How the Jascha Heifetz Studio Found Its Home at Colburn

Music has an incredible power to whisk you away to another place and time. It’s an entirely different experience, however, to be transported to another place and time by entering the intimate surroundings where an iconic musician composed, rehearsed, and spent his personal moments. That’s the surreal sensation people experience walking into the Jascha Heifetz Studio, located in the Colburn School’s Grand Avenue building. 

“I played for Heifetz in this room when it was at his house in Bel Air. My memories are that I walked into another world at that moment, and it was a special world,” recalls Robert Lipsett, the Jascha Heifetz Distinguished Violin Chair for the Conservatory of Music. 

“If someone told me at that time, this would be my teaching studio some day and it would reside inside a school that didn’t yet exist, I would have said that’s a bit too much to swallow,” he adds. “Now, it’s a monument, a sanctuary, a museum, and it’s where I work all rolled into one.” 

Securing History  

Jascha Heifetz is regarded as a preeminent violinist of the 20th century. A child prodigy, he made his formal debut at age eight, earning the awe of the classical world by the time he appeared in Carnegie Hall at age 17.  

“Nothing was ever the same,” says Lipsett. “He is the one who set the modern standard of violin playing.” 

Becoming a naturalized American citizen in 1929, Heifetz began calling Los Angeles his home. In the late 1940s, architect Lloyd Wright, who was also a friend of Heifetz, designed the hexagonal building that sat adjacent to the violinist’s Coldwater Canyon home. The original floorplan contained the studio, a bedroom-office, small kitchen, and bathroom. It’s been reported that Heifetz spent much of his retirement in these private rooms. 

After his death in 1987, actor James Wood purchased the property with the intent to demolish the existing structures. Before the first hammer came down, he let it be known that he would cooperate with anyone or any organization willing to assume the financial responsibility to physically remove and preserve the studio. First came the Los Angeles Conservancy, offering to sponsor a larger search. The Skirball Museum expressed a desire to house the studio and the Friends of Runyon Canyon envisioned it as a future visitors’ center. A Brentwood ophthalmologist even bid to have the studio added to his own Lloyd Wright home. Unfortunately, none of these offers panned out. 

The idea of preserving the studio as a monument to Heifetz seemed to be waning in the early 1990s when Hortense Singer contacted Colburn’s then-Executive Director Toby Mayman on the chance the School would step in. Recognizing the historical and architectural value the studio represented as well as the inspirational value the environment could provide students, Mayman immediately presented the proposal to Richard D. Colburn. According to a 1999 article in The Los Angeles Times, the School’s benefactor promised $40,000 only if Mayman matched the sum. She accepted the challenge and succeeded. Next came the unprecedented task of dismantling, moving, and rebuilding the studio entirely inside another building.  

Piecing Together the Future 

Architect Harold Zellman managed the “reverse engineering” of dissembling the studio. His team photographed, labeled, and painstakingly wrapped each one of the nearly 1,000 pieces.  

However, construction of the Grand Avenue campus needed to be completed first, so the dismantled Jascha Heifetz studio went into storage for years. Then in 1999, the pieces were unpacked and fastidiously reconstructed based on a computer model created during the dissembling. The challenge was to not only recreate the unique environment just as Heifetz left it, but also bring it up to current safety codes. 

Today, the Heifetz Studio remains a moment in history. The room still houses the musician’s blue-green daybed, file cabinets adorned with cartoon clippings, the custom-built desk designed by Wright, and even a built-in television and turntable. 

Because there are no right angles and the shape of the ceiling, I can’t imagine a more ideal acoustic environment to teach in,” says Lipsett, whose has conducted classes in the studio for the past 25 years. There is a golden element to the sound, an aura to the sounds. All the teaching spots in Colburn are great, but when I come into the Heifetz Studio, I have been transported to an older time. There is not a day that goes by that I am not humbled to work in this place.  

“But, I have never, and will never, sit in the chair behind his desk. That is Heifetz’s place, and out of respect, I cannot sit there,” promises Lipsett.  

Photos by Abby Mahler.

The Herbert and Trudl Zipper Archives Collection—An Archivist’s Perspective

For almost a year, I have had the pleasure of working on the Herbert and Trudl Zipper Archival Collection. The collection arrived in a state of mild organization but has since gone through extensive archival processing: surveying, arranging, describing, and preserving the collection. During my initial survey of the collection, I discovered incredible artifact after incredible artifact: a 1920s newspaper clippings featuring glowing reviews of a teenage Trudl Dubsky’s performance with the Bodenwieser Dance Group, a telegram from Leonard Bernstein wishing Zipper “all the best” on opening night of the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra (which Zipper revived), and a 1953 cassette tape containing a Zipper conducted Manila Symphony Orchestra performance of Beethoven’s “Eroica,” just to name a few. As of now, the collection has largely been arranged in an order that respects how Zipper had it organized and in a way that will make the collection accessible to interested researchers. The collection has also been stabilized through preservation activities like removing rusty staples, placing photographs in protective sleeves, and rehousing materials in acid-free folders and boxes. Another preservation tactic that doubles to foster access is digitization. Early in the project, I acquired a fantastic scanner to digitally preserve select papers, photographs, concert programs, newspaper clippings, etc.

