May 21, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Our BIPOC heroes: Maestro Ricardo Llamas

8 min read
The Youth Radio Project welcomes Maestro Ricardo Llamas, an educator, a musician, and one of our all-time favorite teachers.

Ezekiel: Welcome everyone. We’re Navi, Will, Vi, Sunyu, Naveen, Kenzie, Indra, Jenny, Mariko, Bea, Otto, Indigo, and Ricardo Llamas. Together we are BIPOC heroes.

[00:00:15] Today, the Youth Radio team has the honor of interviewing Maestro Ricardo Llamas as our guest. Maestro Llamas is an educator and a musician, and he is one of our all-time favorite teachers. He currently teaches at Buena Vista Elementary School. Welcome, Maestro Llamas.

[00:00:35] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: Thank you for having me.

[00:00:36] Vihaan: What do you like about teaching ?

[00:00:39] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: I think my favorite part about teaching is being able to talk with youth, with kids. I think it kind of helps keep me grounded and It also gives me a, I guess I get a set stage and I get a captive audience because you guys can’t really leave. So I get to tell you my stories and most of the time you guys listen pretty well.

[00:01:00] Youth Radio Project: What inspired you to be a teacher?

[00:01:04] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: I actually, I never wanted to be a teacher. I was working a lot of different jobs and I’ve done so many different jobs and I had one person who told me I should try to work for the schools, and I was like, okay.

[00:01:21] So I was actually really good at getting jobs, and when I tried to start working for the schools was the first time I ever got turned down for a job. Not once, not twice, but probably three or four times. And then finally it was at Camino del Río which was my first job. And I got interviewed for an office position, so office helper and kind of an office or school manager/secretary.

[00:01:48] Which I knew I wasn’t going to get. So I thought I would try it and I was so confident that I was not going to get the job, that I was really relaxed and I was kind of joking around with the people and when I left, like I said, I knew I wasn’t going to get it. So when I went home, I got a phone call and they told me, I had a job.

[00:02:12] I worked in the office and I loved it ʻcause I knew over 300 students’ names, first names. That felt great and I worked in the office for about a month or two months. And there was our teacher, who was an ELD (English Language Development) teacher, needed somebody to cover for them for just one class. And they asked me to do it and I said, sure.

[00:02:35] And I had a lot of fun. And it was about two more months after that, ‘We need you to work with kids.’ And that’s how I started being an instructional assistant. And I did that for six years.

[00:02:51] And the whole time, I had a few teachers that were telling me, a BIPOC hero of mine, one particularly was Susan Dwoskin, who passed away a few years ago. And she was just an amazing human being. And she kept telling me, you have to be a teacher. You need to go work with, you need to have your own class. It was about five years, six years into it, and then I started going back to school to be a teacher and then I fell in love with it.

[00:03:09] Navi: Who influenced you as a teacher?

[00:03:11] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: That person who I quoted, Susan Dwoskin. Another person who passed not long ago was (Gloria) Jean Dunbar, who’s phenomenal. Her daughters are amazing teachers in the district as well. And there’s actually so many teachers that I’ve worked with, but I would have to say it was Maria Juarez, who was my kindergarten and third grade teacher, just the best teacher ever in the whole world.

[00:03:35] Yeah, so she was really my inspiration.

[00:03:37] Vihaan: Since you are an elementary school teacher, what is your favorite subject to teach?

[00:03:42] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: My favorite subject to teach is the subject I’m not supposed to teach would be music.

[00:03:49] I like teaching songs when I have a good song to teach. But if I were to stick with just one subject, I might have to go with social studies. And I haven’t really been able to teach social studies as much as I’d like to, but I think I like to look at social studies from the lens of a non-traditional perspective.

[00:04:11] So when we would study Oregon Trail and people would want to study about just the pioneers, I’d try to look at it from the Native perspective. And we tried to recognize, the tribes that were ignored in all the history books and the Indigenous people who’ve been dealing with that plight since forever.

[00:04:29] Ezekiel: If you weren’t a teacher, what would your job have been?

[00:04:33] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: I would do something with my hands. I think I would probably either be in construction or woodworking or what I went to school for was to be an electrical engineer, but I realized that what I really liked to do was build the electronics.

[00:04:51] And so I would love to be able to work with music. And so I think I’d really want to be either a builder or a studio engineer who gets to design and build kind of studios like this and manage the sound systems and all that kind of stuff.

[00:05:06] Ezekiel: One of our favorite things about being in your class is that you teach us through your own experience.

[00:05:13] Navi: I remember one (story), it wasn’t involving your siblings, but the one where you accidentally lit yourself on fire. That one was very memorable.

[00:05:19] Wil: I remember the one about the baby deer that you found.

