Local Music Teacher Holds Down the Beat
By Michele Murphy
Passion, that’s the word that comes to mind when talking with accomplished musician, innovative music teacher, and Scotts Valley resident Diane Bock.
Besides her voracious appetite for learning new material to play, Ms. Bock, as her students call her, is focused on fresh ways to teach the magical language of music to her elementary school students. Bock allows them to express themselves, tell their own stories, embrace their cultures, and create, using the many forms music can take.
Growing up, Diane heard her mother play the piano and sing. Her father was a jazz pianist, and her grandmother a concert violinist, so you could say music is in her blood. When asked what she was most influenced by she said “that would have to be the strong music program I took part in in elementary school” where she says she and her twin sister were always learning to play new instruments.
Post-college and bilingual, she fell into teaching. To heed the urge to build her life around music, she enrolled at Cabrillo College and took music classes around her teaching schedule, squeezing every drop of knowledge she could out of the excellent music program there. Once she exhausted the catalog at Cabrillo, she was accepted into the San Jose State improvised music and jazz master’s program. It was difficult and intimidating at times, she says “I was so in love with the process that it didn’t matter. I just trusted that it would work out.”
Thanks to tremendous support from the community, parents who appreciate the arts, and Title 1 funding, Ms. Bock created a dynamic music program at Soquel Elementary that provides students with the opportunity to appreciate music at many levels of instruction. Twenty years in, the program has grown to over 400 students a week.
This is a challenging time to teach anything, and music is no different. But Ms. Bock says, “Arts Happen! We adjust, and use technology to bring us as close to playing together as we can. We invite family participation and use our voices and bodies more.” To engage the kids online, she has created a learning game called “found sound” and invites students to go find things in their homes that they can make music with. The Santa Cruz Symphony has donated a traditional recorder instrument to every child so they can play and practice at home, and they are singing and even doing some composing. What she says she’s observed during her Zoom classes is a sense of happiness and stress release at a time when kids are missing their friends and the social interaction in-person learning provides.
In her free time, it’s all about that bass, saying “I fell in love with the depth and sound connection the bass creates with other instruments.” As former lead vocalist in her own jazz quintet called Di4Jazz, Diane says, “I love to play everything from Blues to Jazz to Bluegrass and Folk and love being in the groove as the backbone of the band instead of being up front.” For the past year she’s been that very backbone in SLV’s own Buffalo Blues Trio, which got four shows in before all the venues shut down. She’s excited to be learning new material in preparation for performing again. “In a trio, every note counts, and there is so much freedom to move around… there’s an intimacy and collaboration that is necessary with three people.”
Music creates good people in the world by cultivating life tools like commitment, persistence, tenacity, collaboration, creativity, and cooperation. Ms. Bock says these are all Habits of Mind that teach kids to innovate, to imagine, to create… and that is what she is all about.
Michele Murphy is a writer, Energy Efficiency Consultant, and singer-songwriter based in Felton. An avid music lover, she is entrenched in the local music scene both as a performer and a fan.
Featured photo by Brittwood Creatives