I have also enlisted the USC Digital Library to help me digitize materials I am unable to digitize myself, including fragile scrapbooks, music manuscripts, concert posters, and cassette tapes. Just this past week, I received an email from USC’s Digital Library containing a file made from the lone film reel in the collection. Due to the physical condition of the reel, I was unable to discern the content before sending it off for digitization, so I downloaded the file with much anticipation. The payoff was more than I could have hoped for, the reel contained a 1954 film of Zipper conducting the Manila Symphony Orchestra for local school children. Zipper was known for school concerts he conducted in Brooklyn, Manila, Chicago, and Los Angeles. To have footage of him from the 1950s conducting a school concert is quite the find. It is moments like these that make my work extremely gratifying.

While my work is not done, it has progressed well, and I look forward to sharing more of the collection as the project progresses. If you have not wandered past the library recently, you can view an exhibit featuring materials from the collection about a famous Manila Symphony Orchestra performance conducted by Herbert Zipper following the liberation of Manila in 1945. The exhibit was curated by the fantastic UCLA graduate school intern, Chris Miehl, who helped me process and digitize the collection. For now, please enjoy the materials you see here from the extraordinary lives of the Zippers.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the generous support of Ann Moore.

Learn more about the Herbert and Trudl Zipper Archives Collection

  • Letter from Herbert Zipper to Mother from Dachau (1938)
  • Original Manuscript of “Dachau Lied” (1938)
  • Scrapbook Page Featuring Materials from Trudl Dubsky’s Career with Bodenwieser Group (1930)
  • Herbert Zipper Instructing a Member of the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra (1949)
  • “Paco” a Watercolor by Trudl Dubsky Zipper (1945)

Dance Academy Students Present the World Premiere of Contour and Flight

Trudl Zipper Dance Institute’s Dean Margaret Tracey sought to infuse this year’s Winter Dance Celebration performance with a commissioned piece from L.A.’s rich local talent. Reaching out to Janie Taylor, a member of L.A. Dance Project and a former instructor for Colburn Dance, presented an exciting proposition to mix contemporary with classical ballet influences.

Dean Tracey expressed her appreciation for Janie’s “extraordinary artistry as a ballerina … and I support amplifying the female voice in the language of classical ballet and in the exploration of the use of the pointe shoe.”

At the age of 15, Janie studied at the School of American Ballet before she joined the New York City Ballet where she danced for close to 16 years. After some time abroad when both she and her husband worked at the Paris Opera Ballet, they returned to the States where Janie joined L.A. Dance Project, a company founded by Artistic Director Benjamin Millepied.

With a short timeline for the commissioned piece, titled “Contour and Flight,” Janie reached out to collaborate with composer, David K. Israel, who has a long history of writing scores for dance, such as for Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, and the New York City Ballet. Having studied guitar in high school with Philadelphia-based jazz guitarist Pat Martino, David later studied composition with Leonard Bernstein while simultaneously studying dance history with the late Truman Finney, who had danced with George Balanchine at the New York City Ballet.

In discussing the influence of performing arts, Janie said that dance is “something I’ve always had to do—it’s just inside me, a part of who I am. And it’s something you have to love because of how physically and mentally demanding it is. I always enjoy the effort it requires and the challenges it presents. Dance gives so much back to you.”

David recollected having started composing at the age of five, though his first “official” piece was written at the youthful age of 12, an homage to Jimmy Hendrix titled “Fly Through the Wind, Jimmy.” And in referencing the pull of the theatre, David said, “It is like a temple, and the experience is spiritual and nourishing for my soul. When I’m not in the theatre or creating for something that’s going to be in the theatre, I feel sort of empty.”

Turning to the collaborative process of composing and developing choreography for “Contour and Flight,” Janie listened to a few pieces David had existing and identified one that resonated with her vision. “The music itself had given me ideas about what I could do with it,” said Janie. However, there still needed to be an accompaniment, and David accepted the challenge to compose a piece in a compressed amount of time based on general direction from Janie, such as tempo, length, tone, and emotion.

“One thing I thought about a lot for this piece was that these students are studying the Balanchine style of ballet and what that means. And I wanted to make something where they would be able to showcase all of those skills that they’re learning from this technique, … and I wanted them to be able to exercise that very specific musicality that they’re learning. I think that David’s music lends itself very well to the dynamic and speed and musical changes that are also usually in the music of a Balanchine ballet. So, I thought it would be a really good fit to use his music for this.”

David shared that the first movement he started writing was based on Vivaldi’s Sonata for Violin and Harp. He wanted the new music to feel as homogenous as possible with the first movement already composed.

“I knew that it was going to have a slightly more modern feel to it, but not completely divorced from the sort of baroque inspirations. So, you get a lot of early baroque kind of chord progressions, but with syncopations and odd time signatures and all kinds of wonderful jazzy stuff that just wouldn’t have been possible in Vivaldi’s day,” said David.

For the choreography, the juxtaposition of Janie’s classical ballet training and the freedom and boldness that L.A. Dance Project provides has enabled Janie to leverage both in her choreographic process and decision-making for “Contour and Flight.”

“Different choreographic processes I have experienced, including those while dancing with L.A. Dance Project, have opened my eyes to how many ways there are to choreograph and that there are no rules at all as to what choreography could be. Whereas in my mind before, there was a very specific way that choreography would happen,” said Janie. “This was very illuminating and opened up my mind to endless possibilities.”

For “Contour and Flight,” which features eight Dance Academy students, Janie was excited to choreograph her first piece for Pointe, as this was a divergence from the type of work experienced at L.A. Dance Project.

