Estes Park Trail Gazette – Percussionist finds groove in Estes Park

By Marion Stallworth

Percussionist Juan Torres had a dream to explore the world. That dream led him to a career in music education and eventually to Estes Park.

Torres was born and raised in Ecuador. He grew up studying orchestra percussion and desired to pursue a music education abroad. A teacher in Ecuador urged to him to apply to VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, a small private college that specialized in training music educators. Torres was accepted into the school and later earned his bachelor’s degree in music education.

“I never thought of teaching as a profession,” Torres said. “It’s always been a part of everything that I do. Growing up in orchestra, everyone was always helping one another. Even in other classes, I would often help my classmates if they didn’t understand something.”

Torres met his wife Meghan Tokunaga while they were both students at VanderCook. The pair taught in the Chicago Public School system before deciding to move to Tokunaga’s home state of Colorado.

In August 2014, Tokunaga accepted a dream job as a music instructor at Eagle Rock School. The couple relocated to Estes Park and Torres began assisting with the Estes Park High School summer band camp. Eventually the school had an opening for a percussion instructor and Torres transitioned into the role under band director Sheridan Monroe.

Torres credits Monroe with his success teaching within the band. He enjoys working in a support role with the percussion students and is inspired by the way his students develop from his teaching and advice.

“It’s extremely motivating,” Torres said. “I didn’t always have that experience back in Chicago.”

In addition to teaching percussion, Torres performs locally with the Estes Park Village Band Jazz Big Band.

“When I was in Ecuador I mainly studied orchestra percussion. It was because of VanderCook that I started to explore world percussion and drum set. Now, that’s what I love,” Torres said.

Torres, Tokunaga and their Australian Shepherd Luna live at Eagle Rock School where they serve as house parents.

“She (Luna) loves living at Eagle Rock,” Torres said. “She has space to run and at least 60 more people around to pet her. It was a great change for her, going from an apartment in Chicago to living in the mountains.”

Torres typically fills his weeks planning, practicing, writing music and teaching music lessons. But like many Estes Park residents, he finds it important to take advantage of the proximity to nature and outdoor activities available here. Torres and Tokunaga enjoy spending time hiking, meditating and visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park.

He recalls moving to Estes Park and immediately noticing that everyone they met was friendly and positive.

“Working with Sheridan is amazing. Eagle Rock is amazing. We are extremely happy to be here and we feel very welcomed by the community,” Torres said.