[00:05:22] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: Oh, yes. Yeah, the fawn. Yeah, that was a little bit sad.

[00:05:28] Ezekiel: In addition to being a teacher, you also are a musician. How long have you been playing music?

[00:05:36] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: I think I first picked up a guitar to start playing at, I think at about 12 years old.

[00:05:45] Youth Radio Project: Who inspired you to play music?

[00:05:48] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: The first time I really started playing music was because my best friend, and his name was Bobby, Bobby Garcia, his family was very musical and he pulled out a guitar and of course, like a lot of times you want to do what your friends are doing. And I was hooked. I saw what he was doing and I thought it was super cool.

[00:06:06] Bea: What is your favorite song?

[00:06:08] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: That’s too hard. That’s a too-hard question. This is, I can’t answer it.

[00:06:13] Vihaan: What is the name of your band and what kind of music do you play?

[00:06:17] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: Right now I’m playing with a project called Llorona and we started off playing songs that were based off of Mexican folk tales and ghost stories.

[00:06:29] But it had a lot of a, kind of a flamenco, it has more of a flamenco feel to it right now. But we’re trying to incorporate or feel this son jarocho. So we’re getting some elements from Spain, some from Mexico.

[00:06:43] I’ve played a lot of Cuban music, a lot of Cuban son. And so we’re kind of putting some of these things together with a very poetic element. Yeah, that’s my project right now, Llorona.

[00:06:56] I was also playing with another group called Malanga, which is more kind of an Afro-Funk Groove. And so when we get together, that’s a lot of fun.

[00:07:38] Ezekiel: We know that you like to play bass guitar, and we had this question that is: What is your favorite bass guitar? Thunderbird or a P Funk bass?

[00:07:49] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: Okay. If I had to choose between those two, I would say that the Thunderbird wins on cool factor, but I would rather play a P bass. That just feels a lot better. It’s a better feeling instrument.

[00:08:01] Navi: What are your favorite type of strings and your favorite amount of strings on a guitar?

[00:08:06] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: On a guitar? Okay. That’s really interesting because there’s so many different types of strings. I would say six strings and I would go with nylon. Right now I’m playing Augustine Blues, which is the first kind of classical guitar string I’ve ever played. And I’ve been trying out all these different kinds and spending too much money on research, and I keep coming back to the same one.

[00:08:31] Ezekiel: We have a few more things to ask you. Do you like movies or video games? If so, which do you have recommended?

[00:08:41] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: Movies all day. I don’t play video games. And I’m a huge Marvel movie fan, so I’ve seen all of them, most of them several times. A few of ’em, just a few. Big fan of Wakanda Forever. I’m not sure if I like it better than the first one, but they’re both so good. I like a lot of the superhero movies. I like the heroʻs journey a lot, and I think the Marvel movies do really well with that. Another great one, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, has been a classic that I’ve loved. I like a lot of movies.

[00:09:15] Bea: What is your favorite book?

[00:09:18] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: My favorite book is Fernando. Oh. My favorite kid’s book is Fernando. My favorite adult book, oh, it’s still a kid’s book. It would probably be the Harry Potter series. My favorite adult adult book, would probably be Breathe, an autobiographical book about Rickson Gracie, a Brazilian Jujitsu hero.

[00:09:40] Youth Radio Project: Who is one of your BIPOC heroes?

[00:09:42] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: Prince would be a big one. Eliades Ochoa. Ernest Ranglin, who’s like the greatest guitarist ever in Jamaica, Bob Marley. They all tend to be pretty much musicians. those kind of heroes just listening to what they do with their inspiration and how they motivate people to often change the world. Yeah, those would be a few.

[00:10:06] Wil: Is there a message you want to share with young people like us?

[00:10:10] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: You know, I think about my own children and I think about how I want to leave the world a better place than when I got here. And a lot of adults right now have been so focused on being in charge and taking control and exerting their power and all this other stuff, but I feel like more than anything, what we really want to do is make sure that adults know that we’re borrowing the world right now from you guys.

[00:10:38] We have some amazing parents here right now that are trying to make the world a better place and to try to give you guys a beautiful place to live, and to care for, and to support. And when I come into a room with this many people focused around such beautiful, positive things, I’m given a lot of hope.

[00:10:56] And so I hope that we can keep giving that to each other. It’s the reason why I like to talk to kids because you guys are alive and dynamic and unique, and your ideas are solely your own. And I hope that you guys are able to continue being original and unique and positive.

[00:11:16] Ezekiel: Thank you for being here with us, Maestro Llamas. Gracias.

[00:11:20] Maestro Ricardo Llamas: Gracias a ustedes. It’s been amazing. It’s fantastic to see you all here and I really appreciate being in this hot seat.

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