Michael Santa Cruz
NVOT’s Go-To Drummer
May 5, 2023
Whether it be playing in the pit of the annual All-School Musical or keeping the percussionists of the band program in check, there’s always one person the Golden Arts can rely on—Michael Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz, a Class of 2015 NVOT alumnus, began working with the music department during his early years of college. He came in as an occasional teacher assistant to band director Amy Wilcox and eventually started giving lectures to get a sense of what being professionally involved in the music industry was like. “It was nerve-wracking because I was an inexperienced college student, but it was such an amazing learning experience for me,” Santa Cruz said.
As an NVOT student, Santa Cruz spent his time playing drums in the band room and dedicating himself to the music program as the lead in three All School Musicals including playing Danny in Grease and the title role in Shrek. Santa Cruz always knew music was his calling, leading him to get his Bachelor of Fine Arts at The University of the Arts.
Upon his graduation in 2019, Santa Cruz looked for a place in the professional world to kick-start his career. At this time, Wilcox needed a drumline instructor for the marching band, and his official career at NVOT began. That winter he took over the jazz band, where he showed immediate success in the role.
His most memorable success from his time teaching at NVOT was during his first performance with the jazz band. Though the jazz band had never performed in the annual holiday concert, they were an instant hit. “Even though we were so new to the concert, seeing how much people enjoyed us really gave both the kids and me a lot of confidence,” he said.
Santa Cruz tries to develop relationships with each of his students. “You can see they’re comfortable enough with me to grow in their own ways,” said Santa Cruz. He believes being flexible as a director has been important to the students: “It gives them the opportunity to unleash their inner potential and reach new levels of music they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.”
“His enthusiasm for music is very evident as whenever he teaches,” said NVOT Class of 2022 graduate and former member of the music department, Eric Yoon. Yoon worked closely with him in the marching band and jazz bands all four years of his high school career. “It’s clear that he has a lot of respect and care for the students he works with.”
Santa Cruz hopes that in the future, the music programs offered at NVOT will expand to more abstract forms of music alongside the more traditional pieces and styles played. He explains that he wants his students to be able to utilize new technology and experiment with being able to communicate with each other through their horns. “I’m excited to see what’s to come and to see what the kids can do with me.”