It’s not always an easy task to turn a childhood interest into a flourishing career. One San Jacinto College professor managed to do just that. Guillermo Hernandez is a music professor and choral director at the North Campus.
“I’ve taken all my influences throughout my life as inspiration,” Hernandez said.
Learning to play the piano at 11 sparked an interest in music. At Harrison School for the Arts in Florida, he studied in the high school’s piano program and soon became “enamored with music.”
He earned his bachelor’s degree in piano performance from Florida Southern College. A choir and theory professor inspired him further, which led to a master’s degree in composition from Baylor University. Then came wedding bells and a move to Ohio to attend Kent State University, where he earned his Ph.D. in music theory and composition.
Before completing his Ph.D., Hernandez experienced the odd-job phase, having worked as a tutor, lumberjack, and farmer.
“I job hunted nationwide and found a spot here at San Jac in summer of 2010,” Hernandez said. “I’ve always loved teaching, and I have a passion for music theory, so I enjoy teaching those courses.”
Hernandez occasionally composes his own music and appreciates seeing students perform it. Watching them learn and grow “is rewarding, seeing them carry that pride and that sense of achievement about what they’ve accomplished.” His classes are composed of both music and non-music majors.
“For my non-music majors, we have discussions on various topics, and I try to find some real-life application or a way that they can relate to the material,” he said.
For example, he spends classroom time “comparing and contrasting the lives and music of Mozart and Beethoven.” The students get in groups, and he poses the question, “Who was the greater genius?”
He presents facts about the musicians, such as “Mozart played the violin before age 3, wrote his first compositions at age 6, and first symphony at age 10.” Beethoven “had an amazing ability to take a four-note motive and convert it into the most recognizable symphony in history, expanding the boundaries of classical convention, all while he was losing his hearing.”
Students choose, then discuss how this compares to modern-day geniuses, which leads to more in-depth discussions about stardom and its potential effects.
Many of his students have gone on to pursue higher degrees and become choir directors, teachers, and Grammy award-winning musicians, which gives him a sense of pride that he had a part in their journeys.
On a personal note
Hernandez finds ways to expand his musical horizons. He plays at music events, such as weddings and funerals, and is the director at Vivo Professional Music School in Houston. He loves classical music and composers such as Bach or Chopin but finds it impossible to choose a favorite musician or genre. When composing music, he goes on a “music fast” to maintain a sharp focus.
Traveling and exploring the outdoors are favorite hobbies. Hernandez grew up in Baja, California, and always enjoyed taking in the scenery and sea breeze. He is a nature lover, a passion he shares with his wife and kids. He loves all animals and used to “pick up snakes, lizards, and other creepy crawlers” when he was a kid, once owning a 7-foot boa constrictor. Currently, his pet collection includes a snake, gecko, an aquarium, and a goldfish and koi pond he built himself in his backyard.
Sharing his nature fascination with his kids is special to him, and he recently took his two eldest daughters to Everglades National Park in Florida, where they canoed, snorkeled, and explored trails — a father-daughter trip he hopes will become a tradition.
His current plan is to grow the North Campus music department “to the likes of which it has never seen.”
“My hope is that the music program will not only grow in size but in reputation and that we may become a beacon in this community,” Hernandez said.
For more information about San Jac’s music program, visit sanjac.edu/program/music.