“Pointe was a huge part of my life dancing and something that I love. So, it was exciting to get to have that be a part of what I would make,” said Janie.

In discussing her choreographic process, she said, “A lot of times, I hear steps. I think in some ways, I feel like the dance is there already. It’s like archeology, and I have to uncover it and figure out the puzzle…. I use a lot of imagery which can come from anywhere, from my everyday life or more fantasy type images and ideas.”

Working with the Dance Academy students to prepare “Contour and Flight,” Janie stated, “They were all really great and were open to trying things. They didn’t seem like students … they seemed like young artists who are ready to be in a company.” She further noted, “It was really exciting to allow them to have their individuality and include them in talking about the steps, letting them have a voice [such as] how do we make this smoother?” Overall, Janie hopes the students “gained valuable experience being part of a choreographic process. [Noting that], as a young dancer, you maybe don’t get a lot of that experience until you’re in a company.”

“I had so much fun with them, which was a big part of it too—for us to also enjoy ourselves. And I hope they gained experience that will help them wherever they go from here,” said Janie.

“Contour and Flight” receives its world premiere in the Colburn Winter Dance Celebration 7:00 pm performance on December 16.

Learn about all the events for the Colburn Winter Dance Celebration and purchase tickets.

Colburn Participates in the California Festival Kicking Off November 3

This month, The Colburn School joins over 100 organizations in the inaugural California Festival: A Celebration of New Music. This two-week statewide festival was created by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, and San Francisco Symphony to celebrate new music. Criteria for music featured in the festival require that it be written within the past five years and be innovative and compelling. The founding organizations’ music directors Gustavo Dudamel, Rafael Payare, and Esa-Pekka Salonen sought to promote an event that “highlights the collaborative and innovative spirit that thrives in California.”

The 100 participating organizations include 15 youth orchestras across the state of California, and 24 nationalities are represented across the more than 180 works composed, including 36 premieres. Performances will take place across more than 90 venues. In a recent interview with San Francisco Classical Voice, Colburn’s Artistic Administration Manager Nick Gianopoulos said “At its core, I believe the shared goal of exemplifying the excellence of artistic creations of today is what motivates and inspires each of the participating organizations.”

From November 4 through 18, The Colburn School will be presenting four performances which span orchestral and chamber music, including a much-anticipated afternoon with composer, pianist, and Colburn alumnus Kris Bowers (Bridgerton, Secret Invasion, Haunted Mansion).

The Colburn School’s California Festival Line-up:

Colburn Orchestra: Shostakovich, Brahms, and Ogonek
Conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen
Saturday, November 4 at 8 pm, The Soraya
Moondog for Orchestra (2022) by Elizabeth Ogonek

Colburn Chamber Music Society with Flutist Jennifer Grim
Sunday, November 12 at 3 pm, Zipper Hall
Lakescape VII for Flute and Vibraphone (2019) by Lei Liang
Hide and Seek for Piccolo, Three Flutes, and Two Alto Flutes (2020) by Allison Loggins-Hull

Colburn Contemporary Ensemble
Thursday, November 16 at 7 pm, Thayer Hall
Sundial for String Quartet and Percussion (2021) By Samuel Carl Adams

Amplify Artist: Kris Bowers, Composer and Pianist
Saturday, November 19 at 3 pm, Thayer Hall
Selections from Violin Concerto (2019) by Kris Bowers
Selections from Horn Concerto (2021)
Selected Excerpts from Film Composition

Other local favorites performing include the Inner City Youth Orchestra of LA, Jacaranda Music, LA Master Chorale, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. Performances will take place in concert halls, educational institutions, auditoriums, clubs, and alternative spaces, making access to broad audiences possible. The festival is grounded in live performance but aims to “give a voice to artists.”

While speaking with San Francisco Classical Voice and reflecting on what the festival might accomplish in the long term, Gianopoulos said “I hope that the California Festival further cements the West Coast as a major hub for innovative and thoughtful programming and paves the way for other artistic and academic institutions to develop similar programming initiatives.”

The California Festival is supported by the Association of California Symphony Orchestras. Learn more about Colburn’s programming and other participating organizations:

Student Accomplishments 2023–24

January 2024

Music Academy student Esme Arias-Kim, violin, is a 2024 YoungArts Award winner in Classical Music and Violin, won the Gold Medal in the Strings Category at the Vancouver Symphony Young Artist Competition, nas well as First Place in the YPSCA Young People’s Concerto Competition.

Music Academy student David Choi, piano, is a 2024 YoungArts Award winner in Classical Music and piano.

Music Academy student Lillian Feng, piano, is a 2024 YoungArts Award winner in Classical Piano.

Community School student Kayla Kim, viola, made the 2024 California High School All State Orchestra.

Community School student Jayden Kim, viola, made the 2024 California High School All State Orchestra.

Conservatory student Vivian Kukiel, violin, won Section Violin in the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Conservatory student Ann Kuo, flute, placed first at the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra Young Artists Competition, and will return in April 2024 for a solo chamber recital and concerto performance with the Symphony Orchestra and conductor Arturo Gonzalez.

Conservatory student Ye (Melody) Yuan, violin, won Section Violin in the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Community School student James Park, violin, won Second Prize in Best Mozart Performance, Trio Dolce, at Great Composers Competition 2024.

Community School student Joanne Park, clarinet, made the 2024 California All State Ensemble for Band and Southern California School Band & Orchestra Honors Band.

Community School student Mina Ree, violin, won First Prize in the 2021 Golden Classical Music Awards International Competition.

