Growing Through Choral Music

After a two-year hiatus, choral music returns to Colburn, now under the leadership of conductor, composer, and singer, Adrian Dunn. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Adrian joins us in Los Angeles by way of the Midwest, where he began his musical education like so many: in church.

Growing up in a little congregation his family still attends in East Cleveland—Starlight Baptist Church—Adrian says he was singing as young as five or six. Starting so early not only taught him how to sing, he says, but also how to perform in front of people.

That valuable foundation would carry Adrian through high school all-state choirs and summers at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. He would go on to be an undergraduate at the Music Conservatory at Roosevelt University in Chicago, with additional studies in opera at the Sibelius Academy of Music in Helsinki, Finland, before returning to Roosevelt for a master’s degree in voice and opera.

This interview has been edited for style, length, and clarity.

Who are your musical influences?

Wow—influences. I just did an album about my influences, so this is an interesting! I would say Moses Hogan, Roland Carter, Nathan Carter. I am a Beethoven fan. Prince. Oh, Whitney Houston! You know, I’m influenced by all kinds of music: on the jazz side, definitely, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Jasmine Horn, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, love Gregory Porter. On the hip-hop side, Kanye and Common—I’m a millennial, so I grew up where that was popular music. And so, your Boyz 2 Men’s, your Drew Hill’s, and all of those are how I learned to harmonize in high school, kind of simultaneously with my more formal training, which, for me, included Haydn’s Paukenmesse, Poulenc’s Gloria, the Beethoven Choral Fantasy in the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus—so I was in the midst of so much music. And that was helpful to me as an adult going into opera. My favorite opera composer is Verdi, love Richard Strauss; those are some of my favorites on the other side.

Who are your favorite vocalists?

Whitney Houston, for sure. Pavarotti. I like Jonas Kaufman, Placido Domingo, Larry Brownlee, Russell Thomas, Simon Estes, Kiri Te Kanawa, Leontyne Price, Renee Fleming… a friend of mine, J’Nai Bridges—I love her voice. There are just so many singers that I’m kind of in love with, but those are a few off the top.

Do you think there’s any throughline that draws you to the artists you mentioned?

They all possess a level of virtuosity in their singing that is truly special. I believe that everyone can learn to sing—clearly, I’m a voice teacher—I think everyone can learn to sing and can be a better singer. And at the same time, I think that there are also people who were just put on the earth to sing.

How did you get into choral education?

In my senior year of high school, I had the ability to do an independent study for my senior project, so I was the choir director for the women’s training choir in my high school. My choir director gave me a lot of space and latitude in regards to picking my own music, and I had to conduct a class. He was always there of course, but he was very hands-off, and that really allowed me to use that time as a laboratory for learning. That project set me up in a lot of ways. During my summers at Interlochen, I started a choir to explore the music of Black composers. As an adult singing with various groups, I learned more about the professional level.

Regarding the senior project, were there parameters or was it self-directed?

I feel like there might have been; it’s been so long, but what I do remember is my teacher. He and I were very close, and he was a real mentor to me. He wanted to show me the ropes beyond just those projects. He was a person I saw every day, and he gave me an idea of what a working musician really does outside of that highest professional level: what it’s like to go in a classroom. That teaching part is what he helped me understand, and I was able to develop a real pedagogy and philosophy on choral music.

Segueing off of pedagogy, would you speak about your plans for the Community School Choral Program that you are building?

I’m hoping that through the next few years we’re able to grow, to raise the level of what it is that we do—that every genre of music we perform, we do excellently. I also feel like keeping the focus on the music and singing, especially together, are the things we need in order to help students have the confidence, the self-image, and the important life skills that are so valuable to becoming a citizen in our society. I think being able to share with younger people is so critical but particularly in this day and age where students can feel alone or isolated or like they don’t have support. Music quite literally saved my life, so to be able to bring all of these experiences that we just talked about, to share this love of music with young people in the community… I think that’s the whole point.

Would you speak more about the differences between the three choir ensembles?

The children’s choir is for our youngest children to get their feet wet and explore the basics of choral singing: what is it to be in a group; etiquette, posture, technique; and how to practice. Youth Chorus is an intermediate group, a preparation for the concert choir. And then the more advanced group is the Concert Choir. They will do four-part arrangements and explore a larger breadth of work, both in terms of genre and level of difficulty.

What do you want your students to learn, to achieve?

I want them to achieve musical independence—musical thought that is their own—to be able to walk away feeling empowered, like they’ve learned something. I hope that students are able to come away feeling like they’ve truly had a life experience, something that has changed them for the better.

Would you speak more about this idea of musical independence?

It’s autonomous thought of being able to say, I think this because of this, you know? I think through music, you get to learn so much—I mean, there are so many composers in the world, and very often we’re only familiar with maybe 10 names. So for me, it’s important to cultivate the kind of learning where students are able to say, ‘I know that this is valuable for me.’ I’ve talked about music in my own life, and how these choirs are about more than just learning pieces and coming to rehearsal. They’re more about lifelong music-making: How are you going to make music for the rest of your life? And how can music serve you in your life?

Learn about the Community School Choral Program

Interested in joining one of the choirs? Sign up to audition here.

For more information about the choirs or the Community School’s other offerings, submit an inquiry here.

Support our Choral Ensembles

With Adrian’s exciting new appointment, we are calling out to our community to help us start the School’s first ever collection of choral music. Our choral students need scores for rehearsals and performances this year, and we need you! Any gift, big or small, can get us closer to our goal of $3,000, so please make a gift today.

