Music in the Schools Program

We bring much-needed music education to 175 classrooms each week, with a focus on schools in underserved neighborhoods. This means that we reach 4,500 students with this year-long program that integrates with and enhances students’ understanding of math, reading, science, history, and creative writing.

In some of the neighborhoods we serve the schools we work in have had NO arts education in decades.

What educators are saying

  • "SJO has always been amazing and I’m so thankful for all you’ve done with your online lessons during the school closures as well. Thank you!"

    M. King La Ballona Teacher
  • As principal, I have had the joy of seeing the program unfold and know how invaluable this program is to our students. The residency ensures that music education and enjoyment will become an important and vital part of these children’s lives now and in the future.

    B. Brown  Farragut Elementary Principal
  • We are so fortunate to have the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra’s Music in the Schools program. Beyond the pure joy that the performances bring, and the music lessons that also cover history and science, we now see that the music instruction builds success in mathematics. How can you get better than that?

    R. LaBriola Linwood Howe Principal

Our Residency Programs

FUN WITH MUSIC

TRANSITIONAL KINDERGARTEN

In this 28-week residency, students are introduced to singing and instruments, learn solfege (singing using do, re, mi), dances, and songs with movement and the basics of rhythm.

INTRO TO MUSIC

KINDERGARTEN

In this 14 or 28-week residency, students learn solfege (singing using do, re, mi), music reading (treble clef), rhythmic patterns (whole notes, half notes, quarter notes) and notation, dances, songs in English and Swahili, movement, and percussion.

PLAYING WITH BELLS

1ST-3RD GRADES

In this 28-week residency, students learn to read music, rhythmic patterns and notation, and songs for the glockenspiel (bells). Repertoire includes “Ode to Joy,” “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Lightly Row.”

BACH TO BEBOP

2ND-5TH GRADES

In this 28-week residency, students learn the families of the orchestra, composers and music history, blues and jazz. This residency culminates with a performance by the students where they sing songs they have composed as a class, along with songs from Duke Ellington and Rodgers & Hammerstein.

MUSIC OF THE WORLD

4TH GRADE

This 14-week program is designed to enrich 4th graders’ knowledge of different cultures from around the world. Students learn about different countries and their rich cultural musical traditions through exploration of composers, instruments, and music history.

MUSIC OF AMERICA

5TH GRADE

In this 14-week program, students will explore American history alongside American music history – from the British influence to Stephen Foster, ragtime to R&B, blues to bebop, rock to hip hop, musical theater, radio, film, television, and more.

INSTRUMENTAL WORKSHOPS SERIES

3RD-5TH GRADES

These workshops are designed for 3rd–5th grade students. The series of workshops feature string, brass, woodwind and percussion ensembles from the SJO Orchestra. Our professional musicians discuss and demonstrate their instrument’s history, and sound. The musicians perform instruments in both a solo and in an ensemble configuration. Students then try these instruments during the workshop with the assistance of SJO’s talented musicians.

ASSEMBLIES

The SJO also does performance assemblies that range in their themes from blues, to jazz to classical.

Our Teaching Artists

Our Teaching Artists are professional musicians who teach the SJO’s residency programs — in an engaging, interactive and fun way.


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Rex Amend

Saxophonist Rex Amend grew up in Riverton, Wyoming where he began playing professionally at a young age in a variety of settings, including his father’s own band.

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This love for music, and a desire to share it with others led to a Bachelors degree in Music Education from the University of Wyoming in 2013, and a Masters degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Southern California. Currently, Amend teaches courses in Music History and Music Theory at Cypress College, teaches a private studio of 40 woodwind students, and teaches music classes in public schools through Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District and the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra. Amend remains an active freelance musician, performing throughout the greater Southern California area and Arizona

On music education…

Music education is a subject that incorporates so many others with it – science, math, history, literature – while remaining wonderfully unique. Once a child (or anyone) is exposed to the world of music, exciting connections to the world around them follows. I’ve found that learning about how others have used music as a means of self-expression has given a voice to students seeking to understand and share their own story.

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Timothy Fenton

Los Angeles bassist and composer, Timothy Fenton, strives to play and write contemporary music based in the tradition of jazz.

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Since moving to Los Angeles, he has performed at such venues such as City National Grove of Anaheim, Paris Ballroom in Las Vegas, bluewhale, among others. He has performed behind Peter Erskine, Geoffrey Keezer, Sara Gazarek, and Eddie Henderson. He received his Bachelors of Music from Oberlin Conservatory and Masters of Music from the University of Southern California in 2019.

