National Fortissima Program Inspires and Empowers Young Women of Color

Fortissima is an artistic and leadership development program for high school age young women from underrepresented minorities in classical music. Fortissima’s innovative leadership curriculum, paired with rigorous artistic development and one-on-one mentorship, is designed to inspire, equip, and empower young women of color to pursue careers in the field. As described by one of this year’s participants, “Fortissima offers the chance for underrepresented young musicians to grow and thrive in a healthy environment. The fact that Fortissima helped us to gain lifelong mentors and make long-lasting connections with esteemed musicians of color shows the value that Fortissima brings to the next generation of classical music.”

In 2021, Fortissima evolved from a local pilot to a national program to expand its reach and impact. Last fall, we announced the appointment of music director Jannina Norpoth, as well as five distinguished mentors (Jennifer Arnold, Monica Ellis, Karla Donehew Perez, Stephanie Matthews, and Angelica Hairston) who would work virtually with accepted students for six months leading up to a residential intensive on the Colburn campus. Earlier this summer, we announced the 10 young women who would make up the inaugural national cohort. They were chosen from a competitive pool of applicants recruited from programs all over the country and were selected based on their level of artistic excellence.

From May to October, students had monthly one-on-one virtual meetings with their mentors where they set their own agendas and goals based on their specific needs and aspirations. In an anonymous survey of students after the experience, one student said, “My mentor meetings were extremely helpful in getting me to realize what I want for the next few years of my life and what I need to do to prioritize my goals and values towards college and my career beyond that.” Another said, “I really connected with my mentor and learned a lot from her! I am glad to have our relationship continue beyond the program. We talked about a range of topics from community service, to career pathways, to financial advice, to real-life experiences.”

From October 30 through November 6, 2021, all 10 selected participants came to Los Angeles to participate in a residential intensive on the Colburn campus. During the intensive, students observed rehearsals and performances of the LA Philharmonic, the Sphinx Virtuosi, the LA Opera, and the Colburn Orchestra. They received training and workshops on conservatory admissions in which they met with Colburn’s Conservatory Dean Lee Cioppa and Manager of Admissions Lauren Woodward; career pathways in the arts where they heard from several of the program mentors as well as other accomplished women of color in the field; tools and personal branding for professional musicians in a workshop facilitated by Colburn alumna Gina Luciani; citizen artistry from a panel of women who have created and led groundbreaking community arts projects on stages, in kitchens, and concert halls throughout the nation; donor relations where they heard from our Vice President of Advancement Nina Zhou and got real-life practice in a donor dinner; yoga for musicians led by Leah Gallegos of Las Cafeteras and The People’s Yoga in East LA; and mindfulness and self-care in a workshop by Charlotte Nguyen of Get Free!; and so much more. Students received daily chamber music coaching from program music director, Jannina Norpoth, as well as visiting mentors and guest artists including composer Jessie Montgomery, who coached her piece “Peace,” which was a part of the final concert program.

Here is what one of the participants had to say about their time in the program and in the residential intensive: “Fortissima opened my eyes to the wonderful things I could take on with my craft of playing the violin. I was able to feel so welcome, as I was not the only person of color—which is usually the norm back at home where I perform. I was able to gain valuable advice from so many mentors on how to take on the world and its problems, on how to take care of myself as a musician, and what I can do in the future with my talent.”

Another said, “Fortissima has changed my life and my outlook on my career by helping me realize how much change I can make with my craft. Listening to the stories of all the amazing artists, and even the program’s core concept, has shown me the power I have to make a difference with music.”

We are very proud of this year’s cohort and are excited to open up applications for next year very soon! We will also be launching alumni initiatives early next year and look forward to remaining engaged with this year’s cohort of students and mentors in the years to come. As one of the young women beautifully stated during the final concert, “The Future is Fortissima!”

Connection and Transformation at Summer Encounter

This July, 26 campers and 12 counselors joined forces online for the 20th annual Summer Encounter. Over the course of two weeks, fourth and fifth graders from our LAUSD partner schools explored connection and transformation—this year’s camp theme—through arts workshops, collaborative group projects, virtual field trips, and more. Besides creating and sharing art with each other, campers were also able to learn from guest artists including Emmy Award-winning composer and Community School alumnus Kris Bowers.

