If Rebeca Mauleón’s life were set to music, the tempo would be molto vivace (very lively). In any given week, she might be found directing her Afro-Cuban jazz ensemble, in which she plays piano and sings; leading a master class with SFJAZZ, where she is director of education; teaching a college course on music composition; or gathering material for a book of Latin music scores.
“I want to rekindle our society’s love for the arts,” she says. “As an educator, I work not only to ensure the survival of the arts, but to cultivate a high standard of excellence and creativity in the next generation of artists and educators.” Her own high standards have garnered her such honors as the San Francisco Jazz Festival’s Beacon Award for artistic excellence, a commission from the Oakland East Bay Symphony, and a Latin Grammy nomination.
Rebeca’s career as a musician and recording artist was already underway when she arrived at Mills in her twenties. “Mills was the perfect fit for my ‘forge-your-own-path’ way of doing things,” she says. “The faculty were supportive of my professional life while encouraging me to evolve outside my comfort zone. They instilled creative confidence in me and strengthened that inner voice that always told me I was on the right track, no matter how many naysayers I came across.”
After graduation, Rebeca relied on this inner voice as she began a series of research trips to Cuba, recorded and arranged for Tito Puente and Carlos Santana, and worked on her first publication, The Salsa Guidebook. She later returned to Mills to complete an MFA in music, which helped advance her teaching career. “My journey has been shaped by the experience of trying new things, taking risks, and searching for multiple ways of impacting my community as well as the arts.”