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


Meet the New Instructors in the Community School

We are thrilled to announce that the Colburn School has hired four new outstanding instructors! Learn more about their musical backgrounds and what they plan to contribute to the Community School of Performing Arts in the coming years.

Dominic Cheli
Opening my students’ eyes to new possibilities and empowering them to become strong individuals with their own unique voice is my ultimate goal. Dominic Cheli

A native of St. Louis, pianist Dominic Cheli has performed with orchestras across the country and is the LIVE Director of Tonebase Piano.

Can you describe your teaching philosophy?

My mission is to discover, nurture, and promote my students in ways that allow them to be artistically independent, imaginative, and knowledgeable so that they can develop healthy, sustainable relationships with their instruments. I believe in being an advocate of all types of music: traditional, unconventional, contemporary, and multi-stylistic. Opening my students’ eyes to new possibilities and empowering them to become strong individuals with their own unique voice is my ultimate goal.

What lessons did you take from your mentors that you still carry with you today?

Some vital things I learned from my past teachers include having an obligation to honor the music through educated and courageous performances infused with a person’s individual expression as well as having a technique that is always at the service of the music!

What are you looking forward to most as a new member of the Colburn Community School?

I am looking forward to being a part of a community that has the well-being and advancement of the students as their primary focus!

Sofia Kim
While strong technique is necessary and important, I believe that the real goal is to have a flexible technique that will best facilitate expressivity and artistry. Sofia Kim

Korean-American, Los Angeles native Sofia Kim joins our violin faculty with a varied and diverse performing career as a soloist and chamber musician.

Can you describe your teaching philosophy?

My teaching philosophy aims to nurture my students into becoming exceptional whole beings who can express themselves freely and generously share music with joy, compassion, and empathy. While strong technique is necessary and important, I believe that the real goal is to have a flexible technique that will best facilitate expressivity and artistry. As a teacher, I take a deep interest and responsibility in the entire well-being of my students, not just musically, but intellectually and emotionally. Taking into account the unique qualities, learning styles, and temperaments of each student, I strive to keep my teaching approach fluid and adaptable so that I can develop each student mindfully and empower them as musicians.

What lessons did you take from your mentors that you still carry with you today?

During the many years I was studying with Almita Vamos, what struck me was how she was always learning, even after decades of impressive and impactful teaching. She never claimed to have all the answers and took so much joy and pride in learning and adapting. Her eagerness to improve and expand is something that inspires me every day.

What are you looking forward to most as a new member of the Colburn Community School?

So many things! I spent so much time here as a young violinist and look forward to experiencing this space and community as an adult. I hope to get to know my colleagues better and lastly, I am really excited to start working with my students here.

Ivana Malo
My piano teachers had a great influence on my life and love for music, and I hope to inspire the same in my students and help them reach their full potential. Ivana Malo

Croatian pianist Ivana Grubelic Malo has performed throughout Europe and the United States and is dedicated to inspiring a lifelong love of music within her students.

Can you describe your teaching philosophy?

I strive to inspire a lifelong love of music in my students, building on a solid foundation of healthy technique and musicality. In my mind, every one of my students is an individual so I shape my teaching to their unique needs – from psychology and motivation to the development of their technique. I take great care in finding the right repertoire for each student at every stage of their development so that they can not only develop and improve their technique, but also play music that resonates with them and helps them unlock their artistic sensibilities.

What lessons did you take from your mentors that you still carry with you today?

It was through my teachers that I developed my deep love of music.

The enthusiasm they showed when teaching me new pieces and revealing all the nuances that made each one so special heightened my excitement in practicing and strengthened my joy in discovering new material. They revealed a world of subtlety that I had not imagined, which made me realize that it’s when you reach beyond the surface that you can find your own unique expression and interpretation.

From a young age, my teachers taught me the importance of producing a beautiful tone and the use of arm weight in playing the piano, demonstrating that technique and musicality must always go together.

They emphasized the importance of playing without tension, which deepened my interest in the physical and psychological wellness of performers. Studying with Carola Grindea while assisting her at the International Society for Study of Tension in Performance in London is something that I still carry with me to this day.

My piano teachers had a great influence on my life and love for music, and I hope to inspire the same in my students and help them reach their full potential.

Dimitry Olevsky
My teaching principles are based on outlining the advantageous mental and physical practice techniques revealed through research in Sports Psychology. Dimitry Olevsky

Violinist Dimitry Olevsky blends classical technique with his own research in Sport Psychology to fine-tune the body and mind for performance.

Can you describe your teaching philosophy?

My teaching principles are based on outlining the advantageous mental and physical practice techniques revealed through research in Sports Psychology. These methods help my students strategically overcome the numerous psychological obstacles in order to develop a consistently high level of performance. High-level performance under pressure is the common goal among many students, and I apply my teaching methods to develop and increase control of muscular and mental functions, accuracy, precision, discipline, mental awareness, and overall coordination in violin performance.

Musicians ‘play’ music as athletes ‘play’ sports. Therefore, like sports, a musical performance is a physical activity with extreme demands on technical facility, training ethics, discipline, deliberate practice, structure, dedication, determination, motivation and inspiration.

What are you looking forward to most as a new member of the Colburn Community School?
I am looking forward to collaborating with other faculty as a violinist, and also for my students to have performance opportunities where they showcase their talent and be inspired by their peers.

Learn More

Interested in registering for private lessons at the Community School? Submit your inquiry today.

Learn more about private lessons, ensembles, and group class offerings at the Community School of Performing Arts.

