Good Earth barista Alexandra Aguila is a dedicated worker. She is also a student at the University of Calgary. Between balancing her job and her school work, she still finds time to express her passion through music and performance, most recently with an alumni choir from her former high school, Notre Dame.
“I fell in love with the music there,” Aguila says. “That’s where it all kind of started.”
Aguila started working at the coffee shop’s Coventry Hills location shortly after she graduated in the summer of 2016. She was looking for short-term work and was contacted by Good Earth, which was her first pick.
“At first, I was super intimidated… but [my team] introduced it slowly. They gave me lots of tricks and tips to help me”.
As a barista, she handles drink-making and customer service, but also works hard to keep the location clean and organized.
Raymond Jiang, her manager, praises Aguila for her positive attitude at work.
“People are happy she’s around. She’s always full of energy, always positive.”
When she’s not at Good Earth, Aguila is also a third-year student at U of C, working towards a bachelor of commerce degree. She acknowledges that balancing all the assignments and barista work can be challenging, but she perseveres and still strives to deliver excellent service.
“I would like to keep her around,” Jiang says. “Because she does everything well, and she’s been with us for two years.”
Between her job and her school work, Aguila is still a passionate, driven musician at heart, and her journey through music and performance would take off during her time at Notre Dame High School.
Andrew Nugara, a physics teacher at Notre Dame, worked with Aguila several times.
“She was a dream student to work with,” Nugara says. “She was extremely motivated, very eager to learn”.
Starting in Grade 10, she signed up for the concert band, under the guidance of Jesse Heffernan, the head of the music program. At the time, she was still hesitant about joining the other musical ensembles and arts programs.
“I was looking over at the choir, kinda wanted to join, but I wasn’t really confident in myself. I watched the musical theatre show, and I thought it was super cute, but I didn’t see myself in it”.
Her interest in music changed suddenly near the end of Grade 10, when Heffernan showed the class the movie adaption of The Phantom of the Opera. While she only watched the first part of the movie in class, she fell in love with it.
“Oh my god — the story and the music, I was sobbing,” she jokes. “I was so impacted because I fell in love with the music”.
With a newfound passion for music and performance, Aguila wanted to do everything she could the following year. She continued into the symphonic band while also joining the jazz band, choir and musical theatre in Grade 11.
Grade 11 is where she started developing her skills as a musician and a leader, as she recalls the time she approached Heffernan with an interesting proposition for the choir:
“Because we didn’t warm up for our morning sessions, I went up to Heffernan and asked, ‘Hey, I know some warm-ups on the piano. Could I lead the first ten minutes of class for warm-ups?’”
She believes that Heffernan was impressed with Aguila’s determination, especially as a new student, and she would lead the choir for morning warm-ups from then on.
“I wanted us to be the best we could be,” says Aguila.
After high school, Aguila still tries to involve herself in musical programs. Last year, she joined the choir at U of C, but she had to skip this year because she didn’t want to overwhelm herself.
“School is really, really demanding… I don’t think I can handle taking choir,” Aguila says.
However, she was approached by Heffernan in early fall of this year with an invitation to an alumni choir — an exclusive group of some of Notre Dame’s best. She accepted willingly.
“All the high school [feelings] from like three years ago came rushing back.”
She acknowledges that it might be a struggle to try and balance both a part-time job at Good Earth and a full year of education at U of C, on top of committing to potential gigs with the alumni choir, but to Aguila, she’s ready for it.
“I was willing to devote as much time as I could to this new alumni choir,” she says. “I will do anything to make it the best it can be.”
Nugara, having worked with her for all three years of her time as a musician, praises Aguila for her confidence and her talent, but for her humility as well.
“As she’s developed into a very strong musician, she’s still remained humble”, Nugara says. “
She’s always maintained a very humble outlook and was always a team player.”
- By Deaniell Cordero