Stefan Barboza had the family home in Grant’s Pass, Oregon in his back pocket for several years. Basically, this is where the popular music teacher from Vacaville and his wife retired.
The pandemic, however, has left a gaping hole in Barboza’s pocket. And, after 40 years of teaching piano, guitar, ukulele and even banjo, Barboza packed his bags last July and fled north.
COVID-19 “forced us to move here,” Barboza said by phone Tuesday, grateful for those early stimulus checks that paid for relocation costs.
“We had to make a decision,” Barboza said. “Eventually we were going to do this (move). But when it (the pandemic) happened, it blew it up.
Unsurprisingly, “it was difficult” to say goodbye to Vacaville, Barboza said, with private education reaching a maximum of 85 students per year. He had been in town since 1976.
“It was quite difficult, I must say. I love teaching,” Barboza said. “I’ve been doing it for a long time.”
Barboza was a civilian electrician’s apprentice for nearly nine years at Mare Island when he was laid off in 1990.
“Not being a veteran didn’t help me,” he said.
From there, he found work with Raley in Vacaville.
“I liked it. It was a great job,” Barboza said.
His life, however, would soon change forever. He was hired by Ralph Martin at the Live Music Center. From there, it was “Pop” Brown who suggested Barboza take up teaching instruments.
“I started teaching guitar once a week and built up a following. I’ve been doing it ever since,” Barboza said. “I love working with children and adults and have built a great relationship. Some I keep in touch with. I always wonder how they are doing.”
If there was no pandemic, Barboza said he would still be in Vacaville teaching one of the four instruments.
“I wanted to continue,” he said, barely ready for retirement. “But my income has dropped.”
This obviously included the work that Barboza had with the trio Afterglow, because “all the concerts have stopped. It hurt the musicians a lot. Besides the restaurants being killed, the entertainment industry has been had. We decided it was time to step up a gear. »
Barboza thought he had 36 students when the country shut down in mid-March last year. Two-thirds quickly gave up and the rest “didn’t want” to take an online course.
Understandable, he said, believing there is no such thing as in-person instruction.
With online teaching, “you lose that one-on-one and intimacy,” Barboza said.
There are those alumni who stand out, he says. Like the only young student in Woodland.
“He is phenomenal. He will get there,” Barboza said. “What amazes me is that he has it all memorized. It’s something I can’t do. There are some students who get to the point where they need someone else” to reach this higher level.
Yet it is not about monetary potential, insists Barboza.
“With a musical instrument, you have to learn to play for fun. Not everyone will be the next Chopin,” Barboza said.
Thankfully, Barboza said he’s never met a completely overbearing parent.
“I think it’s important for a kid to be a kid,” he said.
For a young student to train for hours, “I think he has to have the passion to do it,” Barboza said.
During his tenure in Vacaville, Barboza was also a DJ and ran karaoke, fondly remembering the years he worked at Moose Lodge and Huey’s Pub for 10 years.
“My wife says those were the worst 10 years of her life,” laughed Barboza.
Since leaving Vacaville, Barboza has returned once. He was a DJ at a neighborhood Halloween party.
Whether as a DJ, karaoke producer or instructor, Barboza said he’s received dozens of “thank you” cards over the years, including students who follow music through college and reconnect to say how grateful they are for their early education.
“I’m still in conversation with two students I no longer teach. One is a junior in high school, the other is in college. I’m going to send them music to try to keep them inspired,” Barboza said.
To avoid rust, Barboza tries to play guitar and piano as often as possible.
“Once this COVID is over, I can try to bounce back” in Grant’s Pass, Barboza said. “Eventually, when this ends at some point, I will try to recover here and start a business. It’s a slow process.
Any former students who wish to contact Barboza can email him at [email protected]