Andres David Mendoza
Andres Mendoza, an oboist, is conductor of the Wind Symphony and Brass Ensemble at Great Lakes Adventist Academy in Michigan, a position he has held since 2012. He previously taught in Venezuela and at Andrews University, where he taught oboe while completing an undergraduate degree in music.
Andres was born and raised in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, the older of two sons of Andres Segundo and Pastora Mendoza . Although his maternal grandfather was musically inclined, neither of his parents were musicians. A friend of his mother who was an oboe repairman would occasionally visit their home and on one of his visits showed them an oboe. Andres recently talked about his reaction and the chain of events that followed that visit:
When he opened that case and showed the oboe to us, my reaction was, “Wow! That is awesome!” He asked, “Would you like to come to the conservatory and learn how to play it?” I said yes and that was how it started.
I was twelve at the time and knew nothing about music instruments or the orchestra. By the time I took a year of study in theory and how to read music, which was required before you could even touch the instrument and start lessons, I was thirteen.
The program Andres was enrolled in was known as El Sistema, a publicly funded music program in Venezuela which has become internationally renowned for providing children with limited resources the opportunity for music study. Its founder, José Antonio Abreu, started the program in 1975 in response to his idea that an orchestra represents the ideal society, and the earlier a child is exposed to that environment, the better it is for the child and society as a whole.
After his orchestra amazed participants at an international competition in 1977 in Aberdeen, Scotland, Venezuela committed to fully funding the program. By the time Andres was involved in El Sistema it included 125 youth orchestras, 31 state symphony orchestras, and over 300,000 children, many of them coming from impoverished backgrounds.
After a year of oboe instruction, Mendoza became a member of the National Youth Symphony, where he played until he was seventeen. By this time he thoroughly enjoyed playing the oboe, which had become an important part of his identity, and was planning on a career in music. He attended the Simón Bolívar Conservatory in Caracas for a year and then went to Florida International University in Miami in the fall of 1999, where he learned to speak English before returning to Venezuela in 2000.
Beginning in 2001 he played professionally in the Merida State Symphony Orchestra and taught oboe at the Merida School of Music, teaching there until 2004, at which time he came to the U.S. and enrolled at Atlantic Union College. Although he knew AUC was a Christian school, he was unaware that it was a Seventh-day Adventist school, a religion he knew nothing about. He just wanted to enroll in a U.S. college and live in a foreign land. Within a year after enrolling, he had learned about the church and its beliefs. He recently talked about his experience at AUC:
I was incredibly compelled by the truths and the doctrines of the Adventist Church. I was deeply impressed by its beliefs about the Sabbath, state of the dead, and its deep understanding of the sanctuary and how it relates to salvation. I knew without a doubt that this was God’s true church and was baptized in the fall of 2005.
He transferred to Andrews University at the beginning of the spring semester in 2008, where he completed a B.Mus. Ed. with oboe as his performance area. He taught oboe at AU in his final semester, while student teaching at Lake School in Stevensville, Michigan.
While at AUC he had met Sandra Romero, a native of Maine and a nursing student. They married in December 2005 in Norridgewock, Maine, and have two children, Dominic and Sophia.
Following graduation they lived in Maine for two years before he was offered the music position at GLAA in 2012. He is planning on beginning graduate study in the summer of 2014 at Central Michigan University, where he will pursue a master’s degree during the next three summers, possibly with conducting as his performance area.
Sources: Interview with Andres Mendoza and follow-up email, November, 2014; biographies at GLAA, 2012 and 2013; Online sources.