Community School Spotlight: Celine Chen

This interview has been lightly edited for style and clarity.

How long have you been playing the flute and how did you get started?
I started when I was nine, so, that’s eight years. I wanted to play violin at first, but the junior high I was going into didn’t have an orchestra, and I wanted to be part of the music program. It only offered band, so that’s why I chose flute instead of violin.

How did that decision turn out for you? What did you learn about the flute?
I have actually played the piano since I was four, and I think picking up a woodwind instrument was first of all, very different, because I had never really had to think about breathing before. Now that I play a woodwind instrument, I have to think about where exactly I should take a breath. I thought a lot more about the phrasing, because it would matter where I took the breath since it would chop off the music if I took it in the wrong spot. Because of this, I transferred my “music-phrasing analyzing” skills to the piano, and in this way, I was able to grow a lot as a musician.

I also learned a lot about tone because with the piano, if you put your finger on it, it already makes a beautiful sound. But then the flute, the first time I tried playing it, I couldn’t even make a sound. So for the first couple months, all I worked on was my tone; while in my piano lesson, I would already be playing short pieces. Thus, because of the flute, I focused a lot more on my sound and that helped me become more sensitive overall, whether that be playing the flute or the piano.

Do you still play the piano?

What’s it like balancing the two?
It’s really hard. It used to be a lot easier before high school, but now that I’m in high school and I’m a senior, I’m taking a lot of hard classes. So it’s hard to balance the time, but I do try to balance it out as best as I can.

What are some of the differences you’ve noticed?
I’m not able to practice the flute as much as the piano because I physically get tired. After a couple of hours, for example, my embouchure starts getting worse because of fatigue. So compared to piano, the amount of time I practice has changed.

Also, the types of exercises I do to warm up have been very different. They’ve been more focused on tone and vibrato, as I’ve hinted at before.

How are you feeling about being back on campus at Colburn?
I’m excited to come back. I haven’t been able to do chamber and orchestra this past year, so I’m really excited to be back in person.

How were the virtual classes you took last year?
I took private lessons last year, and it was really hard, honestly. I think it’s a lot easier with piano. I also have to take virtual lessons for piano, and with woodwind the sound is a lot different. For example, the vibrato sometimes makes the sound cut out completely or the high notes aren’t even picked up. So, that makes it really hard. But I think my teacher made the best out of the situation, and I was still able to learn a lot and grow a lot.

What kinds of things did you learn during that time that you’ll continue to work on?
I practiced a lot for vibrato, and it was really weird practicing vibrato because I never had to do it for piano. I think it really helped my tone for the flute. And I really liked my sound after I did those exercises over and over again. So I think I’ll definitely be continuing those exercises in the future.

How has your time at Colburn been overall?
Colburn has been really great. Before I joined Colburn, I was just with a small music school and there weren’t a lot of performances. I love connecting with the audience, and I love performing. So Colburn really allowed me to foster my passion for performing even more. It was great with all the Friday Night Recitals, the School Recitals, and the Honors Recitals, too.

What were some of your favorite performances?
I only got to do Colburn [Youth] Orchestra for one year. So I think there was only one concert before the pandemic hit. That one will always be a really vivid memory for me. Also because I had the Honors Recital on the same day, so I had two big concerts in one day. It was really jam packed, but it worked out. We performed the Nielsen Flute Concerto with another flutist as the soloist, and I think Beethoven. And for the Honors Recital, I performed Eldin Burton’s Sonatina for Flute and Piano.

You’re in both chamber and orchestra. Do you prefer one over the other?
I think they both have their own perks. I really love both. I can’t really choose. I think orchestra is a little bit harder because you have to listen to so many other instruments.

With chamber, I’m in a woodwind quintet this year, so it’s just woodwinds. And I know the other instruments better because they’re part of the woodwind family. So I’d say orchestra is a little bit harder, but I do love being a part of both.

What do you hope to do with your music in the future?
I definitely plan on continuing to play flute, continuing to play in orchestra and chamber music. It’s been a big part of my life, and with how much it’s impacted me, I don’t think I’ll be able to just quit and not play anymore. So I think I’ll definitely carry it on as I transition to college.

