Culver City Observer -

By Steven Lieberman
Observer Columnist 

Students Thrive at Elemental Music in Santa Monica

 

March 29, 2018

In Santa Monica, there's a school called Elemental Music created by a Santa Monica-Malibu School District (SMMUSD) music teacher about fourteen years ago to train, inspire and nuture elementary and middle school students and give them an opportunity to play in an orchestra throughout the school year to get experience. It is a supplement to the basic instruction the students are getting at their schools and help develop both technical and musical skills that prepare them for continued study at the high school level.

Since its inception, which started with only 25 elementary school students, more than 800 students have participated in their six diverse programs after passing the audition. The programs available are: Elemental Strings, Elemental Band, Academy Philharmonic, Introduction to Guitar/Elemental Guitar, Prelude Program, and Elemental Choir.

Students are placed according to ability and also the need to balance the numbers needed for each ensemble. The auditions, which are in May, consist of three components: scales, a prepared solo piece, and sight-reading.

Tuition is $800 per year, but a sliding-scale program is also available since Elemental Music is a non-profit organization. Financial aid is also an option.

Their ensembles rehearse from late September through late May at these four SMMUSD locations: Edison Language Academy, John Adams Middle School, Grant Elementary School, and Santa Monica Alternative School House.

Since one of the biggest challenges for young musicians is learning how to practice, the highly accomplished teachers at Elemental Music will focus on how to schedule practice times and set goals.

The teachers also foster a sense of joy in music-making in a fun social setting. The programs inspire a love of music.

Students will get the opportunity to perform at three different Elemental concerts throughout the year and also become involved in other various events in the Santa Monica community.

There are two things that make Elemental Music different from other youth orchestras in Los Angeles. First, their programs have supported SMMUSD for nearly fifteen years. Many of the staff work for the district, either as full-time staff, or teaching artists for the different school sites. Second, they have a great formula for their teaching artists. In addition to being great teachers, many are also active performers in southern California, providing students with a unique opportunity to work with professional musicians.

Also helpful is the low student-to-teacher ratio allowing students to receive personalized attention to help in their development.

Recently, Elemental Music held a benefit concert in the intimate space at Apogee Studio featuring the famous, Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ) and the accomplished Mak Grgic, the schools classical guitar director. If LAGQ is appearing at an Elemental Music benefit, you know that the school must be important and highly respected.

Dr. Josephine Liu Moershel ("Dr. Jo") is the Executive and Artistic Director at Elemental Music and directs the Strings Chamber Orchestra. In addition to her teaching, she can frequently be heard in the viola sections of many southern California ensembles which include New West Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera, Opera Pacific, and Los Angeles Master Chorale, among others. Her students have been heard performing in leading youth orchestras in Los Angeles, as well as conservatories and music festivals across the country.

All of the other staff members mirror her biography.

For more information about Elemental Music and auditioning, go to: http://www.elementalmusic.org

 

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