The City Heights Music School is a program of the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra (YPO). Originally founded as an educational outreach program of La Jolla Symphony & Chorus (LJS&C) in the summer of 2010, the transition to YPO took place on January 1, 2016. What began as coaching in school music programs at local schools led to the creation of a Latin American Music Project with two classes: a Mariachi and an Afro-Cuban Ensemble (ACE). To play at a performance level, students in the Mariachi required additional coaching on violin, guitar, and trumpet. Over the next three years, the coaching turned into official classes and the ACE went through a few changes of its own, with a final transition to West African drums.
From the start, the emphasis has been on music that is relevant to the community. The variety of classes offered through the City Heights Music School is unique and appeals to students of all ages and cultures. We teach the Suzuki method in violin classes to share the joy of playing the violin while learning the small steps and discipline it takes to do so. We teach classical acoustic guitar with melodies that are simple yet beautiful. In violin and guitar, students rise to the challenge of finding the concentration it takes to coordinate their hands and fingers. Our voice classes cover the genres of folk and popular music. Through Mariachi, the students perform music that expresses the emotions of life and they learn the benefits of dedication and teamwork when invited and hired to perform at festive events.
The CHMS provides one of the few affordable opportunities for music instruction in San Diego. Students often register in multiple classes and spend a few hours each Saturday immersed in music. Our multi-generational classrooms demonstrate a positive dynamic between grandparents, parents, and children as they learn to sing and play the violin, guitar, piano, and other instruments together. With each year, we add a new level of violin and guitar classes to accommodate the students with more experience.
From the Director
I grew up in Minneapolis and studied at MacPhail Center for the Arts, starting at the early age of 3 in its Musical Trolley program and continuing to the age of 14 as a student of Suzuki Violin. With three siblings also enrolled at MacPhail, I spent a lot of time in its huge lobby area surrounded by musicians and dancers coming and going to class, and in the upper floor hallways outside of the studios of private lesson teachers. My mother, a small-town girl from northern Minnesota, played piano and always loved the violin. So there I was, at the age of 4, with a chopstick for a bow and a ruler taped to a tissue box for a violin! That’s how it all began. My father, on the other hand, was born and raised in New York City. Despite a troubled family life, he found mentors and an eventual path to programs at Yale and Columbia universities.
As a kid, I took a lot of pride in my progress in music. It gave me an identity. Now, with three teenage kids of my own, I appreciate even more the importance of a strong and positive self-identity. All kids, and adults, need to experience positive relationships and the encouragement to stick with the dedication and discipline it takes to be good at something. I love the diversity and vitality of City Heights. With the challenges and social issues faced by its residents every day, an opportunity for connection and expression through music is imperative. And that’s what we provide – opportunity!
Ricardo Muti (New York Philharmonic) recently stated in Moscow that:
“Music can put people together because music is based on the expression of feelings, and not words. The problems in the world are created most of the time by the words.”
In relationships, communication, work and school, we need problem solving skills. Just as importantly, we need peace making skills. Music provides both.
Victoria Eicher, Director
City Heights Music School