Community School student Shinaya Shin, piano, won First Prize at the 3rd Concordia Music Competition.

Community School student Yuhwan Shin, trumpet, made the 2024 California All State Ensemble for Band and Southern California School Band & Orchestra Honors Band.

Conservatory student Diego Stine, tuba, won the tuba audition at the US Air Force Band of the Golden West.

Music Academy student Eiline Tai, cello, is a 2024 YoungArts Award winner in Classical Music and Violincello.

Community School Liam Thomas, violin, won Second Prize in Best Mozart Performance, Trio Dolce, at Great Composers Competition 2024.

Community School student Alexander Wang, piano, won First Prize in the CAPMT Honors Competition.

Community School student Iris Xiong, violin, won Second Prize in Best Mozart Performance, Trio Dolce, at Great Composers Competition 2024.

Community School student Hayley Yoon, clarinet, made the 2024 California All Southern California School Band & Orchestra Honors Band.

Music Academy student Shinah (Sheena) Youn, cello, won First Place in the solo cateogry of the 10th Camerata Artists International Competition.

Music Academy student, Nathaniel Yue, cello, is a 2024 Young Arts Award winner in Classical Music.

Community School student Leo Zang, composition, won the Award of Excellence in the Music Composition category with his original composition “Dream” at the 12th School District PTA Reflection Program.

December 2023

Conservatory student Eder River Acosta, oboe, won the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Oboe Fellowship.

Conservatory student James Baik, cello, was selected as a winner of Young Concert Artists Susan Wadsworth International Auditions.

Music Academy student Hannah Cho, oboe, was selected to be a finalist and bronze medal winner in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Annual Young Aritst Competition, won first place in the California Senior Woodwind Performance Competition, and was selected to be a 2023–24 Fellow in From the Top’s Learning and Media Lab.

Conservatory student Ian Mertes, trumpet, won second trumpet with the Atlanta Symphony, and will begin in January 2024.

Conservatory student Diego Stine, tuba, was selected as a finalist for the 2024 United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” Solo Tuba Competition and will perform in Washington, DC, this February.

Conservatory student Benett Tsai, cello, was selected as a winner of Young Concert Artists Susan Wadsworth International Auditions.

November 2023

Community School student Robison Louie, cello, received the gold medal in the Violoncello Senior 2023 Bach Complete Works Audition.

Community School student Karolina Protsenko, violin, will perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor with Orchestra Nova Los Angeles.

Community School student Liam Thomas, violin, received first prize in the San Francisco Young Artist International Music Competition.

Community School student Bram Ziomek, piano, received honorable mention in the California Division of the 2023 Music Teachers National Association Composition Competition.

October 2023

Community school student Kento Ishikawa, piano, is a finalist in the Nashville International Chopin Piano Competition. He will compete in the final round in October.

Conservatory student Danielle Kim, flute, performed the Reinecke Flute Concerto with the Flint Symphony Orchestra in March 2023, after winning first place at the William C. Byrd Young Artist Competition in 2022.

Community school student Skyler Lee, violin, received first prize in the 13th annual Henry Schwab Violin and Viola Competition.

Community school student Cosmo Lieberman, jazz saxophone, performed Alto Saxophone with the 2023 Carnegie Hall National Youth Orchestra Jazz Ensemble, as well as the 2023 Monterey Jazz Festival Next Generation Big Band.

Community school student Andrew Peng, violin, received first prize in the United Stars Music Competition, the USA Music Composition International Competition, and the Charleston International Music Competition (19th Century Music). Andrew was also a major prize winner in the Satori Summer Music Festival, receiving the grand prize special award in the 9 and Under Category, as well as first prize in the Strings Open Category and Strings Qualified Category.

Conservatory student Elvin Schlanger, flute, won second prize at the National Flute Association, Young Artist Competition, and was a finalist in the Sphinx Orchestra Partners Audition.

Community school student Samina Schultz, Music Theory, received third prize in the Charleston International Music Competition (19th Century Music).

Community school student Luciano Soriano, jazz trombone, performed with the 2023 Monterey Jazz Festival Next Generation Big Band.

Community school student Kaito le Tenoux, piano, received first prize in the International Association of Professional Music Teachers’ US Grand Concours International.

Community school student Bryan Tseng, cello, was a winner of the Los Angeles Cello Annual Scholarship audition.

Conservatory student Ray Ushikubo, piano, won third prize at the New York Concert Artists Competition.

Community school student Rachel Won, violin, received first prize and the Exceptional Performance Award in the Charleston International Music Competition (19th Century Music).

Conservatory student Ryota Yamazaki, piano, won third prize at the Ferrusccio Busoni 64th International Piano Competition.

Community school student Lucas Zhou, piano, performed in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall as a winner of the 2023 New York Golden Classical Music Awards.

September 2023

Conservatory student Emma Lee ‘23, cello, won section cello in the Pacific Symphony.

Conservatory student Tianlu (Jerry) Xu ‘23, cello, won section cello in the Pacific Symphony.

Norman Pfeiffer Created Harmony with Form and Function for the Colburn School

Twenty-five years ago, Colburn School opened the doors to its newly completed home on Grand Ave., in Downtown Los Angeles. Students walked into a carefully and considerately designed school for the performing arts. Of course, the facility contained modern classrooms and special sound-isolated practice rooms, but also welcoming common areas and the impressive 430-seat Herbert Zipper Hall. The debut of the building marked the culmination of a multi-year endeavor to relocate Colburn to its own permanent site.  

