Community School of Performing Arts through the “Ages”: High School, Adult Studies, and Beyond

Adult choir members lined up

Access to excellence in music education is at the forefront of the Community School’s high school and adult studies.

Colburn recognizes the value of a performing arts education at any age. The Community School of Performing Arts (Community School) serves individuals in high school and beyond through a variety of comprehensive programs spanning all skill levels.

High School (Classical)

In high school, Community School students pursue diverse avenues of study. With 18 instruments to study, over 36 ensembles, and numerous classes, students can find the perfect program for them to delve deeply into the complexities of music that most motivate them.

Sixteen-year-old Scarlett Chen is taking advantage of numerous complementary areas of study at the School. She is a pianist, violinist, and a Herbert Zipper Scholar, a renewable scholarship that provides deserving students instruction in music theory, private lessons, and ensemble participation. Scarlett started at Colburn in 2013, ready to begin her training with the experienced faculty at the School. At the Community School, she knew that she had found her musical home.

Scarlett Chen
My initial experience, and every experience since then, has shown Colburn’s support and care for its students. I instantly felt welcome and over the seven years that I have been at Colburn, the School has become like a second home to me. I am so grateful that Colburn has given me countless opportunities and a supportive and organic environment to pursue my musical education. Violinist and pianist Scarlett Chen

Scarlett studies violin with violin faculty member Aimée Kreston: “From a very young age, I was given so many opportunities from Ms. Kreston. Some of these experiences were quite intimidating but have built my intuition and confidence.”

Scarlett is also grateful for piano instructors, Jee Sung Kang, and most recently, Jeff Lavner.

“During the five years I was in her studio, Ms. Kang guided me in bringing my piano playing to another level, which was the beginning of developing my own musicality. For the first time, I was able to convey a piece fully with my own ideas, not just playing what was on the page…Mr. Lavner has also grown my understanding of harmonies and music theory which is incredibly helpful when trying to fully understand a piece of music.”

Scarlett has spent seven years at Colburn and the Community School is proud to provide programs to allow for her development. One of these programs is the Honors Chamber program. She was placed in an honors string quartet for the 2019–20 year.

“It was my first time being in such a high-level group, doing recordings and intense study of music. It was nice to be in that environment and it helped my solo playing. I see music differently [because of the Honors String Quartet]. Even though we didn’t have the chance to compete because of the pandemic, we all gained a lot from all the opportunities that Colburn gave us and time we spent together.”

Scarlett is just one of the incredibly talented and dedicated musicians studying classical music at Colburn.

High School (Jazz)

Along with classical music, the Community School is also home to an award-winning jazz program. Known as the Colburn Jazz Workshop, the program encourages students to explore the art of improvisation and ultimately develop into composers. The jazz program is led by Lee Secard, veteran jazz pedagogue and winner of the 2020 Downbeat Achievement Award for Music Education.

For trombonist and Herbert Zipper Scholar Elijah Alexander, the Colburn jazz program has been central in his musical development.

Trombonist Elijah Alexander
Currently I'm taking private trombone lessons with Shelly Suminski, as well as playing 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 is one of my biggest cheerleaders whenever I doubt myself. Trombonist Elijah Alexander

The Community School has also provided a place for Elijah to pursue his compositional aspirations.

“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 of what I need to work on and what directions I should head in.”

While high-achieving musicians, students at the Community School students are not solely aspiring to conservatory musical educations. The Community School aims to provide the tools for our students to be successful in a variety of careers. Elijah is a great of example of this.

“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.”

He is in great company. With Community School jazz alum like Grammy® award-winning composer Kris Bowers, Elijah’s future looks bright.

Adult Studies

Music education doesn’t need to end at high school. For adult students who want to continue or begin their musical journey, the Community School offers classes, ensembles, and private lessons.

Jim Bright and his family started their 20-year Colburn journey from their daughter Nora’s experiences at the School. Nora participated in the Wind Ensemble, Colburn Orchestra da Camera, Chamber Music Ensembles, and she also studied with Yehuda Gilad for three years. Lucy Farber, Jim’s wife, was also a member of the board from 2009–2011. They also have demonstrated their support for the School not only by being a part of the Colburn Society but also by volunteering their time as Colburn Society Advisors.

However, Jim’s musical journey started prior to his daughter’s involvement at Colburn.

Jim Bright
I had piano lessons for a few years as a youngster and played electric piano in neighborhood bands in high school. While there was always music in the house as I was growing up, I was never exposed to classical music until college. This whole new world was so exciting to me, and I decided to major in music. I continued studying piano for a few years after college, but with work and two children, my schedule didn’t allow that to continue after about the age of 30. Jim Bright

Jim’s love of music never faded, and he soon re-entered into his studies with goal of being able to accompany his daughter on the piano. He started taking lessons at age 50 and has been studying with the same teacher for over 20 years.

His recent involvement in Colburn has been with the Adult Jazz Workshops taught by Liz Kinnon. He has been exploring improvisation, and Liz’s instruction was the perfect place for that curiosity development.

“I always had an interest in improvisation, and about five years ago decided that I would like to learn more. Lucky for me that Liz Kinnon, jazz teacher par excellence, was recommended. Besides private lessons, I was a member of her Adult Jazz Combo class a few years ago, and I just signed up for her current class on Zoom. She has been an inspiration, and I’ve really come a long way in my skill level.”

After the Community School

It’s important to note the success of our students beyond the performance halls of the Community School. In 2019–20, 50% of graduating seniors at the Community School pursued majors in music, including double majors, minors, composition, and musical theater.

Violinist Lucinda Chiu chose to utilize her skills developed at Colburn to pursue a classical music performance career. She graduated from the Community School in 2011 after having studied violin with Richard Schwabe. She began her studies at Colburn after moving from Hong Kong to Los Angeles.

Lucinda Chiu
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 our studio and quickly made friends—it was undoubtedly a nurturing and supportive environment. Violinist Lucinda Chiu

After her time at Colburn, Lucinda completed her undergraduate degree in music from the Peabody Conservatory and her master’s degree from Rice University. She is currently fulfilling her dream of playing in an orchestra. She is a violinist in the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and acknowledges the part that Colburn played in her orchestral career.

“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.”

As a professional musician, she recognizes the power of Colburn’s community.

“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 …. Over the years, I’ve built such meaningful relationships with my mentors and friends that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”

The Community School Is for Everyone

The students highlighted in this article represent a small fraction of the exceptional student body at Colburn. From toddlers learning steady beat in the Early Childhood Music Program to the talented high school students honing their classical, jazz, or dramatic skills, to adults building on previous music knowledge or starting from the beginning, Community School students receive excellent education in their individual performing arts pursuits.

At Colburn, we are committed to making music education accessible to everyone who has a passion and curiosity for music at any level of ability.

Read about our Community School Early Childhood and youth programs here.

For More Information

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