Using insights from a year of virtual learning and events, the Center for Innovation and Community Impact, Summer Encounter Artistic Director Debbie Devine, and curriculum consultant Amy Kirkland restructured this year’s camp to create an engaging experience for campers to focus on art and connection. “Everyone’s been feeling disconnected and isolated after this past year. We wanted to celebrate what it is to be connected and how art transforms you. That’s what we’re doing now, really putting the emphasis on all of them being artists,” explained Debbie over Zoom. “It was incredible to see the entire team come together to create a beautiful experience for the campers involved in the program,” added Nate Zeisler, Dean for Community Initiatives.

Summer Encounter 2021 incorporated distance-learning app Seesaw, limited Zoom screen time to combat fatigue, and experimented with a new format for the finale presentation. “The kids are, in my opinion, even more engaged and ready and actually finding more success in every element of the camp than last year,” shared voice faculty Leeav Sofer. “It’s really taught us so much and it’s been an exciting learning process, and I’m just honored to be able to say that we were resilient and we made it happen,” agreed Debbie.

Another benefit of hosting a virtual camp was welcoming guest artists from across the country who might not have been able to join in-person, like Kris Bowers. Professional recorder player Tali Rubinstein, actor Trent Mills, mariachi band Grupo Bella, Jumpstart flutist Maya Lopez, and visual arts educator Karina Esperanza Yanez also performed and engaged with students.

Trent Mills starred as the piano in the Center for Innovation and Community Impact’s Musical Encounter Interactive video “The Piano,” also featuring Conservatory student Sam Glicklich. In the 30-minute film, the piano has been relegated to a practice room and undergoes a transformation after finding its place in the world. After seeing the world premiere during Summer Encounter, campers were able to ask questions to the piano, aka Trent, over Zoom. “I wanted them to feel something about a piano in a way that they’ve never felt before. And their questions for the piano made me realize we’ve done it,” exclaimed Debbie.

Campers also watched Kris Bowers’ new Oscar-nominated documentary “A Concerto is a Conversation” and were joined by Kris for a Q&A session. “For the campers, it was this incredible epiphany after seeing the documentary and realizing what he was capable of doing as a composer and how much regard he has [in the industry],” said Debbie.

After two weeks of dance, guitar, drama, voice, percussion, and spoken word workshops; students, counselors, and faculty shared their work with each other during the finale presentation. By hosting it live on Zoom, “it’s created more space for us to dive into the sharing and appreciating of each other’s work,” described Leeav. Participants shared how they had connected and transformed during camp through song, poetry, and testimonial.

Zoom screenshot of Summer Encounter counselor Liesel
I am new to Summer Encounter, and man, can I say that it transformed me, because it really did. I'm so humbled and grateful to have been a part of it because these campers taught me a lot about connection online. Aside from that, they really taught me about the true gift it is to share art with others because they were just so engaged. And seeing them pick up the recorder, the guitar, for the first time, and their eyes light up, it reminds me of why art and sharing it and arts education is so important. It's just so transformative for them and for me. Liesel, Yellow Counselor

The finale concluded with a graduation ceremony, but it is just the beginning of the campers’ Colburn experience. Many receive scholarships to participate in the Jumpstart program and will be able to continue connecting and transforming through arts education. Others will return to Summer Encounter as counselors in the future to give back the inspiration they received from their counselors. “Summer Encounter has created this intergenerational pipeline that keeps us as a larger community together,” explained Leeav.

Zoom screenshot of person wearing black Summer Encounter tshirt singing

Listen to Summer Encounter counselors and faculty sing this year's theme song

Special thanks to the Max H. Gluck Foundation and East West Bank for their continued support of Summer Encounter.

Colburn Advances Partnership with the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (ICYOLA)

Last fall, Colburn and the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (ICYOLA) announced a new multi-faceted partnership. The largest majority Black orchestra in the US, ICYOLA has been a leader in working towards equity, diversity, and inclusion in the performing arts through its academy and orchestral programs serving students primarily in South Los Angeles. Colburn will work with ICYOLA to help address structural barriers to quality arts education, and support ICYOLA musicians with access to Colburn training opportunities.

