Juliana Duenas Lopez, a Music Education alum, realized that she wanted to be a music teacher somewhere in between sixth and seventh grade. Her music teacher at the time was “extremely caring, motivating, and exciting,” said Duenas, and “it just made sense to become a music teacher,” she recalls.
Duenas graduated with her bachelor’s degree last year and landed her dream job right out of college teaching at a public school in Newark, New Jersey. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, she is teaching completely remotely, a skill she practiced at NYU while student teaching in the spring.
Duenas was born in Colombia and grew up in Northern New Jersey. Her parents, though not musical themselves, supported her music interests and played Colombian Pop/Rock, American Rock music from the 1960-1980s, and Disney music CDs at home on Sunday mornings. She and her older sister would throw mini-concerts for their parents, sharing a mini-keyboard, and singing into a fake microphone. Duenas and her sister joined their church children's choir and it was there that she became really invested in and excited about singing.
Duenas learned to love music, especially singing, in her public schools where she took music every week and learned how to play the violin. “Without my school music programs, I don't think I would have fully realized my passion for music and for teaching music,” she remarked.
Her sister’s college search clued her into NYU, and it soon became Duenas’ top choice. “Juliana was a star from the moment she entered our Music Education program,” noted Dr. Elise Sobol, director of the Music Education program. Duenas received both the Presser Award and Letha Hurd Morgan Awards for her academic excellence. Duenas complemented her Music Education major with a minor in Global and Urban Education in May 2020. In addition to maintaining a near-perfect GPA in her coursework, Duenas took advantage of the many opportunities NYU has to offer. “There really were endless opportunities to make the student experience what YOU wanted it to be,” she observed.
She met top music educators around New York City and was able to observe a variety of schools with different teaching philosophies around the city. Duenas was also on the board of two student clubs, the Student Music Educators of NYU and A Class Act, and she served as a peer mentor/orientation leader and resident assistant. During her sophomore year, Duenas studied abroad in Prague, calling this time in Europe the “highlight of my life.”
On top of her education classes which taught her how to meet the needs of different learners, she took classes such as Music for Exceptional Children and participated in the Continuing Education in Music Program, where she learned how to work with a wide array of special populations through music. She was trained to help students of all ages with special needs and, as it happens, the school where she is now working has a large number of students with autism, so she is comfortable working with them. “I felt very lucky that I had these classes and could use these experiences to better support my students,” she reflected.
In addition, Duenas has a special interest in working with English Language Learners (ELL) since she herself is a Spanish speaker who learned English as a child. She knew she wanted to teach at a Title 1 school and luckily was able to land a job at one with a large ELL population.
In her free time, Duenas enjoys cooking, dancing, and keeping up with education policy, psychology, and sociology. She graciously took some time out of her busy teaching schedule to answer a few questions for us.
Why did you choose NYU’s program in Music Education?
I had my eyes set on NYU's music program since my older sister started visiting colleges. I've always been a pretty independent person, so the idea of actually living in NYC was so exciting to me. It felt like there were endless possibilities. When it came time to apply, I did have other schools I was interested in, but in the end, I knew that if I got into NYU, it would be very hard to convince me to go anywhere else. After being accepted, I attended Weekend on the Square and met the program director and other students who had gotten into NYU Music Ed. I felt such a strong connection to all of them and thought, "This is where I have to be." Well... the rest is history!