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Colburn Students Win Awards in the YoungArts 2022 National Arts Competition

The Community School of Performing Arts is proud to announce the selection of our students in the YoungArts 2022 National Arts Competition. This year, eleven Community School students and three Music Academy students have been selected for this prestigious honor.

Every year thousands of performing, visual and literary artists age 15-18 apply to YoungArts through their national competition. Finalists attend National YoungArts Week to collaborate with peers and develop their crafts with internationally recognized leaders in their fields. Finalists in their senior year are further eligible for nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts—one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students.

All award winners—including Finalist, Merit and Honorable Mention award levels—receive mentorship and financial awards; gain access to a lifetime of creative, professional development, and funding opportunities; and become part of an uplifting, inter-generational community that helps artists connect, create, and collaborate.

Congratulations to both these students and their respective teachers on this remarkable achievement!


Evan Dexter, Jazz Trombone *
Fengyang Ju, Oboe +
Noah Jung, Clarinet +

Honorable Mention

Abigail Hong, Oboe *
Angeline Kiang, Cello +
Jack Lieberman, Jazz Alto Saxophone *
Duy Minh Max Nguyen, Jazz Percussion *
William Schwartzman, Jazz Piano *
Adam Zilberman, Jazz Baritone Saxophone *


Evan Dexter, Jazz Composition *
Brenda Greggio, Jazz Piano *
Apsara Kasiraman, Composition *
Cosmo Lieberman, Jazz Alto Saxophone *
Leilani Patao, Popular Voice & Singer-Songwriter *
William Schwartzman, Jazz Composition *
Luciano Soriano, Jazz Trombone *

* Community School of Performing Arts student
+ Music Academy student

Meet the New Early Childhood Department Chair: Dr. Nita Baxani

The Community School is proud to welcome Dr. Nita Baxani to the Colburn community. She is taking over the Early Childhood Chair from Christine Martin, who recently retired after 20 years of service to the school. Ready to take on the mantle of leadership, we recently spoke with Dr. Baxani to dive deep into her passion for music, her love of performance, her education, and everything she is looking forward to at Colburn.

Why Colburn? What attracted you to the organization?
There are two main aspects that attracted me to Colburn. I was very impressed with the Colburn School’s mission of providing the highest quality performing arts education at all levels of development and its dedication to providing equitable access to excellence in performing arts education. My own research and practical work in early childhood music education reinforced for me the importance of fostering music development for all children. I am very passionate about this, and I am so elated to have the opportunity to serve and be part of the Colburn community.

Secondly, I was especially attracted to what the Early Childhood program offers to the community, a curriculum pathway that is inclusive of very young learners with quality content that supports young children’s musical development. This pathway is led by accomplished early childhood faculty who prioritize the child’s interests and skill development to inform individual pathways of learning.

What is your vision for the Early Childhood Music Program?
My vision is to music joyfully as a community. “Musicking” (Small, 1999) refers to the act of making music an action, or verb, thus “to music” is a social action. Offering an environment for young learners and their families to feel they have something to contribute and that they have a voice aligns with the Community School of Performing Arts’ commitment to making music education accessible to everyone who has a passion and curiosity for music. I believe that all people should be able to engage in music as they wish; whether at home, school, or in Colburnland, music is a social act, one that is deeply entwined within the idea of community.

The previous chair, Christine Martin, has big shoes to fill! What is number one on your agenda to step into this role at Colburn?
Christine Martin created a rich program, and she has impacted the lives of many individuals, both students and their families, as well as the faculty and staff at Colburn. I am truly humbled to continue this work. My priority lies in working closely with our early childhood faculty, staff, and families so that I may continue to not only honor Ms. Martin’s work, but to find my place in this special community so that I can support and contribute meaningfully towards Ms. Martin’s legacy.

What are you most excited about for this upcoming year?
I’m so delighted to be working at such a highly regarded institution as Colburn School where Music is so valued in early childhood. I am even more grateful to be working alongside distinguished colleagues who are knowledgeable and passionate about their craft. The idea of engaging in productive discussions of best practices for children at Colburn School, based on research and real time experience in the classroom, is so thrilling for me. However, I must say that I am most excited about musicking with the students and their families and being part of the Colburn community experience.

Why is Early Childhood education important to you and what inspired you to study and work in Early Childhood music education?
Song was an artifact of culture that helped me to acclimate into a new environment as an immigrant to the US at a very young age. I recall singing all the time as a child. In fact, my earliest memories are of singing spontaneous songs and listening to recordings of Disney songs in Chinese. Song offered comfort in the new setting—in this case, being unfamiliar with my new surroundings and not yet being able to communicate with others in English. Song served as an object of transition into this new world.

I didn’t have the opportunity to engage in any type of formal music training through most of my adolescence because we were not able to afford lessons. I danced and sang informally in the privacy of my own room or in the shower (best acoustics ever!), and when around my family and friends, I sang for them. I wish I had had the opportunity to take part in music classes when I was very young and to be part of something musical in a community setting.

From my perspective, working with very young children taught me to see the world differently—to hear their music. The arts can offer various pathways for communication and expression. Early childhood is an important time of development, and my own experiences revealed to me that children, including babies, have musical agency. When I work with young children, I learn more about myself. It is an honor for me to be able to partner with faculty and with families in providing musical spaces for children.

As far as what inspired me to study and work in Early Childhood music education, it was actually a surprise to me. At Teachers College, Columbia University, I met two incredible mentors, Dr. Lori Custodero and Dr. Susan Recchia. With both their expertise and guidance, I was provided the opportunity to work within an early childhood center that is inclusive and provides culturally responsive care for young children and their families. Engaging in music with children from ages three months and above brought so much joy to my life, and I realized quickly that that area of study would be so rewarding and enjoyable to experience. I became part of this magical community—and music revealed itself in various forms in our music classes and outside of it. Once I was captivated by these children, there was no going back!