Solomon Leonard
The Colburn School has been a huge part of [my] development. Solomon Leonard, viola

Beginning in the fall of 2020, Colburn offered direct scholarship support to ICYOLA students, enabling them to study in the Community School. These artists were placed with renowned faculty for private instruction that supplemented their orchestral experience with ICYOLA. One scholarship recipient, Solomon Leonard, shared in an interview that “the Colburn School has been a huge part of [my] development.” Solomon, who studies viola with Dr. Minor Wetzel, took music theory and was in a string trio in the Ed and Mari Edelman Chamber Music Institute during his junior year.

As part of the partnership, several additional ICYOLA musicians had the opportunity to take weekly online lessons with Colburn Conservatory students. In total, nine Conservatory students taught weekly online lessons to eighteen ICYOLA musicians ranging in age from middle school to high school. Before the ICYOLA partnership, Conservatory student teachers worked primarily with younger Jumpstart students in elementary school on foundational instrumental skills.  The ICYOLA students are older, so Conservatory students get to practice using different pedagogical methods when they work with the students. In addition to applying pedagogical training, Conservatory students serve as mentors to students closer in age and help them prepare more advanced repertoire.

While at Colburn, Solomon advanced his musical knowledge and developed the skills necessary for his next steps in music. “When I started working with [Dr. Wetzel] in 2017, I was still a very inexperienced player.… He built me up slowly…and now I’m able to play very intense pieces for the viola,” he described. “I have absolutely loved learning pieces together, developing technique together, our conversations we’ve had, all of it.”

He’s taken this experience back to ICYOLA, guiding and inspiring younger musicians as a leader in the orchestra. “There are little kids who just started playing their instruments, and being able to be a part of their development is super rewarding,” he expressed. “Not everyone is going to get the [learning experiences I’ve gotten].”

To help address those gaps in learning opportunities, Colburn and ICYOLA will pilot a joint strings and literacy program in a South LA elementary school next fall. When campus reopens, ICYOLA musicians will also have the opportunity to attend performances at Colburn, participate in side-by-side collaborations, join master classes, and more. “We’re still dreaming up all the different ways that we can work with them,” explained Jazmín Morales, Assistant Director of the Center for Innovation and Community Impact.

Through his studies at ICYOLA and Colburn, Solomon has discovered his dream of becoming a professional soloist. “Classical music is always going to be my foundation…but I’ve been able to branch out through ICYOLA,” he shared. In the last few years, he has gigged all over Los Angeles, played on film scores, performed at Walt Disney Concert Hall, and explored different genres like jazz, funk, and soul. “Being a member of ICYOLA has been the time of my life. It has inspired me to want to continue to play a variety of music.… ICYOLA is a place of opportunity.”

Solomon Leonard playing viola

Solomon and Mei-Ling Leonard on Studying with Dr. Minor Wetzel

Colburn School’s Fortissima Program Expands Nationally

The Colburn School has expanded its Fortissima program nationally. Housed under Colburn’s Center for Innovation and Community Impact, Fortissima is an artistic and leadership development program for high school age young women from underrepresented minorities in classical music who demonstrate excellence on an orchestral instrument and have an interest in pursuing a career in music. Applications are now open until April 2, 2021 for the first national cohort.

Developed by program director Jazmín Morales and music director Jannina Norpoth, Fortissima’s innovative leadership curriculum, paired with rigorous artistic development and one-on-one mentorship, is designed to inspire, equip, and empower young women from underrepresented minorities to pursue professional training and careers in the classical music field. Now a national model, Fortissima will be a six-month experience for up to ten young women that will include mentorship and virtual engagement, and culminate in a weeklong residential intensive at the Colburn School in Fall 2021. The program is provided at no cost to participants.

Fortissima began as a local pilot program in 2017 and featured a cohort of six young women from Los Angeles. Those young women are now pursuing studies in music and other disciplines at schools such as Oberlin, Stanford, and UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. Findings from the pilot informed the new model which will condense the program into a residential intensive, recruit nationally, and serve a larger cohort of students each year.