On music education…

Music is something that can teach you about yourself, the world, and how you yourself relate to the world around you. I am grateful for all my teachers that taught me to love music and I want to make it my duty to share that joy of music with my students. I believe all students should have access to music education. 

Pablo Leñero

Pablo Leñero is a composer, pianist, improviser, and creative producer from Mexico. Through the lens of decolonization, Leñero explores the integration of the Western Art practice with the folkloric and indigenous traditions of Mexico and the Americas. For Pablo “Music education is essential for the development of any human being.”



Spencer Lemann

Spencer Lemann is an educator, multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, composer, and producer. He is a three-category YoungArts Merit Winner, a two-time Spotlight Semifinalist, a National Merit Semifinalist, an Eagle Scout, a recipient of the AFP Outstanding Young Philanthropist Award, and a 2021 graduate of the USC Thornton School of Music. Growing up in Los Angeles and taking an early interest in music, Spencer quickly took to learning multiple instruments and grew to value all aspects of the music-making process. This naturally developed into a passion for teaching and outreach. Lemann has supported Music Mends Minds – a nonprofit company providing resources to people with pre-cognitive diseases – almost since its inception, served as student advisor to the board, and is proud to have written their first theme song.

“I am so thankful to have had patient, caring, and generous teachers and mentors throughout my life who have guided my music education from an early age and inspired me to reach my fullest potential. I aim to inspire that same confidence and joy through the sharing of music.”

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Eloy Neira

Eloy Neira is a trumpet player, multi-instrumentalist, and philosopher. Born in Lima-Peru, he grew up learning popular South American music as well as Western classical music.

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He holds a BM in Music Performance from Mcgill University (Montreal-Canada), an MFA in music and an MA in Aesthetics and Politics (both from the California Institute of the Arts-CalArts). Eloy currently performs and tours around the US and spends his summers teaching in South America. Eloy Neira began teaching music in Peru when he was 15 years old and hasn’t stopped doing music pedagogy since then.

On music education…

Music Education is crucial for human beings. Music and arts in general not only teach us to think critically, explore new ideas and be creative, but also give us a sense of belonging. Music is not only a beautiful form of art, but it is also a resource to nurture values, history, and culture to human beings. On this aspect SJO’s vision is very special because it focuses on forming better citizens and not only musicians. 

Diana Soto Teixeira

Diana Soto Teixeira is a percussionist, vocalist, dancer, and arts educator, specializing in music traditions from the African Diaspora in Latin America.

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Diana Soto Teixeira is a percussionist, vocalist, dancer, and arts educator, specializing in music traditions from the African Diaspora in Latin America. Diana’s musical journey began before she was even born, being the daughter of a recognized Afro Peruvian musician, Andrés Soto. Diana grew up in Peru, dancing to the beat of the drums and playing and singing among friends and family. Her musical career has taken her through diverse drumming techniques and repertoire of Afro Latin genres from Peru, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Brazil, and finally arriving back to Africa. Recently, Diana graduated with an M.A. from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in African Music.

On music education…

During these times of social distance, it is important to appeal to music and music education to generate a sense of belonging. I realized while preparing my videos that I wasn’t just teaching solfege, rhythm, harmony, in short, just music. I was also teaching about other cultures, societies, and the diversity of peoples, approaching from music gender and racial topics. I discovered that music is a tool, whether in the classroom or through videos, not only to prepare young musicians and cultured people, but also to prepare better citizens.


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Stacey Wiren

Stacey Wiren has been working as Outreach Manager with SJO for the past four years. She comes from a strong musical theatre background and has brought her talents into the classrooms over the past year.

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Stacey received a Bachelor of Theatre Arts degree from the Arts Educational Schools in London, England, one of 6 schools in London accredited by the Council for Dance, Drama, and Musical Theatre. She went on to work in theatre and TV/film in London, Toronto, and Los Angeles including an international tour of the musical World in Motion, playing the role of Olivia in Twelfth Night, and guest starring on The Hollow Men on Comedy Central. Growing up, she studied singing through the Royal Conservatory of Music and competed in music festivals throughout Canada.

On music education…

There’s nothing like seeing the faces of the students light up when we sing and dance together. Children are wildly creative beings and their affinity for music is second nature. It’s a privilege for me to be the vehicle through which they experience music in their classrooms.