By 1983, enrollment was outgrowing the old, converted warehouse facility on the corner of Figueroa and 32nd Street. A team of School leaders, headed by Executive Director Toby Mayman (1980 to 1999) set out to provide a more appropriate and inspirational environment. Once the property on Grand Ave. was secured in 1994, the focus switched to design. Eighteen architectural firms were invited to present plans. Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer (HHP) won the job with founding partner Norman Pfeiffer spearheading the project 

This summer, at age 82, Pfeiffer passed away, but his legacy endures through Colburn.

  • The Grand Ave. groundbreaking ceremony ushered in the beginning of the downtown Los Angeles Colburn School’s permanent location.
  • Colburn School administration surveys onsite construction for the School’s Grand Ave. build.
  • View of the Colburn School’s site development from early excavation and foundation preparations.
  • View facing the Olive building from the Colburn Plaza which also features the Colburn Café that serves students, faculty, staff, and the general public.
  • Named after Herbert Zipper, a key figure in the history of the School’s development, the Zipper Hall seats 430 and resides in the Grand Ave. building of the Colburn School.
  • Named after former Executive Director Toby Mayman (1980 to 1999), Mayman Hall resides on the second floor of the Grand Ave. building.

Pfeiffer’s Footprint 

By the time HHP began work on the Grand Ave. campus, Pfeiffer had composed an impressive portfolio. He had a hand in designing several LA landmarks, including the Robert O. Anderson Building, which is the street-facing addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). He also contributed to the 1993 renovation and expansion of the Los Angeles Central Library. Additionally, Pfeiffer assembled a repertoire of several educational spaces around the globe. But it was his commitment to Colburn’s mission that stands out, according to many.   

“Everything about Norman impressed me. He and his team came to the converted warehouse and observed us in operation. That made our discussions of what we wanted in a new campus more impactful,” recalls Joseph Thayer, Colburn School dean from 1983–98 and executive director from 1998–2008. 

“Norman was the only candidate who made an effort to fully get a sense and understanding of the function of the School. He had a basic understanding of the importance of what goes on inside the building, which was providing the highest quality performing arts education to as many young people as possible,” says Mayman.  

“For Norman’s presentation to the board members, he came with a full mockup of the mid-1980’s Grand Ave. neighborhood,” she continues “to aptly demonstrate the School’s surroundings. At that time, there was no Disney Hall, nor Broad Museum, although MOCA was next door to the site.  Height limitations were at three stories. An added element was the need to include the Jascha Heifetz studio which the School had acquired more than a decade earlier and had preserved in storage. 

Pfeiffer also appreciated the intrinsic value a premier performance venue added to students, faculty, and the LA cultural arts community. Decades later, Zipper Hall remains a prestigious venue for guest artists and audiences. It’s been named Best Small Venue by SF Classical Voice for the past three years, “easily outdoing the competition.” 

“Unlike a majority of especially prominent architects today, Norman fully appreciated the acoustical essence of Louis Sullivan’s mantra of ‘form follows function.’ His performing arts portfolio, and especially Colburn’s Zipper Hall, testifies to this keen attention to acousticians’ thoughts and design guidance,” says David A. Conant, FASA, principal of McKay Conant Hoover (formerly McKay Conant Brook), the acoustic consulting company enlisted for the design of Zipper Hall. 

“I remember a quiet, thoughtful, and consummate gentleman who, during interviews with prospective clients, spoke logically and clearly of the planning and design process and would regularly invoke the phrase that epitomized so much of his work, ‘Each important space should be considered as a unique design exercise,’” Conant adds.  

“It’s a striking design and adds to the wonderful variety of architectural design on Grand Ave. But for me, the No. 1 issue with any building is that it works and the buildings at Colburn work really well,” says Thayer. 

Pfeiffer and his team from Pfeiffer Associates (formed in 2004) applied that same expert attention to performance quality when designing the Olive Street building. Its doors opened in 2007, by which time Colburn had added the Conservatory. He also forged an inviting connection between the two facilities. 

“I think the design of the building around the central courtyard with the Colburn Café sharing the courtyard is a very important element of the School that was missing with the first building,” says Thayer.  

According to Mayman, Pfeiffer enjoyed the fruits of his labor. 

“I saw him at a number of concerts and performances after the completion of the Grand Ave. building,” she says. “It was a wonderful feeling that this was a man who exulted in the sense of accomplishment and watching the kids flourish in these surroundings. I think it was as rewarding to him as it was to me. 

Now, the School is writing a new chapter in its history with the groundbreaking of its latest campus addition. Frank Gehry leads the architectural team that’s developing the intimate Terri and Jerry Kohl Hall, a sophisticated 100-seat dance studio theater, as well as additional dance studios for instruction, and a study center, all of which will be highlighted by picturesque public and green spaces.  

Still, the impact Pfeiffer’s designs have made on countless students, instructors, guest artists, audiences, and community members will always remain a key component of the Colburn campus. 

“Norman had a major influence on what the institution has become, and by extension, the School has a bit of him,” says Thayer. 

Colburn in Focus

Trudl Zipper Dance Institute Dean Margaret Tracey Brings Both Experience and Love for the Power of Expression Through Movement

This article has been lightly edited for clarity and space. 

Welcome to the Colburn community! As dance has been a part of your life for quite some time, would you share some of your background in the field? 