The program will consist of two components, beginning online with innovative leadership curriculum and one-on-one mentorship, and culminating in a week-long residential intensive on the Colburn campus in Fall 2021. The curriculum and mentorship are tailored to participants’ unique perspectives and provide specialized approaches to both personal and professional development. During their time on campus, these newly acquired skills will be put into practice in a deeply engaging residency that provides opportunities to explore all facets of artistry, including performance, the conservatory experience, and career development.

Virtual Learning

Students will participate in three virtual learning sessions in the areas of career development, arts leadership, and community engagement, leading up to the residential intensive.


Students will be paired with a distinguished mentor and will meet monthly (virtually) with their mentor from May–October 2021.

Mentors include violinist Karla Donehew Perez, co-founder of the Catalyst Quartet; violist Jennifer Arnold, Richmond Symphony’s Director of Artistic Planning and Orchestral Operations, violinist Stephanie Matthews, founder of String Candy and co-founder of the Re-Collective Orchestra; bassoonist Monica Ellis, founding member of Imani Winds; and harpist Angelica Hairston, founder of Challenge the Stats and Artistic Director of the Urban Youth Harp Ensemble.

Colburn School Campus Intensive

Students will convene for a week-long residential intensive on the Colburn School campus from October 30–November 6, 2021, pending COVID reopening guidelines. Throughout this week, students will receive intensive leadership training and chamber music coaching while experiencing conservatory life first hand. Students will have the opportunity to arrange trial lessons with Colburn faculty, observe conservatory classes, and experience campus life in Los Angeles. The week will culminate with a final performance in a Colburn School concert hall, directed and curated by music director Jannina Norpoth, which will feature works by women and BIPOC composers.

The national Fortissima program is made possible through the generous support of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, the Lawrence Morton Fund, and the Southern California Chamber Music Fund at the California Community Foundation, and the many individual donors who support this and other Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion initiatives at the Colburn School.

Summer Encounter Campers and Counselors Experience the Magic of Art

For two weeks this July, 65 children from across Los Angeles were introduced to a vibrant world of artistic self-expression during Summer Encounter. An immersive experience for young students generally in Title I public schools, the performing arts camp encompasses a wide range of musical and artistic styles, practices, and performance experiences. For campers and counselors, Summer Encounter is transformative, changing their lives from the first day of camp to years later.

Campers, many of whom have never picked up an instrument, take music, drama, spoken word, and dance classes throughout the two weeks. In another class, collaboration and improvisation, they work with Summer Encounter’s Artistic Director and Colburn drama chair Debbie Devine to write the script for the multimedia play they will perform at the end of the program. This year, the play was centered around the theme of love. Repeating the word helped the kids internalize and express it, which is more important now than ever.

It’s this magic of experiencing art and self-expression individually, and as a community, that resonates so heavily with campers and the counselors who guide and inspire them. Most of the counselors started off as campers themselves and have been moved to give back to the community that helped shape them into the people they are today.

One such counselor, Esmeralda Rangel, admitted to being a very energetic, troubled kid when she first experienced Summer Encounter. She shared that the camp gave her a strong sense of discipline, while creating an opportunity for her to connect with different art forms that held personal meaning. Esmeralda is an example of how performing arts opens a world of opportunity, as she is currently pursuing a career in music. Through Summer Encounter, she learned that “no matter the income, success comes from doing what you love and being able to sustain yourself with it.”

Esmeralda and her fellow counselors come back to help kids going through similar experiences that they went through growing up. For all who participate, from campers to counselors to faculty, Summer Encounter is a safe space where everyone is free to be themselves, even when they may not be able to at home. Colburn is a home away from home.

The camp is a learning experience, demonstrating the value of arts education in helping students become confident and grow. Debbie Devine insists that for those involved, “it’s like a time lapse, watching the counselors mature and the kids literally find their voices and identify themselves as artists. They’re just different after two weeks.”

Fortunately, for many, Summer Encounter lights the spark for furthering performing arts education. Campers have the opportunity to apply to Colburn and continue studying on a full scholarship as a part of the Jumpstart program during the regular school year.

Faculty, campers, and counselors agree that Summer Encounter is life changing. Over two weeks in July, newcomers and old timers are welcomed into the school to join a blooming community of artists that just want to spread a bit more love in this world.