How has music impacted you?
It definitely gave me a community to be in, because I grew up in Indonesia and then moved here. When I was in the US, I had a little bit of a hard time fitting in because I couldn’t exactly speak English. But then being part of band really helped me to make friends, for example, because I was really shy. But yeah, it gave me a community that I could be a part of and that I could be proud of too.

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.

Music Theory

Music theory at the Community School of Performing Arts is a singing-based curriculum designed to enhance and support instrumental and vocal study through active engagement and kinesthetic exploration. From pre-reading exposure classes to 20th century atonality, music theory classes deepen understanding of the musical process and strengthen artistic expression and performance.

Music theory and Dalcroze classes are designed to be taken simultaneously or one at a time to accommodate each individual’s pace and progress. In the same way, upper level music theory classes are compatible with simultaneous compositional study as well as advanced Dalcroze Rhythmic Solfege study.

Music Theory Group Classes

Prior to enrollment, students complete an assessment test to determine which class(es) would be most appropriate. Evaluations are normally done in the fall, and enrollment is assumed to be a year-long commitment. At the end of the year, continuing students are reevaluated so that faculty can advise them on appropriate choices for further study.

Music Theory Assessment

Email the completed assessment to

This curriculum is designed to introduce basic components of music. Students learn major and minor scales, intervals, and triads. They also expand their ear training with aural recognition of the concepts studied in written theory. Students begin working on sight singing using solfege. Placement test is required prior to enrolling. Email the completed assessment to

Click here for Placement Test

Making sure students progress in their understanding of music and playing skills is key to our curriculum development. To keep them moving forward, this class furthers students sight singing and dictation. New materials focus on seventh chords and their inversions as well as functional harmony and classification of common non-harmonic tones. Placement test is required prior to enrolling.Email the completed assessment to

Click here for Placement Test

Students in this class are ready to tackle more complex elements. Instruction incorporates diatonic harmony, functional analysis, and recognition of all non-harmonic tones. They’ll also learn about four-part harmony and analysis of simple Bach chorales. They’ll continue progressing in simple binary and ternary forms and concomitant ear training. Placement test is required prior to enrolling. Email the completed assessment to

Click here for Placement Test

Nonharmonic tones and 4 part writing is introduced. Secondary functions, modulation, Neopolitan chords and augmented sixth chords are analyzed, sung and written. Harmonic and melodic practice and dictation using fixed solfege of the subjects combined with progressively complex rhythmic patterns. Placement test is required prior to enrolling. Email the completed assessment to

Click here for Placement Test

Once students have a firm understanding of diatonic harmony and elementary chromatic harmony, they’re ready to explore music theory at a deeper level. Class instruction centers around Neapolitan 6th chord, the augmented 6th chord, and altered chords. Teachers also discuss modulation to distant keys and enharmonic modulation. Students analytical skills are challenged with larger forms, such as sonata, theme and variations, and rondo and sonata-rondo form. Placement test is required prior to enrolling.  Email the completed assessment to

Click here for Placement Test

Moduation using procedures other than common-chord procedures. Phrase analysis, binary, rouded binary, ternary, sonata form. Enharmonic notation, modulation and analysis. Advanced Neopolitan and augmented sixth chords. Introduction to atonality. Sightsinging, composition, and dictation involving the above, including appropriate rhythmic practice. Placement test required prior to enrolling. Email the completed assessment to 

Click here for Placement Test


The Dalcroze philosophy relies on solfege, eurhythmics, and improvisation which lay the foundation for students serious about instrumental and vocal study. Class activities include vocal awareness, ear training, and sight-singing as well as rhythmic movement. Improvisational works unlock students’ innate musicality and develop musical security while a kinetic approach builds up “muscle memory”, a trait key to the spontaneous musician. Students’ own discovery in music brings joyful and powerful musicianship.

Dalcroze Placement

In-person assessments are required for younger students between the age of five and seven to determine readiness for Dalcroze Eurhythmics/Beginning Musicianship class as well as placement into Dalcroze II, III, or IV.

Please contact Mari Izumi at to schedule an assessment.

Ideal for young students ages 5 – 7 years old who are just beginning to learn an instrument. New students, please contact Mari Izumi at for an assessment prior to enrolling.