It is evident that you not only bring your experience as a performer and educator, but as an academic as well. How will your education and your research inform your work at Colburn?
My experience at Teachers College was such a transformative experience. I inquired further into what a music facilitator in a student-centered environment really means, being aware that children have agency. My own research on examining the functions of infant musicality within a community setting allowed me to not only analyze data from the lenses of the parents/caregivers and teachers, but I also had the amazing opportunity to provide my own lens from two perspectives: the music teacher and the researcher.

Other research projects that I have been involved in emphasize the importance of hearing the individual child’s music and allowing those cues to be part of a collaboration that is respectful, inclusive, and mutually fulfilling. I am inspired by the music behaviors of young children both in and out of music class. Information that I collected outside of music class was valuable information, as it provided insight and informed how I might make music with these already musical beings. Being in partnership with families is an important part of this experience.

I like to be updated on what’s out there in research and to continue writing to really get intimate with data that I’ve gathered. I enjoy attending and presenting at conferences. These platforms provide opportunities to connect with individuals in the field, and I enjoy meeting and sharing experiences and insights with other researchers and practitioners. Research informs practice, and as I learn more, I refine and develop my own ideas accordingly. I also discuss these ideas with my colleagues and look at the ways [they] can inform and shape our practice going forward.

You were also a performer. Do you still perform?
I feel so fortunate because as a performing artist, I have met and continue to meet some incredible people in the arts with amazing ideas for artistic expression. From my own viewpoint, I feel that for me to be a music educator, I need the music. I practice my craft on a regular basis, as that’s what it takes to keep the skills intact and strong. Should a meaningful performance opportunity arise, I am able to express myself in an artful way. Communication and expression for me are released through singing/performance. That is a part of me, and it is my voice.

The music educator is the other part of me—when asked as a young child what I wanted to be when I grew up, without a pause I said, “a teacher.” I’ve come to realize that both the performer and the educator live together in me, and it’s very difficult for me to live as one without the other. For me, the reciprocal exchange of making music with others in the music class is just as fulfilling as the partnership of being a performer in the moment with other musicians, as well as in the exchange with the audience.

The Community School of Performing Arts is exactly that, a community. What does this mean to you?
Ever since I started teaching, I have been passionate in my commitment to engaging students through collaboration in music making, maximizing individual student musical potential that instills a sense of self-worth, inspiring students of all ages “to music” together. I have dedicated my career to these pursuits, and I will continue to advocate for music in the community. I’m looking forward to engaging with Colburn’s community of young children and their families. I have so much respect for the individuality of each child while learning about their interests and passions so that I might gain entry into their musical space. The musical space for young children affords a sense of community where children are the social actors. I also look forward to connecting with the wider Colburn community.

Anything else you want to share with our Colburn community?
I love singing, I love teaching, and I especially LOVE music in early childhood.

Having the opportunity to join Colburn’s Early Childhood program is like a dream come true for me. Thank you for welcoming me into your community.

Learn More

Learn more about the Early Childhood Music Program.

Registration for the 2021–22 academic year is now open. Sign up today!

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Small, C. (1999). Musicking—the meanings of performing and listening. A lecture. Music education research, 1(1), 9-22.

Alumni Feature: Lucinda Chiu

After studying at the Community School of Performing Arts, students are equipped to pursue a diverse range of careers. Violinist Lucinda Chiu chose to utilize her skills developed at Colburn to pursue a classical music performance career.

Lucinda Chiu graduated from the Community School of Performing Arts in 2011, where she studied violin with Richard Schwabe and participated in chamber music and in the Colburn Chamber Orchestra. After her time at Colburn, Lucinda completed her undergraduate degree in music from the Peabody Conservatory and her master’s degree from Rice University. Currently fulfilling her dream of playing in an orchestra, she is a violinist with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra.

This interview has been edited for style, content, and clarity.

Tell us about your start at Colburn. What drew you to enroll and what was your initial experience like?
I began my studies at Colburn in eighth grade, when I first moved to Los Angeles from Hong Kong.

At that time, I had already been playing the violin for about eight years and was looking to further my musical education in a serious environment. A family friend highly recommended Colburn to my parents, and we immediately enrolled in private lessons with Mr. Richard Schwabe, the former chair of the Community School’s string department.

My initial experience was absolutely wonderful. My first year at Colburn was a significant transitional period for me, as I had to adjust to a new school, new friends, and new lifestyle. Mr. Schwabe made sure that I was well taken care of. I felt incredibly welcomed in his studio and quickly made friends—it was undoubtedly a nurturing and supportive environment. I felt I was a part of the community in no time.

How did you get started in music?
I started the violin at the age of five. My mother enrolled me in a group class to see if it would spark any interest. Since then, music has never left me; my interest grew into a passion, and I became determined to turn it into my profession. I strongly believe that music is essential to our lives and well-being. It has a special healing power that not only brings joy, but also eases pain. Music is a universal language that connects all of us, no matter what language you speak. This is why I am involved in the arts, to strive to light up people’s lives, one note at a time.

Tell us about the Community School programs you were involved in? What was impactful about them?
I participated both in the Colburn Chamber Orchestra and the [Ed and Mari Edelman Chamber Music Institute]. Both greatly contributed to my musical education and experience. Playing under the baton of the legendary Ronald Leonard was an eye-opening experience, and I loved the challenging yet motivating environment. While orchestral playing is generally an experience that is only emphasized in college studies, the Colburn Chamber Orchestra gave me a head start on learning the skills and etiquette of playing in a big ensemble.

