Jazmín Morales, pictured with the inaugural cohort of Fortissima fellows, is the Manager of Community Engagement and Career Development in the Center for Innovation and Community Impact. She has been working at Colburn for three years.
This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.
What’s your musical background, and how did you end up working at Colburn?
I’m from LA, born in Whittier, but moved to the Central Valley in elementary school. I started playing violin when I was three years old, Suzuki method, and was classically trained. I also grew up playing mariachi.
I was very active in my classical studies. At one point, I became the concertmaster of the regional youth orchestra in Bakersfield. That orchestra was actually conducted by Maxim Eshkenazy, so I’ve known Maxim since I was a freshman in high school. My first introduction to Colburn was actually through Maxim, because he was working at Colburn at the time too.
In the end, I decided I wanted to be an ethnomusicologist, so I went to UCLA and got really passionate about arts administration. I got a job right out of college at La Jolla as an artist services coordinator for the La Jolla Music Society. They’re also the producer of the major chamber music festival called Summer Fest. I absolutely loved every minute. So many of our Colburn faculty members attend that festival, so I got to know them through my work there.
When I came back to LA for grad school, the stars just sort of aligned and as I was working on my master’s thesis, which ended up being Fortissima, I met Nate and told him what I was working on, and we just had this instant chemistry and it all sort of worked out.
What do you do in your current job here?
With the reimagining of our division—now that it’s Innovation and Community Impact—my job looks like a lot of different things. I have now taken on things that I would not have even imagined, but have been really awesome, like co-teaching the Pathways to Citizen Artistry class with Vijay [Gupta] last semester.
No two days are the same. Some days I’m interviewing first graders for Jumpstart cello. The next day I’m helping a Conservatory student put together their materials for an orchestral audition or helping run the New Venture Competition. The next day I’m running around backstage with Deb Devine figuring out the Musical Encounter Interactive show. My job sometimes feels a little bit like all of the above.
My job is essentially to manage and support all of the programming that is overseen by our division, and support Nate in conceiving and executing a strategic vision for the Center. I’m lucky that if I wanted experiment with something, the spirit of our area of the school is very much iterative and non-linear.
What is your favorite part of working at Colburn?
That’s so hard. Honestly, I love working at Colburn. That little magic of coming to work and the energy of Grand Avenue and our building, especially at a time like this when everything feels like it’s in full swing.
Just like, the joy of seeing a little cellist on his way to a lesson, or listening to the 30th round of the pianist playing Shostakovich in the practice room next door. That never gets old to me, and it really makes me feel like I’m in my element.
What are some other things you’re involved with outside of Colburn?
I just got accepted to the Sphinx LEAD fellowship program, so I’m part of the inaugural cohort of the new executive leadership program run by the Sphinx Organization. That means for the next two years I’ll be traveling almost every other month to various organizations and orchestras. Conservatories and orchestras will be hosting us and we’ll get to meet with their leadership team. We also get access to professional coaches to help us with individual projects.
It’s a really exciting opportunity for me to really broaden and deepen my knowledge and network in the field, especially with other administrators who share a passion for social justice and an experience as people of color.
I’m also consulting with From the Top for all of their leadership and community engagement initiatives on the West Coast. I’m on the education planning committee for the first-ever American Latino gallery at the Smithsonian that will be opening in 2021 at the National Museum of American History. I’m still working with Street Symphony through Las Colibrí, the mariachi that I play in.
How do you do so much and stay on top of it?
I don’t know. Coffee.
What do you hope to learn from the Sphinx fellowship and bring back to the students here?
I hope to learn more about myself as a leader so I can really hone my skills and dedicate that to increasing the work that I do at Colburn and sharing that with students.
I also know that the network I’ll be able to tap into and create through this program is really important to the students that I serve. My access to that network means that they have access to that network through me.
How did you come up with the idea for Fortissima?
It was actually my thesis project in graduate school. I had to do a lot of soul-searching about what I want to accomplish in the world and the best way to go about that. What I ended up discovering is that I’m really passionate about helping girls like me find their artistic voice and their confidence around that artistic voice.
It was really borne of my own experiences as a young woman of color studying classical music. I felt a sense of isolation from other people who shared my cultural background and experiences. It was important for me to be able to create a network for these girls to know each other, share experiences, and empower one another.
It’s literally a dream come true seeing that come alive with the cohort of girls who are in Fortissima, and seeing how connected they are and how much they love each other and treasure that connection they have with each other. [Learn more about Fortissima.]
Nate came to my thesis defense, and said, we need to be doing this at Colburn. I didn’t think that it would ever necessarily be a real thing. But that’s kind of the name of the game at the Center for Innovation and Community Impact. We love good ideas and we act on them.
What can we look forward to from the Center for Innovation and Community Impact?
We’re still dreaming up a lot of the exciting things. We’re accumulating a lot of awesome gear and resources and gadgets for the school to play with. They’re getting a lot of use already, so we’re seeing the need for more and more. We’re definitely looking forward to a bigger space to house our growing resources and tools for students to use to explore their full potential as artists and creators.
What are some of your non-musical interests?
I’m a yogi. I really love yoga, and I practice it with my husband usually. My favorite things outside of Colburn are my husband and yoga and wine. Oh, and I’m frequently asked for restaurant recommendations because I love trying new restaurants. It’s a very expensive hobby.
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