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Music professor's enthusiasm changes lives

March 05, 2007

As a talented musician who also loves teaching, Jorge Montilla touches the lives of his students with his infectious enthusiasm and his genuine caring. He receives some of the best teaching evaluations in the School of Music, and he has inspired many students to follow their dreams.

Brandon Yarns, a senior in music, says he would have left music – and possibly even ASU – without the influence of Montilla, an assistant professor and a sought-after clarinetist who teaches and performs throughout the world.

“Professor Montilla changed my entire outlook on the clarinet, music and life,” Yarns says. “He reinvigorated my interest in music to the point that I was able to win second place in two national music competitions, and he made me realize in my life that I could shoot for the stars and achieve goals that I would not have even had before I met him.”

Yarns nominated Montilla for ASU Featured Faculty, for the professor's extraordinary efforts to cultivate students' development inside and outside the classroom. As the winner of the Featured Faculty award, Montilla will give a free performance at 8 p.m., March 7, in Einstein's Art Café in the Memorial Union.

Yarns says he realized that, while he loved music, medicine was his greatest passion. Instead of trying to convince him otherwise, Montilla encouraged him and wrote him a strong letter of recommendation. Yarns has been accepted into two medical schools for next year.

“Even though Professor Montilla would love to see me continue in music, he has an unwavering commitment to put his students' dreams first,” Yarns says. “I attribute my success even in the sciences to his inspiration, support, professionalism and honesty. I can honestly say that I do not know where or who I would be without Professor Montilla.”

Montilla extends his talents throughout the community, helping inaugurate an “Adopt-a-School” mentoring program and giving special presentations on the clarinet to 10 different Valley high schools. He worked to play host to two different “Clarinet Days” at ASU, inviting community youth and families to come to campus and hear guest performances and teaching.

“Professor Montilla is not only one of the world's best clarinetists, but he clearly enjoys imparting his love for and knowledge of music to those around him, whether at ASU, at local high schools, or at national and international workshops and recitals,” says Walt Nielsen, a music graduate student who also nominated Montilla. “His door and heart are always open to all of his students. He is very supportive and willing to share the secrets of clarinet technique and performance he has learned. He is a gem among gems.”

Montilla, a graduate of the Instituto Universitario de Estudios Musicales in Venezuela and also of Indiana University, has given recitals throughout South America, the United States and France. He has taught master-classes in Columbia, Chile, Barbados, Puerto Rico, China, Brazil and the United States. He also gives presentations for the Arizona Music Educators Association.