New Programs and Offerings Enrich Colburn Students’ Artistic Development

Colburn students have always had access to the highest-quality performing arts education through our world-class faculty, sequential learning programs, and multiple performance opportunities. However, beginning this school year, they will have even more ways to take their artistry to the next level.

Read on to discover exciting new offerings from around the school.

Center for Innovation and Community Impact

Starting this school year, the Center for Innovation and Community Impact will offer a series of eight short courses for Colburn students as part of its career development programming. Although the courses are designed for Conservatory students, all music students will benefit and are encouraged to attend.

Students will be able to select from seminars that cover resume, biography, and professional photo tips, financial literacy, community engagement, digital marketing, and other practical knowledge and skills for professional musicians.


Previously, graduating Conservatory students enrolled in the Working Musician course taught by Dr. Nathaniel Zeisler, Dean for Community Initiatives. By adapting this one course into several different classes, students will be able to choose areas that are most relevant to their career goals, giving them a more tailored and in-depth experience. Students will also be able to take courses throughout their enrollment at Colburn rather than only in their senior year, thus allowing them to develop skills and understanding throughout their education.


Apart from academic courses, the Center will also expand its artist toolshed, which equips students with tech gear such as computers, cameras, and microphones for rental use. The expansion involves this year’s Entrepreneurs in Residence, Jared Dickerson and Simone Porter of The Upnote podcast, who will assist in developing a new studio for students to record podcasts.

The Center for Innovation and Community Impact will continue working with student soloists and ensembles to present community programming throughout the year.

Community School of Performing Arts

This fall, parents with young children will find captivating new programs, including additional classes in Early Childhood and Drama on Sundays, a hybrid Dalcroze and Music theory class for five year olds called Beginning Musicianship, and the Suzuki Guitar program.

The brand new Suzuki Guitar Program is directed by Dr. Connie Sheu, a classical guitarist with over 10 years of experience teaching Suzuki Guitar. Weekly private lessons and group instruction ensures that students are progressing at their own pace, developing ensemble skills, and reinforcing proper technique on the instrument. Suzuki guitar is open to students ages five and older. For enrollment information, contact Dr. Connie Sheu at


For students looking to continue studying music in college, the new College Audition Prep for Singers class provides college-aspiring high school singers with the knowledge, strategies, and technical skills needed to craft a first-rate college music audition. This class is taught by voice faculty Michael Chipman. Mr. Chipman shares a conclusion he formed from his experience in the college audition process, “It seems to me, having been on the other side of the audition table for many years, that there is a lot of information that would be very helpful in preparing students (and their parents) for those auditions.” Twelve weeks will be a seminar on specific topics, and four weeks will be conducted as master classes. The class will provide the information and technical knowledge to construct a successful college audition and set students apart from the competition.


The Community School has added two ensembles, Symphonic Band and the Colburn Sinfonietta. Designed for middle school students with at least one year playing experience in a band or ensemble at their school, the Symphonic Band is a welcoming group for those students looking for an entrance into the band continuum here at Colburn. This program allows winds, brass, and percussion students to gain skills, develop ensemble experience, and reach their musical goals, all while surrounded by encouraging faculty and peers.

Additionally, the Community School is excited to announce the Colburn Sinfonietta as part of the advanced orchestra program. Featuring talented wind and string players, students in this close-knit group will dig deep into Classical repertoire and explore their musicality as a group.

Read more about all of the ensembles.

Music Academy

Beginning this fall, the Music Academy will offer a new curriculum track for students who live on or near campus. Each weekday morning, these students will take classes that include eurhythmics and improvisation, movement, choir, basic conducting, piano skills (for non-pianists), as well as duo coaching and continuo training (for pianists). They, along with other music students across the school, will have the opportunity to use a new state-of-the-art piano lab to develop basic keyboard skills expected in most collegiate-level music programs.

For our high-school aged Music Academy students who are beginning a pre-professional track, the development of fundamental skills such as movement, stage presence, and musical expression is crucial to their artistic development. With the addition of these new curricular offerings, Music Academy students will be able to expand and supplement their musical skills in a holistic manner, while experiencing new learning opportunities that will also help to build camaraderie among the student cohort.