My first ever string quartet experience was at Colburn. It led me to develop a strong love for chamber music. During my senior year, my group had the wonderful opportunity to perform at the annual Honors Recital; not only was it an incredibly rewarding experience, I also formed a strong bond with my quartet colleagues who I am still close to today!

What are your musical/professional goals?
One of my biggest goals has been to play professionally in an orchestra. The Colburn Chamber Orchestra has helped me develop ensemble sensitivity and responsiveness at a young age. I am so fortunate to be able to perform across the street at LA Opera now and live out my dream!

How has Colburn helped you achieve those goals?
My studies at Colburn have also made me a more compassionate and thoughtful musician. That is why my next musical goal is to become more involved in teaching. My hope is to give back to the community by teaching students not only how to play the violin, but also to be thoughtful, disciplined, and sensitive human beings. I would love to start my own private studio and start a chamber music camp for young musicians.

What is your advice to young musicians looking to study music in college and to pursue a professional career in music?
Studying music takes immense passion and dedication. My biggest advice to any young musician would be to always pour your heart into your work and never forget the reason you are pursuing this career: because you love music. Take advantage of all the resources you have in college! Attend as many concerts and master classes as you can, ask to play for your peers, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. The best way to learn and the quickest way to improve is to keep a humble attitude and always try to learn from others.

Are we going to see more YouTube videos from you? We love seeing the content!
I would love to continue!

What’s on your Spotify playlist lately?
In 2020, I have been obsessed like everyone else with Billie Eilish! I just love her songs! I also really enjoy listening to jazz! To be honest, I don’t listen to much classical music on the side because I think it’s important for us as musicians to listen to other genres as well.

If you ask me about classical, I have been listening to Leon Fleisher a lot. He actually just passed away in August 2020. He was a legendary pedagogue and musician, and he taught at Peabody. That news [of his passing] shocked a lot of us. So, for a period of time, I listened to his recordings over and over again.

What is one great thing about Colburn that people don’t see unless they are taking classes or working with a teacher?
One thing I love about Colburn is how closely knit the community is. Everybody knows each other and you receive great personal attention in all the programs you enroll in. Not only are your teachers invested in your musical progress, they also sincerely care about you as a person.

One of my favorite memories at Colburn was my Saturday lunch hour with friends in between lessons and orchestra. We routinely explored new restaurants together in Little Tokyo and sight-read chamber music together—Saturday was my favorite day of the week! Over the years, I’ve built such meaningful relationships with my mentors and friends that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Learn More

Follow Lucinda on YouTube and Instagram and her website.

Inspired to start private lessons with one of our experienced faculty members? Submit your inquiry today.

Learn more about Ed and Mari Edelman Chamber Music Institute and Advanced Orchestras.

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

Student Feature: Andrés Engleman

Community School student Andrés Engleman started at Colburn in the fall of 2016 in the Ed and Mari Edelman Chamber Music Institute, the Community School’s comprehensive chamber music learning experience. He now studies privately with violin faculty member Aimée Kreston.

This interview has been edited for style, content, and clarity.

Tell us about your start at Colburn. What drew you to enroll at the Community School?
As soon as I heard about Colburn and its reputation from one of my old teachers, I knew I wanted to come and study there at some point in my educational career. I was extremely excited when Aimée Kreston, my current teacher, invited me to play at one of her studio classes a few years back. It felt more legitimate and important than I had ever imagined due to the impressive facility, its location in the creative heart of downtown LA, and the caliber of the students. It was an honor to join her studio a few months later!

How did you get started playing the violin?
When I was around three years old, I visited an exhibition with all the orchestral instruments available for children to play and experience. I barely even remember this, but when I held the violin, I asked my parents if and when I could start playing this instrument. They said no, I was too young. I continued to ask “am I old enough yet” every month or so, and when I was four and a half, we finally found a program that accepted very young kids. I played piano for six months as an introduction to music, and at the end of the six months my parents asked if I was enjoying piano and wanted to continue with it instead of violin. “No,” I said, “I want to play violin.”

Tell us about the Community School programs you are involved in right now? Why did you choose them? What has been impactful about them?
I’ve been involved in the chamber program for many years now. I had really enjoyed being in a quartet before I came to Colburn, so I really wanted to continue ensemble music. There’s something so fun about playing music with other people. You get to meet new people and experience their playing style and make friends.

Last year, I took Music Theory for the first time. I hadn’t ever taken a theory class, so it was an interesting new experience, and it really does help me identify all the roots of the music I play. It makes so many of the choices composers made make complete sense. Music Theory sounds like the kind of thing that could have the potential to be dry, but everyone raved about the class and the teacher, including just random students we’d run across in the elevator. And everything they said ended up being true!

What are your musical goals? How has Colburn helped you achieve them?
I normally do have a specific piece in mind that I want to work towards. Even when I was really young, I would hear a piece and would imagine myself playing it eventually. I look forward to getting new pieces and playing something fresh and challenging. I really like figuring out the piece, like a puzzle. I even like making my own fingerings, and my teacher has been really supportive of that. Of course she lets me know if I need to get them from an official source, but it teaches me the process of finding the best fingerings on my own. It’s really cool that she lets me do this and has that kind of confidence in me.

What has it been like working with your violin teacher Aimée Kreston?
I have noticed the incredible amount of progress studying with her over the years. It’s awesome to look back to when I started with her; the progress has been incredible!