As a professional performer, I was at the New York City Ballet for 16 years where I danced as a principal until my retirement. After that chapter, my post-performing career led me into teaching, and in 2007, I accepted the position of school director at Boston Ballet where I held that post for 14 years. For the past two years, I served as a freelance artist predominantly working in three areas: as a stager for the Balanchine Trust, as a guest faculty, and doing project-based work in consulting across North America and Europe. My consultancy engaged with dance education institutions both nationally and internationally.  

Going back even further, how did you become involved in the life of dance? 

As a young girl, I fell in love with the art form of ballet specifically and dreamt of doing something with it. But adolescence is when I fully committed to pursuing it vocationally. By the time I was 15, I was awarded a scholarship to attend the School of American Ballet, and that is when I started my professional training that led me to New York City Ballet. So between training and performing with the company, I was in New York with that institution for 20 years. 

What was it about dance that you were so drawn to commit your life to it? 

I remember my very first dance class; the empowerment I felt through the embodiment of movement without words was a transformative experience for me as an extremely shy little girl who never liked to open my mouth. And for the first time, I felt the strength and power of communication in a different form. And to this day, I can remember that sensation of when I was six like it was yesterday. 

Is there a specific form of dance that is your favorite or that you tend to be drawn toward? 

I get asked a similar question, what was your favorite ballet to dance? Or what’s your favorite ballet to watch? And it was whichever one I was doing at the time. And I obviously have spent my life committed to the art form of ballet and have a deep, deep affinity for that form. But I can be equally as inspired, motivated, and moved by any number of forms of dance. I’m just a fan of dance! 

What are some reasons that compelled you to join Colburn and the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute?  

Timing is one of the biggest drivers of life, I think. On a personal note, as I had mentioned, I had been freelancing for the past two years knowing that I would eventually want to find an organization to call my home. As much as I loved the traveling that I did over the last two years—the knowledge I gained, the people I met—I truly missed having a home base, building a team, and working with others. I’ve known of Colburn for a number of years. I have personally known the last two deans of the dance here at Colburn, and I taught here maybe five or six years ago for the Dance Academy. I was familiar with the work here, so I was excited about the growth possibilities more than anything. And specifically with the new building, knowing that the expansion is on the horizon and what that could mean for the Dance program. How will we further fulfill the School’s mission around dance? That was intriguing to me. 

Furthermore, the model of Colburn is different than any organization I’ve worked with to date. I’ve worked predominantly in professional programs that are associated with a major company. At Colburn, there are other performing art units, the Community School, Music Academy, and Conservatory, along with the strong Dance Program. I was fascinated by a new model and working within a new structure. I’ve also learned that Los Angeles has quite a rich dance community, and I am anxious to get to know it and discover how to continue to grow and elevate the programming here.  

If you can put this into words, what is your personal philosophy for dance? 

My personal philosophy for dance is first and foremost that it is another form of communication. You can think of music and dance as some of the most primal forms of communication: sound and movement. Every human being born in this world can understand that in some capacity.  

I love the work that I’ve done as a dance educator that isn’t only focused on training future artists, but sharing this art form with a broad student body for the simple value of how it touches and transforms our lives. Art is not a luxury. Art is a necessity in the fabric of our lives, and I can’t imagine a world not doing what I do and making sure that dance is a part of as many people’s lives as it can be. Dance is for all. 

What are some key takeaways that you hope those in our youth and adult dance receive by being in our program? 

I hope that every student walks into our space and our dance community with a sense that they belong—that fierce sense of belonging. One of our deepest needs as human beings is to feel as if we belong. Also that they discover something new about themselves in the process of learning dance. I am interested in students discovering the artistic genius that is within them. Not necessarily so that they become a star, but for however their dance journey ends up: Whether they land in politics advocating for arts, end up at Harvard discovering the next medical device to support knee replacements for dancers, or on the stage of the New York City Ballet.  

Extending this to the Dance Academy, are there other takeaways you have for these students? 

One of the things that is unique about the community of Colburn is that Dance Academy students are living, training, and communing with artists from the music world as well as the dance world. I hope what all of our students get through these collaborations is an appreciation for and an opportunity to be inspired by students in other disciplines. This is another really exciting aspect that drew me here to Colburn as I also studied classical music and I’m incredibly grateful for my musical education and how that informed my dancing.  

What are you looking forward to during your first academic year as Dean? 

I’m personally looking forward to a new work being done by a friend of mine, Janie Taylor, who is a revered former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and currently works with LA Dance Project. I saw one of her pieces this summer and was so inspired so I asked if she would create a piece for the Dance Academy. I’m also super excited about our Amplify artist, Michael Montgomery from Alonzo King Lines, who will be coming to create a piece for our Dance Academy students as well. Our Tap Faculty performance in November is going to be an incredible showcase, and then of course Misty Copeland’s going to be here next month. I’ve had a sneak preview of her film, Flower, and she’s done so many extraordinary things through dance to address social issues that we’re all facing. I really applaud how she is showing a new generation of Black Americans that they belong in ballet. I simply look forward to meeting each of our students across our multiple programs as they discover their own journey in dance here at Colburn!  

Early Childhood Creative Arts Program: A New Name Reflects the Ongoing Commitment to Performing Arts Education

The Community School of Performing Arts is excited to announce the new and more representative name for Colburn’s youngest education program: the Early Childhood Creative Arts Program. This new title better reflects the importance of the program as an entry point for young children into the world of the performing arts and positions the program with more prominence within the Community School.