After last year’s newly established partnership with Oak Crest Academy, this year’s curricular addition creates even more structure to the Music Academy’s program while allowing students to maintain their focus on instrumental performance.

Music Academy students will continue to perform with the Academy Virtuosi chamber orchestra, in chamber music settings, on the Music Academy Young Artist Performance recital series, and at special events throughout the year.

Office of Alumni and Parent Relations

Every year, Colburn serves over 2,000 enrolled students in addition to those who are reached offsite by outreach programs in the Center for Innovation and Community Impact. And each year, around 150 of those students move on to college, training programs, or the professional world. Colburn embraces its commitment to this growing community by investing in alumni engagement.

As part of this effort, the school established the position of Manager of Alumni and Parent Relations this past March with Los Angeles native Michele Yamamoto filling the role. Michele brings a valuable history of supporting donors, students, and families at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. This school year she will be concentrating on developing effective and consistent measures to engage both alumni and parents, which will include existing family-focused events throughout the year and new events.

As a means to connect, once a month, Alumni and Parent Relations will host an “Office Hours” pop-up as a gathering space for Colburn families to have the chance to get to know supporting staff, other families, and students. Coffee and snacks will be provided. Michele, as Manager of Alumni and Parent Relations will spearhead this new series as an effort to knit the Colburn family closer.

The first Office Hours will take place on Saturday, August 24 from 9 am to 12 pm on the plaza in front of Thayer Hall.

Trudl Zipper Dance Institute

The Trudl Zipper Dance Institute has added a new Youth Dance program for male students ages 10–14. In the Boys Youth Ballet program, students will participate in Ballet Levels IV and V (based on placement), and take two male-only classes per week with a focus on learning more advanced steps specialized to male ballet dancers, such as jumps, lifts, and leaps. They will also be able to combine with female students in three other classes for supplementary instruction.

The program is designed to give provide boys the specialized attention they need at that age to begin developing the different, more masculine style of ballet needed to progress to a higher level. After finishing the Boys Youth Ballet program, students will be well-prepared to audition for the Colburn Dance Academy, which prepares dancers for a professional career.

Beyond the technical skills the program will teach, Boys Youth Ballet will also present a social outlet for male dancers to get to know each other and be part of a like-minded group of students.

Scholarships will be available for male-only classes, with a possibility of full funding based on merit for the additional classes.

In the two years since the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute restructured, Youth Dance has worked to establish a sequential learning curriculum for successful development. The Boys Youth Ballet program will bring an added layer resulting in deeper preparatory training.

Conservatory Students Perform for a Younger, Gigglier Crowd

This month, Lucy Wang, Hao Zhou, Aiden Kane, and Tate Zawadiuk of the Viano String Quartet will give a dynamic performance for over 2,000 students from our Title I partner schools as a part of the Center for Innovation and Community Impact’s Musical Encounter Interactive. The program combines music, acting, and audience engagement to tell the original story of the quartet’s appearance on a radio show hosted by a wacky Frenchman.

The quartet has been working hard since the beginning of last semester with drama chair Debbie Devine to develop their theatrical skills to engage and entertain young learners. They were involved in the process from start to finish, and spent countless hours developing the script with Debbie and scriptwriter Leon Martell. Along with actor Bennett Shneider and faculty Leeav Sofer, who both have roles in the production, they dedicated themselves this school year to workshopping the program, learning lines, and rehearsing.

The storyline follows the quartet’s growing indignation as they perform on a live radio show. The host is an over the top Frenchman played by Bennett Schneider, who is seeking out the most innovative and avant-garde music to be performed on his show. He promises quartet members fame and fortune if they leave the group to become his new artistic protégé. Hilarity ensues, and they finally realize it’s better to stick together and trust in themselves as a group—and even make room for new collaborators.

Throughout the performance, children in the audience are encouraged to participate and interact. Musical Encounter Interactive gives them an entry point to studying music here, including a chance to see what our students do, and what it feels like to be on campus. Thankfully, the Vianos are the perfect ambassadors.

“The Viano quartet members have been some of our most active members in the community at the institution and jumped at the opportunity to work with Deb Devine on an interactive performance,” says Nate Zeisler, Dean for Community Initiatives.