What is one great thing about Colburn that people don’t see unless they are taking classes or working with a teacher?
Something that all students can say is that the teachers and faculty are incredibly kind and helpful. At Colburn, all the teachers are 100% committed to helping the students improve to the best of their ability. This is an incredibly important element to me especially, because the teacher can make all the difference.

Throughout my many years in the chamber program, both of my coaches have not only been good instructors but amazing coaches that have taught us things that aren’t simply about music but about approaching things in life, like collaboration, creating friendships, learning how to be dependable, and many more. There hasn’t been one moment, even during the time of the pandemic, that I haven’t found myself with something engaging and rewarding to do through Colburn.

What do you see for your future? Will you continue to pursue music?
I don’t know if music as a profession is in my future; I’m still young and I have a lot of time to think about that. Either way, playing music will always be a part of my life. The skills and mindset musicians develop are important parts of any career. But I don’t have any idea what will happen, so music could very well be my career!

Learn More

Inspired to start private lessons with one of our experienced faculty members? Submit your inquiry today.

Learn more about Ed and Mari Edelman Chamber Music Institute.

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Student Feature: Elijah Alexander

For trombonist and Herbert Zipper Scholar Elijah Alexander, the Colburn Jazz Program has been central in his musical development. After his time in high school, this talented young instrumentalist and composer is looking forward to a career in music composition.

This interview has been edited for style, content, and clarity.

How did you get started in music?
I didn’t initially have a moment where “the music spoke to me” or I felt like “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else” when I first started playing—I really only got into music by pure chance. A girl I liked in elementary school picked up the trumpet, and I, wanting to have her and other people see me as “cool,” picked up the trombone. I’ve stayed in music as it opens up another side of me that I find hard to express sometimes. Being a shy and reserved person, I sometimes find it hard to open up to others, but whenever I’m doing something in music, whether that be composition or jamming with my friends, I find that all of my insecurities melt away, and I can express myself freely.

How did you hear about Colburn? What drew you to enroll in the Jazz Program?
I became interested in the Colburn School after watching some videos of older Big Bands and Jazz Combos on YouTube. The musicians in the videos looked like they were having so much fun, and it just made me want to be a part of that hang.

Tell me about the Community School programs you are involved in right now? What has been impactful about them?
Currently I’m taking private trombone lessons with Shelly Suminski, as well as playing in the Monday Night Jazz Band under Lee Secard. Being in classes led by Lee has been one of the biggest impacts on my own personal growth. He has been one of my biggest supporters and a strong critic and has always pushed me in the right direction when I feel lost. Taking lessons with Shelly has also been important to me, as she’s opened me up to so many different approaches to playing trombone and has been one of my biggest cheerleaders whenever I doubt myself.

What is some advice you would give students looking to enter the Colburn Jazz program?
One is really simple: Come prepared because it’s only a short time. You don’t want to waste time in that class.

Also, come willing to take criticism and willing to learn from Lee Secard and the other students.

Because of COVID-19, all programming at Colburn has been virtual. How has online learning been at Colburn?
Weirdly, it’s actually helped a little bit. I have been a lot more concentrated on what I want to do. I get nervous playing while in front of other people and having that barrier helps for my nerves!

If you aren’t listening to jazz music, what are you listening to? What’s on your Spotify playlist?
Recently, I have really gotten into Björk. I have been listening to a bunch of her albums. She also has a jazz background as well, which is really cool! I have also been listening to Blur and Radiohead.

You were a 2019–20 fellow in the LA Phil Nancy and Barry Sanders Composer Fellowship Program. That is incredible! How was that experience?
Without this program, I would have said that I only wanted to do Jazz. That program opened up a whole new area of music that I was super scared of doing before then. They put us in groups and then we studied with specific instructors.

What are your musical goals and how has Colburn helped you achieve them? 
I want to be able to effectively match my compositional voice with my technical voice on the trombone. Colburn has helped me with this especially, with the teachers helping me on gaining a stronger understanding on what I need to work on, and what directions I should head in.

What do you see for your future? Will you continue to pursue music? 
Although I don’t know what exact job I want in the future, I hope to see myself making a career out of writing music, whether that be in a band, for an orchestra, or even writing music for commercials.

What is one great thing about Colburn that people don’t see unless they are taking classes or working with a teacher?
The awesome environment. The students I meet in my classes take their learning and growth super seriously, and it creates a super supportive environment that always motivates me to improve.

Learn More

Inspired to start private lessons with one of our experienced faculty members? Submit your inquiry today.

Learn more about Colburn Jazz Program.

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

In-depth Look into the Summer Percussion Workshop with Director Ken McGrath

Summer with the Colburn School is a tremendous opportunity to learn new skills, develop technique, work with talented faculty and guest artists, and meet new musical peers. As the summer fast approaches, the Community School is excited to host the Colburn Summer Percussion Workshop, directed by Ken McGrath. He gave us the scoop on what makes the camp unique, the exciting guest artists, and why this workshop is important to him.

Ken McGrathKenneth McGrath is a highly regarded performer and educator in Los Angeles. He has performed with many of the major orchestras in Southern California including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He currently serves on the percussion faculties of California State University Fullerton, the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts, and Pasadena City College. Ken is an alumnus of the University of California, Los Angeles and the Eastman School of Music.

My name is Ken McGrath and I am thrilled to be directing and teaching the Colburn Percussion Camp Workshop! This summer, the workshop will bring student percussionists from all over the country together for an exceptional online and in-person experience.