The name “Early Childhood Creative Arts Program” provides more context for what the program is designed to do. The program introduces children to the creative arts through music: singing, moving, and playing; and it builds both an artistic and creative foundation enabling students to progress in other programs within Colburn’s Community School and the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute.

Important to its advancement, the program is evolving to better reflect the vision that Dr. Nita Baxani, Early Childhood Creative Arts Program Chair, has grown and developed for the past two years after assuming the role from the now retired Christine Martin. While some of the titles of the courses remain, Dr. Baxani has been redesigning the content and structure of the overall program, as well as the philosophy.

The changes to the Early Childhood program are informed by Dr. Baxani’s background as a researcher and practitioner. Her recent research will be presented at upcoming international conferences and serves to provide insight and discovery into how we can constantly evolve and improve learning for Early Childhood learners within their respective communities. Her curriculum development is informed by research to meet the needs of the individuals being served (both children and adults).

The benefits of music influence at an early age include: motivation, literacy, cognition, positive impact on emotional health, motor development, and relationship building, to name just a few. Parents and caregivers participating in the program will receive the opportunity to develop deeper bonds with their children while gaining a sense of well-being and of community. Children five years and under must be accompanied by an adult caregiver who supports them during each class. As children get older, independence for the students is encouraged as caregivers continue to support the student in the classroom when needed. Inside and outside of the classroom, caregivers are encouraged to “joyfully make music” at home.

Beginning this fall, some notable changes to the program to better serve our youngest students and their families involve class length, curriculum, and expanded courses. Class times have been increased to provide more opportunity for development and engagement. As the sequential curriculum already existed, adjustments have been made with the age parameters in the upper-level classes that are better aligned with content revisions. Furthermore, Dr. Baxani continues to design curriculum that is developmentally appropriate and that is child-centered within an inclusive environment for all learners. Additionally, she has incorporated structures that allow entry points for all learners and include a variety of modes for learning to help support inclusivity. Colburn’s curriculum is infused with approaches such as Orff, Kodály, Dalcroze, Music Learning Theory, World Music Pedagogy, etc. while still focusing on the students in the classroom. This is important so that faculty can work together considering students and their families in a way that is inherently culturally responsive.

New content and classes have been established to provide a smoother transition from Early Childhood to other performing arts classes and units. Dr. Baxani continues to work closely across departments and with the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute on this endeavor. Some new class offerings this fall include “Singing More” and “Sing, Move, and Play!”. “Sing, Move, and Play” provides a foundation of music skills structured through critical listening, singing, creative movement, and playing a variety of unpitched and pitched instruments. 

This year, there will be continued development attention for new programs to enrich course offerings and to support the current Early Childhood framework through collaboration with other areas in the Community School. There is also a plan in development to program special events and concerts throughout the year that will engage the entire Early Childhood Creative Arts Program’s student body. 

Learn more about the Early Childhood Music Program. 

Placement is required for all students. To begin the placement process, parents/guardians need to complete the Early Childhood Inquiry Form.

Registration for the 2023–24 academic year is now open. Register today! 

Stay up to date on all the latest Community School news by signing up for our monthly newsletter. 


Practice Note Created by Alumna Gina Luciani

Alumna Gina Luciani shares some of her recent projects, including Practice Note: The Practice Notebook For Musicians, a musician tool years in the making that aids musicians in achieving short and long-term goals.

What have you been up to lately?

I’ve been busy with a lot of different projects, though my main focus is recording for film and television soundtracks. Recently I worked on M3GAN as the flute soloist and I played on the anniversary release of Guns N’ Roses’ album Use Your Illusion, where we got to re-record “November Rain” with a real 50-piece orchestra for the first time ever, which was an exciting opportunity. Last year, I also performed at the Academy Awards with both Billy Eilish and Beyonce. Outside of my recording work though, I’ve always taken an interest in business and marketing, which has now culminated with a passion project I’ve been developing for years. Last spring I launched Practice Note: The Practice Notebook For Musicians, which is a high-end practice journal to help musicians stay focused and organized.

Reflecting on your time at Colburn, did your experience shape you or provide direction to the path you’ve taken so far?

Yes, absolutely. Colburn prepares every musician so well in terms of pushing them to play to the best of their abilities. There’s just so much inspiration that I was able to draw upon being surrounded by world-class musicians while I was in school there. It was a great atmosphere to be in within a college setting, and I really wanted to learn as much as possible. The faculty inspired me by example, seeing them living their careers, and showing me the potential for what a future of my own could look like. That is especially true with my teacher Jim Walker, who is an amazing teacher. His entrepreneurial spirit was really inspiring, seeing all of the different career paths he created for himself. I find it interesting because a lot of people know him from one specific aspect of his career, be it the LA Phil, his studio work, or teaching. They don’t necessarily see his collective work as a whole. As a student, that was so eye-opening to me because he’s also publishing his own music, he has all these different albums, and he performs in different settings. Being able to see the breadth of his work taught me that being a musician doesn’t mean you have to stick to only one path. And as the pandemic showed, it can be in your best interest to have multiple streams of income and various facets to your career as a whole.

That’s an important takeaway from your time at Colburn. You mentioned earlier about your business, Practice Note. Was that part of the Community Center for Innovation and Community Impact’s New Venture Competition?