The quartet is no stranger to community engagement, having made it a core tenet of their group philosophy after participating in the Bellingham Festival of Music’s “Play it Forward” residency in March 2017, when they performed in outreach concerts for schoolchildren. Musical Encounter Interactive has been a fitting opportunity for them to continue to implement their vision.

“It has been a fantastic experience for us to work with Debbie Devine and Leon Martell to create this year’s [Musical Encounter Interactive] program. The opportunity to collaborate with actors and scriptwriters is unique to Los Angeles, and we are thrilled to be presenting this brand new interactive program in Zipper Hall next week. We’re confident that this program will introduce young students to classical music in a fun and accessible way,” says violinist Lucy Wang on behalf of the quartet.

Join us for Musical Encounter Interactive on February 9 at 10:30 am in Zipper Hall. The performance is free, and open to the public.


Jumpstart Students Expand Their Knowledge Under New Band Director

After a semester of rehearsals and lessons, students in the Jumpstart Young Musicians Program will present their fall concert on December 10, alongside their peers in the Community School’s Concert Band and Wind Ensemble.

This semester, Jumpstart musicians were formally integrated into the Community School band program, led by new Director of Bands Paul Crockett. “Many Jumpstart students were naturally matriculating into Community School bands after they graduated from the program,” explained Jazmín Morales, Manager of Community Engagement and Career Development. “Besides granting them access to important resources like practice rooms, this transition also allows Jumpstart students to feel like they are truly part of the Colburn community.”

When Paul Crockett arrived at Colburn at the beginning of the semester, one of his first tasks was to choose repertoire for the bands to learn. He immediately thought of having the Jumpstart Symphonic Band learn Steven Bryant’s The Machine Awakes, which tells the story of a machine that slowly becomes sentient using electronic accompaniment via a phone app. “Even though they’re young players, I think they could still do something to experiment and explore their instruments and different sounds more,” he shared in an interview.

As Paul put together the program, he selected pieces designed to help Jumpstart students develop musical skills as they continue learning their instruments. For example, As Twilight Falls by Robert Sheldon teaches students how to play with longer lines and phrases with proper breathing techniques.

Part of his teaching strategy is to see how quickly band members are able to learn and adapt. “They’re about to get the music to Holiday Bobsled Run, which is also by Robert Sheldon. I want to know what they can do in five rehearsals, since we’ve been together for a while. It took us a while to get comfortable with each other and for me to understand what their needs were. We understand each other now,” Paul said, chuckling. “It’s a different experience than what I’m used to, but I couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids to work with.”

As his first semester as band director comes to an end, Paul Crockett’s ambitions for the three ensembles are just beginning to come to fruition. Beyond ideas closer to home, he already has plans for the Wind Ensemble, the Community School’s premier band, to apply for the Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference held in Chicago every December. “I want to put Colburn bands on a national stage,” he declared.

Join us for the Community School Bands’ fall concert on December 10.


Ryan Davis Launches The Upnote, a Podcast for Musicians

Ryan Davis, a violist and Artist Diploma candidate, was an avid follower of podcasts. However, he noticed a niche audience that wasn’t being addressed, despite the thousands of audio offerings on services such as Apple and Stitcher. He set out to fix that, launching The Upnote, with his musical friends and colleagues. He told us all about the project, the process, and where it will go from here.

What inspired you to start the podcast?
I have been listening to podcasts for some time—specifically programs that pertain to basketball! While I have also listened to a few podcasts about classical music, I felt that it would be really exciting to start a podcast that provided a platform for young professional players on the cusp of their careers. I hadn’t yet heard a podcast that centered around the perspective of young people in the music industry, and believe that my age group is facing uniquely difficult obstacles as we embark on our careers. I am grateful that we have a talented and diverse team of hosts, who will help shed some light on the various things that young musicians are experiencing.

Where do you hope it goes from here?
My hope is that The Upnote will be a vehicle for dialogue, exploration, and even some form of therapeutic listening for anyone who is pursuing a career in classical music. Here at The Upnote we recognize that is there is no singular way to carve out one’s path in this ever-changing industry, and we hope to highlight the many exciting ways that young musicians are making their passions their livelihoods.