Open to a Wide Age Range

First of all, the Colburn Percussion Workshop provides a world-class education experience to a wide range of ages:

• very young percussionists ages 9-11
• middle school students; students who have some footing with their craft
• high school students; students who are farther along in their musical journey

Designed for Diverse Goals

With three separate sections of the workshop, students will receive targeted group instruction filled with technique, discussion, performances, and master classes perfectly geared to their level of experience.

Music education is such an important element of a student’s development, and the workshop recognizes the skills learned with their current percussion studies will stay with them their entire lives as active musicians, concert-goers, administrators, patrons, and appreciators.

Students will learn the musicianship and technique needed for top-level performing, but at a deeper level, workshop participants will develop musical communication, confidence, and artistry.

Virtual and On-Campus Learning

We are pleased to be offering a combination of online and in-person instruction. June 14–18 will use the online format for middle and high school students. More mature percussionists will be able to experience this exceptional training from anywhere in the country.

June 21–25 will be taught in-person on the Colburn campus. For young percussionists in the greater Los Angeles area, this will enable a more hands-on experience.

Both formats will give students a wonderful opportunity to explore their music making, and I’m pleased the Colburn Summer Percussion Workshop offers a significant contribution to that endeavor.

My Teaching and Performance Experience

Under my direction, our work together will be fun, informative, and based on my uniquely varied career. I’ve been extremely fortunate to perform under artists as diverse as Pierre Boulez and Aretha Franklin; toured extensively with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Pacific Symphony; recorded major motion pictures with composers such as John Williams, Randy Newman, and Michael Giacchino; played Broadway shows such as Wicked and The Lion King; and participated in numerous premieres including works by John Adams, Philip Glass, Thomas Ades, and Unsuk Chin. My teaching contains a broad perspective that is helpful in guiding each student with their particular musical journey.

Stellar Guest Artists

Students will have the opportunity to interact and learn from some of the most learned, experienced, and creative musicians working today. Collectively, the faculty and guest artists of the workshop bring an unparalleled breadth of knowledge and experience.

Christina Cheon playing a marimba

Christina Cheon

Marimba Artist, Executive Director–Southern California Marimba

An established marimba artist and educator, Christina is Executive Director of Southern California Marimba. She is also leading the way as an administrator and advocate by promoting marimba performance, education, competitions, as well as giving a voice to marimba composers of the BIPOC community.

Greg Cohen

Greg Cohen

Principal Percussion–San Diego Symphony

Holding the position of Principal Percussionist of the San Diego Symphony since 2008, Greg has also performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, and Kansas City Symphony. In addition, he is a highly regarded educator as head of percussion at San Diego State University.

Cory Hills

Cory Hills

Multi-percussionist, composer, and Grammy award-winning artist

Cory’s uniquely creative artistry is influenced by many different worlds, including performing as a virtuoso soloist, ensemble player, and member of the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet. Cory is also a prolific composer and his audiences range from those with a love of the avant-garde to captivated young listeners of his Percussive Storytelling.

Pete Korpela sitting at a drumset

Pete Korpela

LA based studio and touring percussionist

With his vast knowledge of percussion techniques from around the world, Pete’s performance experience includes stadium concerts with artists like Josh Groban, soundtracks for major motion pictures, Broadway musicals such as The Lion King and Hamilton, and the Academy Awards show.

Mike Packer sitting at a drumset

Mike Packer

Drum set artist/educator

In the world of drum set performance, pedagogy, curriculum and administration, Mike is a highly sought-after artist. He has played and toured extensively, worked at schools such as Los Angeles College of Music and Musicians Institute, given clinics around the world, authored texts, and developed the design for DW’s 5000ADH bass drum pedal.

Derrick Spiva Jr.

LA based composer/multi-cultural musician, Artistic Advisor–Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Representing what is possible for an artist in the 21st century, Derrick’s innovative style has received accolades around the world. His multi-cultural approach to performing, composing, and education has created a unique and innovative voice that the Washington Post recently featured in their article “21 for ’21: Composers and Performers Who Sound Like Tomorrow.”

Putting It All Together

When I was a pre-college student, there was very little available in the way of intensives. I certainly participated in festivals, master classes and the like but an intensive like the Colburn Summer Percussion Workshop would have been extremely valuable to participate in and help accelerate my development in many areas of percussion.

This camp is important to me because it gives students an opportunity to learn and grow in the arts. It’s an intrinsic element to what makes us human: to communicate, to develop a voice, to create, and to explore. Perhaps now more than ever, we realize the importance of the arts in our lives, especially with the challenges of the current pandemic. The Colburn Summer Percussion Workshop gives percussionists an opportunity to enhance the skills they’ve already developed and expose them to other avenues of musicianship and creativity. I hope you can join us this summer! Applications are due June 1.

Learn More

Submit your application for the Colburn Summer Percussion Workshop!

Want to start private lessons with Ken McGrath or with another one of our experienced faculty members? Submit your inquiry today.

Learn more about the Summer Camps at the Community School of Performing Arts.

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

Learn about how Colburn is keeping students and families safe as we return to campus.

Community School Students Win Selection to National Youth Orchestra

The Community School of Performing Arts is proud to announce the selection of our students to the National Youth Orchestra (NYO) of the United States, NYO2, and NYO Jazz, all prestigious national music programs by Carnegie Hall. This year, five Community School students and two Music Academy students and alumni were selected for this exciting opportunity!

Every summer, the Weill Music Institute (WMI) at Carnegie Hall recruits the brightest young players from across the country to form the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. This free program provides aspiring musicians with a multi-week training residency with leading professional orchestra musicians as well as a tour across musical capitals of the world.

We wish these students all the best as they embark on this thrilling musical journey this summer! Congratulations again to all the students and their teachers on this amazing accomplishment.