This class is for students to learn beginning musical concepts through a variety of kinetic activities with parents. The Dalcroze approach encourages students’ spontaneity and attentiveness. We train our whole body to respond to specific musical subjects including, but not limited to beat, subdivision, rests, phrase, simple and compound meter. Songs will be used as musical examples. One parent must participate with a student.

In this introductory Rhythmic Solfege, fixed “Do” syllables are used to indicate pitch, and numbers are used to indicate function. Furthermore, students explore simple vocal improvisation in order to develop a keen sense of pitch. The following subjects include, but are not limited to diatonic scales, triads, measure shape, and syncopation. Specific examples will be taken from musical literature.

Students may need to be assessed to ensure readiness for class, contact Mari Izumi at prior to enrolling or discuss options with Ms. Sawada to continue in Elementary Music Theory IA. 

This class is designed to focus on “Rhythmic Solfege” – the study of inner hearing. Students will deepen their musicianship through Dalcroze solfege, rhythmic movement. Furthermore, the class focuses on vocal/instrumental improvisation based on materials learned in class. Advanced topics include augmentation/diminution, complementary rhythm, unequal beats, modes, and the pentatonic scale.

Students need access to the piano or their musical instrument for ear training and improvisation.

Students may need to be assessed to ensure readiness for class, contact Mari Izumi at prior to enrolling or discuss options with Ms. Sawada to continue in Elementary Music Theory II. 

This class is specifically designed for Community School Suzuki string students to develop musical awareness through experience-based activities. Students gain active listening skills, rhythmic vitality, and a keen sense of pitch as well as coordination. Over the course of study, students internalize music which promotes confident and accurate music learning experiences. Specific examples will be taken from musical literature including the Suzuki repertoire. One parent must accompany a student.

This section is for students that have already taken at least one semester of Dalcroze for Suzuki. For more information, please contact Ms. Izumi at


Composition lessons provide students with an outlet to explore their knowledge of music and create works of their own. These lessons are available to students who have completed the Intermediate II level of Music Theory, or its equivalent. Students work one-on-one with our accomplished faculty and have opportunities to share their work in studio classes and with Colburn ensembles.

Trombonist Elijah Alexander
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. Trombonist Elijah Alexander

Composition students at the Community School of Performing Arts have been recognized for their achievements, including being accepted to the Nancy and Barry Sanders Composer Fellowship Program at the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Private Lessons

To study composition with a private teacher, submit an inquiry form.

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.

Nita Baxani

Born in Hong Kong to a Chinese mother and Indian father, she immigrated to the United States at a young age. She grew up in Virginia and received her Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Virginia Commonwealth University before moving on to attain a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the Manhattan School of Music. As a professional singer, she performed in U.S. National Tours, as well as at numerous venues across the United States and Europe as a soloist in operas, oratorio, and world premier works.

In her capacity as an educator, she has held leadership roles in arts programs and schools in both the United States and Germany. Her career includes leadership roles as Director of Music at elementary schools, Head of Music at an international school, and Head of Elementary school where she oversaw the day-to-day management and curriculum alignment between two campuses. Her work in creating new programs and curriculum design and implementation in early childhood and elementary school music programs are collaborative in nature and cover a variety of pedagogical approaches that foster an inclusive child centered environment. As an arts advocate, Dr. Baxani enjoys creating programs and cultivating partnerships with schools and community and cultural organizations.

Dr. Baxani is passionate about early childhood education and received a Doctor of Education degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, where her dissertation focused on the musicality of infants within a childcare community. At Teachers College, she was the music instructor and researcher at the Rita Gold Early Childhood Center working with children aged 3 months to 5 years. She also taught fieldwork courses in Early Childhood Music Education and supervised student teacher candidates. Her experience as a curriculum designer range from music and movement-based curriculum for infants ages 6 months to 36 months to music in elementary school classrooms. Dr. Baxani presents at conferences in the U.S. and internationally including at ISME and ECME. Her publications and work in research focus on young children, music, and community and include special research topics such as BambinO, an opera for babies, that was presented at the Metropolitan Opera.