Describe the process of working with your friends on this—the dynamic, how you problem solve, anything?
It has been an absolute joy teaming up with my close friends, Jared Dickerson, Wynton Grant, and Simone Porter! They are all wonderful musicians and personalities, each in their own style. I believe that the strength of The Upnote is in our flexibility. We are all passionate about our careers, but also about the intrinsic value of music, and are aiming to underline its importance every step of the way. We all work well together, but it has certainly been tricky managing a podcast around our busy lives! A lot of work happens through message threads, WeTransfers, and brief planning meetups. This is only the beginning, so we can’t wait to build more momentum together as a team.

What has the reception been like so far and how do you feel about it?
In the spring, Jared and I made a pitch to the New Venture Competition, and were thrilled to receive funding for our website,, which has allowed us to host an accessible platform for our content. As the summer went by, we all brainstormed about the possibilities for episodes, guest interviews, and branding. We are all extremely excited, as we know that the best is yet to come. On a personal level, after we recorded our very first episode, I was simply struck by how the four of us almost seamlessly wove through many different topics in our field of work, in one giant take of recording. We basically didn’t have to redo or edit anything! As we finished recording, I couldn’t help but feel that we were meant to work together like this.

Our friends and listeners have been extremely supportive thus far, which is been very encouraging. We are also thrilled to have The Upnote on Apple Podcasts, which allows our listeners to easily subscribe and catch every episode. Nonetheless, we are certainly hoping to expand our reach, and feel far from accomplishing what we hope to. It would mean a great deal to us if our podcast could be shared to anyone and everyone who might be fascinated by what we’re up to here. We are hoping to continue working hard, and are energized to see where this new podcast will take us!

How should potential listeners reach you?
The easiest way to connect with us is to follow us on all major social media platforms (especially our Instagram account!) @theupnote, as well as by emailing

You can download and subscribe to The Upnote on Apple Podcasts.


Students Elevate their Community Commitment, with Help from MacArthur Fellow

This fall, Conservatory students in the Pathways to Citizen Artistry seminar are confronting social issues facing not only themselves as individuals and musicians, but also Los Angeles and the rest of the country. Taught by newly minted MacArthur fellow Vijay Gupta, the course is designed to empower students to create a more just and equitable world through the lens of their own musical, and human, talents.

“As the emerging generation of preeminent international artists, Colburn students will be called upon to utilize not only their musical talent, but critical civic and social skills, in engaging the various communities they will encounter in their professional lives beyond the school,” Vijay explained over email.

So far this semester, students have been laying the framework for the community engagement work they will be doing. By discussing the history and background of homeless and incarcerated populations in LA, and the broader structures in place that have led their disenfranchisement, students have developed empathy and understanding that will guide their work.

“I’ve never seen students respond in such an authentically engaged and vulnerable way with the material,” said Jazmín Morales, Manager of Community Engagement and Career Development. “Students have come to the class ready to not just learn, but explore.”

The class is a self-selecting group of students who, because of that, have created an honest and vulnerable environment for discussion. “The fact that we’re all in this class with Vijay means that we’re all open to being deep and thinking about these things fully,” Conservatory freshman Dallas Noble shared. “All of the things that Vijay says and all of the things that we do are designed to really make us think.”

The timing was opportune for Vijay to begin teaching here this semester. Last month, he was named a MacArthur Fellow for his years of social justice and community engagement work with Street Symphony, with whom we announced a formal partnership last year. “This is just the perfect moment for it to happen,” Jazmin explained. “Street Symphony is just bursting at the seams. They have a lot of forward momentum.”

Next week, during our annual Community Engagement Week, Conservatory students in the class will have the opportunity to put their discussions into practice by performing at the Midnight Mission on Skid Row.

“This class is the first step in what I think will be a long relationship with us, Street Symphony, and Vijay, of increasing depth,” said Jazmín. For students, this means more opportunities to apply what they’ve learned to programs in the new Center for Innovation and Community Impact. “That same empowerment that we’re looking for is also possible through teaching, or through involvement in these community programs that we grant students access to. We hope the class will serve as a launch pad for expanding more of the work that we’re already doing and seek to do in a meaningful way.”