Conversations with Cavaliers Ms. Womack and Mr. Henriques

Welcome to Conversations with Cavaliers. In this series, we get to know more about our faculty and staff Cavaliers. In this issue art teacher Miss Womack converses with Mr. Henriques (2nd-6th music teacher) about his career path, penchant for baking and love for the beautiful. 

Good morning Mr. Henriques! Thanks for taking time to chat with me this morning. Let’s get right into it. How did you end up in Atlanta?

I actually was accepted in the Ph.D. program at the University of Georgia to study musicology which, if you can believe it, is an actual thing. My wife and I moved here, I found ACA, and the rest is history.

How and when did you begin playing the piano? Where was the first piano you played? 

The first piano I played was in the living room of my childhood home. I started taking lessons when I was six or seven years old because my sister played, and I wanted to do what she did. I didn’t realize at the time that you have to practice!

Did you always know you wanted to become a music teacher? Tell us a little about your journey.

No. When I was a child, I actually thought music was silly. I was that kid who never sang in class and didn’t want to do anything. As I got older I wanted to be a naval engineer and design ships. Then I took Calculus and discovered some people have certain talents and strengths and others, well, have different ones. All the while I kept practicing piano. Around eighth grade I fell in love with classical music. When my other ideas fell away, that was what always remained strong. Then I went off to college and had a couple of really good teachers who told me to ask probing questions. It dawned on me that discovering things was what I really liked. Teaching was the natural result of that.

So, a while ago we had a brownie taste test where teachers brought in brownies and we all got to vote on our favorites. It was an anonymous submission, but I voted for a particular brownie that was undeniably Mr. Henriques’. The quality of the chocolate was much more refined than the average palate. Tell me, how did you become such a master chocolatier?

After college, I worked in food and hospitality in various positions. The culmination of that was my job as a baker. When I was a baker, I decided I’d open my own shop. My wife and I worked on starting a confection shop where we would make our own candy. We were very close to opening but, in the end, decided not to. However, I still carry around the battle wounds from heating up all that candy!

Do you have any pets? If so, what are their personalities like and their names?

We have two Yorkies. Their names are Bach and Yoshi, but we did not name either of them. We adopted both. Bach is suspicious of everything and everyone. Yoshi has never met a stranger. They are total opposites!

We both traveled to Austria this summer. What is one thing about Austria that you wish America would adopt? 

In Austria they seem to be very balanced with their aesthetics. I like the saying, “The only thing worse than nostalgia is amnesia.” In America we spend too much time wishing for the good ole days or trying to forget what we have done. But in Austria, they have a great appreciation for what it is now – from the architecture to the customs. 

If you could have dinner with any musician dead or alive, who would it be and why? What would you ask him or her? 

All my fourth graders know the answer to this: Franz Haydn. He was the friendliest composer. Most composers wrote great music but were not the nicest people. He was nicknamed “Papa” for how friendly he was, and he was a model of work ethic. He did not have childhood talent – he just went after it and did it over and over again. (There’s practice for you!) If I could, I would ask him how did he get it all done?

When teaching about the artists of the past, I think it’s critical to my students’ understanding to teach them about how the artwork style is directly related to the artists’ quirks and personalities. Do you believe this is important to teach about musicians?

Without a doubt. There are a lot of composers who wrote a lot but we don’t know much about their lives, so it’s really difficult to put it into context. As a result we don’t spend a lot of time looking at their music. For example, Vivaldi – if it’s not the Four Seasons, it’s “some Vivaldi” because we don’t know a lot about him. For my students, if they know something about the people we study, then it’s not a stranger, it’s a conversation with a friend. We are more susceptible to learning and remembering something we can grab onto.

How do you “love the beautiful” outside of school, or do you have time to?

I really try to practice what I preach. If I get onto my kids about appreciating something they’re experiencing, I try to do the same. I make myself stop and think, “what is beautiful about this?” Just last weekend I was around North Point Mall, and when I looked around the trees were bright orange and so beautiful. As teachers we are so busy teaching it that it becomes easy to pass over.

Why ACA?

In short, the culture. We get to teach the art for its own sake. That is truly unique in education. I get to teach music not as a means to some other end but for its own worth, and that means a whole lot to a music teacher.