving messages from teachers all over the world who were interested in her content.

Quintanar began releasing work under the title Music with Sara.

“I saw a demand for simple music in Spanish — repetitive and easy for children to learn,” she said.

In addition to her music, the Glendale native celebrated the release of her second e-book, “Dragon, Word,” at Pacific Park Library on Thursday.

Quintanar, who grew up in a bilingual household, had plans to become an elementary school teacher, but she didn’t imagine herself singing in Spanish, let alone creating her own music to help children learn a foreign language.

Next year she will be teaching Spanish to kindergartners through third-graders at Franklin Magnet School. She said she taught more than 500 students a week through her music lessons last year.

There are always shy students, she said, but these students eventually “build confidence and find self-awareness.”

“To see that every year, it’s the best thing of my job,” she said.

Songs on her albums include tracks such as “Las Vocales,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Mamá, te quiero mucho,” an original song created and recorded with the help of her students.

In addition to helping infants learn a new language through music, she wants to keep Mexican “culture and tradition thriving.”

She recalled being younger and hearing traditional Spanish folk music with her parents.

“You never forget the songs they sing to you,” she said. “Rhyming is so important — clapping hands, patty cake, it’s so simple but we’re so inundated with so much information we forget to go back to the basics.”

New opportunities have come her way since she first released her music online, and she said she doesn’t have plans to stop anytime soon.

She’s partnered with Scholastic to create a bilingual songbook for First Five California with help from José Luis Orozco Jr., son of José-Luis Orozco, an award-winning bilingual children’s author and educator popular for his recording of the traditional Spanish folk song “De Colores.”

“I’m a local Glendale mom getting two million views online for simple bilingual music,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be quick, flashy or fancy. It’s a voice that isn’t too fast or complicated. This is exciting for me.”

To hear Quintanar’s music, visit: sara-quintanar.squarespace.com/.

priscella.vega@latimes.com

Twitter: @vegapriscella

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