Dara Moayer, Violin *
Noah Jung, Clarinet *+
Sarah Kave, Cello ~


Esteban Lindo, Bass *
Abigail Hong, Oboe *

NYO Jazz

Kai Burns, Guitar *
Gianna Pedregon, Violin *

* Community School of Performing Arts student
+ Music Academy student
~ Music Academy alumnus

Summer Camps 2021: Virtual, Hybrid, and In-Person Experiences Available

At the Community School of Performing Arts, we take summer arts education seriously. We have designed unique camps, workshops, and intensives aimed at bringing music students’ development and skill to the next level. With programs for singers, jazz musicians, pianists, chamber students, and percussionists, the summer camps provide an outlet for artists of all types. The Community School of Performing Arts is thrilled to offer engaging artistic training opportunities through in-person, virtual, and hybrid experiences!

Student and teacher at piano

Virtual Camps

College Audition Prep for Singers
June 5–26, 2021
July 10–31, 2021
Ages 14–18

Designed for college-aspiring high school singers, this class provides the knowledge, strategies, and technical skills needed to craft a first-rate college music audition. This four week workshop will meet weekly on Saturdays for a group session online via Zoom. Each student will also receive an online private lesson with Colburn faculty each week for an hour, specializing in either classical or musical theater. Students will participate in a mock audition and receive written feedback to prepare them for future auditions. The class will provide the information and technical knowledge to construct a successful college audition and set students apart from the competition. Register by June 4.

Zippy Toons x Colburn Songwriting Camp: Where Storytelling Meets Melody
June 7–18, 2021
Ages 6–12

Get ready for a fun, interactive opportunity to create, collaborate, and make original music! Songwriting cannot be taught in a textbook – students must learn it by doing it! With that in mind, Zippy Toons songwriting lessons combine developmental and creative exercises that build the foundations of songwriting. After mastering structural basics, students learn how to craft unique song titles, write compelling lyrics, and compose memorable, ear-catching melodies. Register by June 6.

Piano Camp Intensive
June 28–July 2, 2021
Ages 9–13

Students will develop their technical skills, engage with experienced Colburn piano faculty, and connect with fellow piano students through classes and performances! Directed by Community School piano faculty Carmina Glicklich and Micah Yui, Piano Camp Intensive includes classes, lessons, and a recital to conclude the week! Applications due May 15, 2021.

Close up of hand holding mallet above drum

Hybrid Camps

Summer Percussion Workshop
June 14–18, 2021 (Virtual, middle and high school)
June 21–25, 2021 (In-Person, ages 9–11)

The Colburn Summer Percussion Workshop at the Community School of Performing Arts returns this summer, bringing student percussionists from all over the country together for an exceptional online experience. Led by Colburn percussion faculty Kenneth McGrath, three levels of pre-college students will focus on a wide range of percussion topics. The classes, master classes, discussions, and performances will provide students with an unparalleled set of tools and knowledge to continue their musical growth.

From June 21–25, 2021, student 9-11 will meet together in-person for classes covering snare drum, mallet percussion, introduction to auxiliary/world percussion, developing good practice techniques, introduction to percussion chamber music, and how to improve performances.

From June 14–18, 2021, middle school and high school students will participate virtually in the unique classes, workshops, and master classes with talented faculty and guest artists with topics including: snare drum, mallet percussion, timpani, auxiliary instruments, peak performance techniques, audition preparation and much more.

Guest artists include:

  • Christina Cheon: marimba artist, Executive Director–Southern California Marimba
  • Gregory Cohen: Principal Percussion–San Diego Symphony
  • Pete Korpela: LA based studio and touring percussionist
  • Mike Packer: drum set artist/educator
  • Derrick Spiva Jr.: LA based composer/multi-cultural musician, Artistic Advisor–Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Applications due June 1, 2021.

Violinist, violist, and pianist playing together on stage

In-Person Camps

Brass Seminar
July 12-17, 2021
July 26–31, 2021

Ages 10–19

Directed by Colburn faculty members Danielle Ondarza and Michael Zonshine, the Summer Brass Seminar marks the return to in-person ensemble playing. The brass ensemble is open to brass players of all levels who have been playing their instrument for at least two years. Students who enroll in both weeks will receive a $100 discount off tuition fees. Students who enroll in both sessions will receive a $100 discount off tuition fees. Register by July 12.

Chamber Music Intensive
July 19–24, 2021
Ages 13–19

The Chamber Music Intensive provides focused ensemble playing for the serious chamber music student. Students will be grouped into a trio, quartet, or quintet and learn an entire work during their time together, culminating in a final concert. Along with rehearsals, students participate in sight-reading chamber music, yoga, stage presence activities, team building, master classes, and opportunities for one-on-one instruction. Coaches from the Ed and Mari Edelman Chamber Music Institute will provide instruction along with other chamber music professionals. Video applications due June 30, 2021.

Jazz Camp
July 19–23, 2021
For students in grade 8–10

Summer 2021 brings the Colburn Jazz Workshop’s Big Band directors, Lee Secard and Walter Simonsen to you on campus in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. This unique summer experience features daily playing and improvisation, jazz theory, practicing and learning strategies. Video applications are due June 15, 2021.

Applications and Registration Now Open

With opportunities to build musical skills, engage with talented faculty, and meet new friends in the arts, the Community School’s summer camps represent the best of summer music education! We hope that you will join us this summer.

Learn more about the Summer Camps at the Community School of Performing Arts.

Want to start private lessons with one of our experienced faculty members? Submit your inquiry today.

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