When it comes to sharing her passion for music with KidWorks’ students, Sidra Villacorta never misses a beat.  Literally.


That’s how Rachel Cervantes, program leader at our Dan Donahue Center, describes the way our September 2020 “Volunteer of the Month” brought the joy of Latin jazz music to our students during our online “Camp Hope” summer program.

“Although we had to do our programs over the Internet because of COVID-19, Sidra never missed a beat,” Rachel says.  “She thought of new, innovative ways to bring the amazing qualities of summer camp to the virtual world, using music.”

Rachel describes Sidra’s dedication to our students as “unparalleled.”

Sidra is a high school senior at Orange County School of the Arts and founded the Latin Jazz Project: Ignite Your Rhythm in 2019.

“Sidra leads our students every step of the way on their journey to loving music and using it as a creative outlet,” Rachel says.  “The leadership qualities she brings to her team as well as to our  staff team are so impressive.  She does all this with grace while juggling the responsibilities of a high school senior.”

In 2019, Sidra led a two-week Latin jazz music program during our summer camp, which that year was an in-person event.  She’s also conducted music sessions as part of KidWorks University, which are volunteer-led workshops focused on art, science, dance, creative writing, and more.

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Because the COVID-19 pandemic meant KidWorks’ 2020 summer camp had to take place completely on-line, Sidra pivoted and moved the two-week music program to a virtual setting, where 30 students participated.

“The purpose and goal of the Latin Jazz Project is to introduce Latin jazz percussion instruments and rhythms to students so that they can express themselves, find their own voices, and come together for the good of the community,” Sidra says.  “I also hope that they become more confident in themselves and learn to never be afraid to try new things.”

For the 2020 music program, Sidra planned the curriculum and lessons to adapt to an online setting and worked with Orange County School of the Arts to develop the rhythm kits that enabled the students to have access to their own instruments at home.  Sidra also led the online music lessons along with two other peer volunteers.

Conducting an online music program was not without real challenges.  Many of our students have limited to no online access.  And even when they do have Internet services, many struggle with old laptops and computers, and must share these limited resources with siblings who are also participating in their schools’ online learning programs while at home.

“The most rewarding part of the summer camp this year was seeing how far the students came since the beginning of the program,” Sidra says.  “Even though it was virtual, the students were still able to grasp the instruments with confidence.  It was so rewarding to see them grow over the two weeks of camp.  This was a meaningful opportunity to offer the kids an outlet to express themselves despite the quarantine.  It’s hard to be cooped up in your house or apartment all the time, so providing them the chance to play music, draw pictures, dance and just have fun was one of the best impacts of the camp.”

Sidra says she is filled with joy seeing how much our students enjoyed the Latin jazz music program.

“One young student was struggling a bit with some aspects of the lessons, but by the end of camp she was able to play the shaker perfectly on beat,” Sidra says.  “She kept asking for solos because she loved playing the shaker.  Other kids were extremely shy at the beginning of the workshop and didn’t even want to turn on their camera or play music by themselves.  By the end, they were playing the instruments with ease and weren’t afraid to show videos of their performances.”

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Adds Sidra, “I believe that The Latin Jazz Project is such a good fit with KidWorks because my program is geared towards underprivileged youth in the community, and KidWorks directly serves the underserved.  

Additionally, KidWorks focuses on providing art and music education to their students; my project focuses heavily on music and art.  The demographic of most KidWorks students is Latinx, and my camp teaches Latin music to these kids, which helps them connect with their culture.”

Rachel says that Sidra’s style and approach is one our students really respond to enthusiastically. 

“Sidra is consistent in all aspects of the music program she leads,” Rachel says.  “That dependability means everything to our students.  She remembers their names and always takes time to ask them how they were doing.  She and her father, Brian, generously purchased imprinted shirts out of their own funds so that the kids would have a picture opportunity and proudly sport them even after summer was over. Talk about thinking ahead and creating an inviting and united group!”

Vanessa Sedano, KidWorks’ Volunteer Coordinator,  says Sidra is “a young, bright individual who is passionate for the work she does alongside her team.”  Adds Vanessa, “She has been a great partner and such a sweet individual to work alongside with.”

When she’s not pursuing her studies and leading Latin Jazz Project: Ignite Your Rhythm, Sidra enjoys her two favorite hobbies, songwriting and playing music.  She also loves bike riding, baking banana bread and spending play time with her dog, Rocco, an Australian Shepherd, who she says is “the sweetest dog you’ll ever meet.” 

Sidra plans to major in biology in college, then attend medical school and become a doctor.

Studies by Harvard Medical School and other research groups show that music heals.  How appropriate that our September “Volunteer of the Month” uses music in that way, and also plans a career caring for others as a physician.