Practice Note wasn’t a part of the New Venture Competition, no, but the skills I learned from participating in past competitions definitely helped me bring it to life. My initial pitch to the New Venture Competition in 2015 led to me getting set up with the equipment required to shoot a series of YouTube tutorials. I’ve switched gears from those initial videos, but it’s something that’s still a big part of my career and it has grown now to over 60,000 subscribers. But all of those early years making various content, kickstarted by the New Venture Competition, is really what got me thinking with an entrepreneurial mindset, and I’m just so grateful for that original opportunity. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do something like Practice Note without the audience that I have established from being on social media.

By participating in the competition were you served in other entrepreneurial ways?

Absolutely! For that initial concept, I really had to hone my pitching skills. During and after the pitch, Dean Zeisler and his team worked with me to fine-tune the proposal and really helped me to start thinking about preparing business plans and executing them. So it wasn’t just the financial support the competition provided that helped, it was also that business-minded mentorship. Although Practice Note was developed on my own, I was able to lean on Dean Zeisler once again for reviewing early proofs I had before going to print.

From your personal experience, how important do you view having entrepreneurship skills shared with musicians?

Having entrepreneurship skills is one of the best things a musician can develop. So much of being in music school is about the playing aspect, which of course is very important. You are not going to be able to have a job without being able to play your instruments well. However, there is much more that you can do beyond just perfecting your musicianship. Unfortunately, a lot of those business and marketing skills aren’t necessarily what we’re focusing on in school. By having the exposure to entrepreneurial skills with the mentorship that Dean Zeisler and his team offer is invaluable. I think every musician should learn to think outside the box and one of the best things you can do for yourself is develop a concept for something you’re passionate about, then make that idea a reality. I’ve heard many musicians share their ideas (sometimes great ones!) but most people don’t know where to start and one roadblock after another causes them to never even give it a shot. I think a program like the New Venture Competition gives people the building blocks and support to make their ideas happen one step at a time, so it feels less daunting.

Let’s talk about your project, Practice Note. Please share what that project is about.

Practice Note: The Practice Notebook for Musicians, or Practice Note for short, is a high-end and full-color physical music practice journal. You know those really nice calendars and journals with hardcovers? It’s like that but for musicians. It’s an idea I came up with five years ago, but it took a while to put my vision into a physical form because I wanted to get it exactly how I always envisioned it. The quality was really important to me, which not only meant getting the designs right but also finding the right printers. I worked with a lot of musicians and teachers to find out how I could create the best tool for both.

While creating Practice Note, I heavily drew from my experiences as a student and from the bits of time I’ve spent as a flute teacher. I started playing flute when I was four years old, so I’ve experienced a number of different teaching styles along the way. When I was taking private flute lessons, I would use weekly practice sheets. Luckily I kept all of them, so I went back and looked for what was missing, what worked, and how I could expand upon them. I didn’t want Practice Note to just be practice pages, so I included sections on practice tips, preventing injuries, structuring lessons, dealing with failure, and other topics I felt were important. The real bulk of the book has the practice pages, but each month you’ll find goal-setting pages that help give you a space to evaluate what is and is not working during your practice sessions. Through assessment, you’re able to make changes and be more efficient with your practice time.

I structured Practice Note to be something that musicians can use in a lot of different capacities, whether they’re learning an instrument on their own, in a school setting, or with a private teacher. I wanted it to be a resource that anyone could use no matter their age, instrument, experience level, or genre of focus. Lastly, and this was really important to me, I wanted to create something that would make musicians excited to practice. Whether that’s through the actual content, or by holding a well-constructed book with modern finishes and a stylish cover, my hope is that opening up Practice Note each day is a fun experience and not a chore.

I’m thrilled with how it came together, and I’ve received a lot of amazing feedback from teachers and students alike. The retailers that carry it continue to grow, and I’m currently in production with a second order that will include many new covers as well as a new version called Practice Note Lite. These new versions will be available this fall.

Congratulations on the success to date! Aligning with the purpose of Practice Note, why do you think it’s important for a musician to set goals?

I think it’s important to have direction and to know what you’re working towards. On a daily level, many musicians go into a practice session with a certain hour mark they are trying to hit instead of having a goal of what they want to accomplish during their practice session. If you’re just practicing just for the sake of practicing and “putting in the time,” then it’s very easy to get lost and to lose sight of whether you’re actually progressing or not, leaving you to wonder what is the point of practicing in the first place.

That’s why I’m such a big believer in setting realistic and achievable goals, something I’ve emphasized in Practice Note. Oftentimes people set crazy goals and get discouraged if they don’t hit those goals that were never attainable in the first place. In Practice Note, there are three levels of goal setting: weekly, monthly, and long-term. By learning how to set achievable goals, this will set great habits for every musician. You are then able to look at a long-term goal and figure out the short-term goals you need to hit to reach your dream destination. Of course, goals change over time and things don’t always go the way you intended. That’s okay! It’s all part of the process. I would have never guessed all the things I’m doing today, but it’s that unique path that I’m both proud of and excited by where else it may lead.

Visit the Practice Note website here:
You can learn more about Gina at
Visit Gina’s YouTube Channel:
Find Gina on Instagram:

One of the most extraordinary aspects of attending the Colburn Conservatory of Music is that it provides the opportunity for our students to explore the arts without financial barriers. Thanks to the vision of Richard D. Colburn, along with generous support from our donor community, we continue to offer full scholarships covering tuition, room and board to all our Colburn Conservatory students.

If you would like to learn more about supporting our work with students like Gina Luciani, contact