A versatile educator, Dr. Baxani has experience teaching music to students in K-12 classrooms in both public and private schools, as well as serving as music facilitator in after school music programs, applied voice instruction, and group music instruction. Most recently, Dr. Baxani served as Director of Music at Carlthorp School, a K-6 independent school in Santa Monica. In higher education, she has served as Adjunct Assistant Professor at CUNY, teaching early childhood and elementary school music education courses. Dr. Baxani’s training also includes Elemental Music and Dance Pedagogy from the Carl Orff Institute in Salzburg, First Steps in Music, Conversational Solfege, Orff Schulwerk Level 1, and World Music Drumming Level 1. She focuses on the whole child and community, and she is passionate in her commitment to engaging students through collaboration in music making, inspiring students of all ages “to music” together.

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.

A New Online Experience: Virtual Open House at the Community School

As summer quickly approaches and optimism rises, the Community School of Performing Arts is focused on keeping its programs open and accessible to all students! With the upcoming Virtual Open House on June 5, the Community School is utilizing the online experience to continue adapting and providing opportunities for students of all ages and experiences to connect with Colburn’s faculty, staff, and programming.

Virtual Open House

June 5
9 am–4 pm

The Virtual Open House is a pathway into discovering the perfect program for children or adult learners! With department chair panels, open classes, expert seminars, and engaging video content, participants will have the Community School on full display. The Virtual Open House exemplifies the Community School’s resilience, accessibility, and commitment to recruiting students of all ages and experiences.

Resilience and Technological Solutions

The upcoming event testifies to the resilience of the Community School. With over 70 years of music education experience, not even a pandemic can prevent the school from reaching students. In 2019, the Community School put on its first Open House. With over 500 attendees, the event took place at Colburn’s beautiful downtown LA campus bringing students and families in contact with all the amazing faculty, staff, and programs. While this year continues to present unique challenges due to the pandemic, the Community School has shifted the event online to continue to showcase the incredible opportunities at the school.

The Community School will be utilizing an online hub for all registration, information, and exciting video content for prospective students and parents to interact with. This creative approach will allow the school to safely interact with students while expanding our reach from the greater Los Angeles area to anywhere in the country or world, time zone permitting.

Utilizing the skills, knowledge, and technological advances at Colburn, the Community School will also premiere a new video at the Virtual Open House. The student narration will bring prospective families through the mission, history, and programs of our school.

The Open House and the Commitment to Accessibility

The Community School is committed to opening up our doors and allowing students to see the full extent of what we do. Accessibility is a priority. The Community School wants prospective students to meet the teachers and staff and see what Summer and Fall 2021 would look like at Colburn, especially with brand new summer camps such as Zippy Toons, a songwriting camp, and returning favorites like the Jazz Camp and Chamber Music Intensive.

The Community School is often the first step of a student’s journey in the performing arts. In knowing this, we aim to provide as much information as possible to parents and adult learners to enable a productive journey. . As part of this information effort, the Virtual Open House will present a seminar with Dr. Sean Hutchins about Early Childhood Music and Cognitive Development.

Dr. Sean Hutchins is the Director of Research for the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. He founded and currently leads the Royal Conservatory’s Research Centre, focusing on experimental studies of music neuroscience and performance. At the Virtual Open House, he will be walking parents through the impact of Early Childhood Music on young students.

In addition to the seminar, the department chairs will host a panel and Q&A with parents, students, and parents.

Community School of Performing Arts Department Chairs

Gina Coletti, Ed and Mari Edelman Chamber Music Institute
Henry Gronnier, Strings
Jeff Lavner, Piano
Karen Lundgren, Winds, Brass, and Percussion
Kathy Sawada, Music Theory
Lee Secard, Jazz Studies
Michael Stevens, Voice

Whether you have a question about private lessons, juries, or music theory placement, the department chairs can answer it! These experienced faculty help students and families navigate Colburn and provide them with the advice to make the Community School their performing arts home.

Opening Up New Audiences

During this last year, we confirmed our commitment to diverse student recruitment with new and expanded Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion initiatives, furthering the Community School’s emphasis on reaching the broad, multi-generational and cultural population in Los Angeles with access to high quality performing arts education.

The Virtual Open House is one of the ways to reach new people! The event opens up the Community School to those beyond the sprawling reaches of Los Angeles. Students from around the country can talk to faculty and participate in classes. The lack of commute or drive time opens up the availability of students and families who maybe can’t make the drive downtown to see Colburn’s campus.

Learn More

RSVP to the Virtual Open House event today!

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

Learn more about the Community School of Performing Arts.

Register today for summer classes and private lessons.

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