In Schools

Our Work


Our Work

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



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.



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.



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.”



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.



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.



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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


Clayton Cameron

According to Clayton Cameron’s colleagues at UCLA, where he has taught for 14 years, “His integrity and professionalism are beyond reproach.” With a career spanning almost 5 decades,


Mr. Cameron has played drums in many bands as a sideman for legendary artists like Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Joe Williams and many others. His brush technique is known worldwide and is used by professional jazz drummers, educators, and students all over the world.  Creative projects under his leadership include instructional DVDs, two TED TALKS including, “The History of Drumming in America,” plus “A-rhythm-etic, Math and Music,” and he has written a play with music called “Traps and Taps.” Mr. Cameron has toured with and/or played on numerous recordings with a variety of highly notable jazz and non-jazz artists including Kenny Burrell, Mariah Carey, Billy Childs, The Count Basie Orchestra, Ray Charles, Benny Green, Billy Joel, Diana Krall, BB King, K.D. Lang, Hubert Laws, John Mayer, Joe Pass, Bonnie Raitt, George Shearing, Gerald Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Trisha Yearwood, and Neil Young to name a few. He has also written for and produced his own group called The Jazz EXplosion, and released a highly acclaimed recording project called “Here’s to the Messengers, a Tribute to Art Blakey.” 

On music education…

When connecting with children through music, you can see their minds light up. Through SJO, I get to experience that every week.


Lori Grace

Lori Grace holds a Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum & Instruction from CSUDH and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Cal Arts.


She is an educator and recent retiree from LBUSD with 26 years of service in choral music. As a private teacher, she develops students’ skills in piano, bass, drums and voice. Lori believes music has several components to develop life skills; discipline, builds communication and team building skills and helps with artistic development.

On music education…

Lori’s personal mission statement: The Three E’s,   

Enhances, literacy, cognitive, kinesthetic and motor skills, Engages, auditory development and gives individuals the Experience to be creative and express artistic direction by playing an instrument, singing, performing or composing and develops character.


Timothy Fenton

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


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. 


Arvis Jones

Arvis Jones received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from California State Long Beach with a Music Therapy Certificate and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from National University.


She was the first African American Music Therapist employed by Arts & Services for the Disabled. Arvis was also the first Music Therapist at the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic, working with children and youth of all ages who have emotional and environmental problems. She developed a program to address the needs of children and youth ages 2½ to 22 years.  

Arvis has performed as a piano accompanist and directs and specializes in children and youth choirs all over the city, using Music Therapy techniques to increase attention span and concentration. She was a Choir music teacher at Dorsey High School. As a musician and grief specialist for children, she founded the Center for Grief and Loss Children’s Choir. 

Arvis is a National Board Member of The National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM), an organization that gives scholarships to college musicians. 

She was honored by Senate District 25 as a “Distinguished Women” for her work and effectiveness in the Los Angeles Community; also honored as Council District 15 “Pioneer Woman” by the Commission on The Status of Women in Los Angeles and a Council District 2019 SHEROE. In 2018 She received a commendation from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for her community service. 

On music education…

Max Kraus

Max Kraus is a bassist and composer. Born near Philadelphia, PA, he grew up learning from some of the greatest jazz and classical musicians in the region’s vibrant music scene.


He has performed and recorded with diverse projects across the US and Europe such as the Bill Holman Big Band, operatic heavyweight Rod Gilfry, and the FX show “Baskets.” An award winning composer and arranger, Kraus has written music for various jazz and chamber ensembles, film, and live theater. Kraus holds a Bachelor of Music from Temple University and a Master of Music from USC.

On music education…

Music education teaches students focus, discipline, teamwork, and critical thinking. Most importantly, it nurtures their creative instincts and allows them to create together, achieving something greater as a whole than an individual. Teaching has always been a part of my career because music has meant so much to my life and I would not be the same person without it. I believe that every student deserves the opportunity to let music shape her or his character.

Joyce Kwon

Joyce Kwon is a singer, composer and gayageum player making folk music for folks of the diaspora.


After nearly a decade away from Los Angeles, with stints teaching music to indigenous people in the Amazon and tutoring North Korean refugees in Seoul, she is excited to be back and connecting with communities here as a teaching artist, joining in the effort to make arts education more accessible. Joyce has a bachelor’s degree in music from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in jazz performance from the Manhattan School of Music.

On music education…

Music education is a vital part of a complete education, challenging students to think creatively and reinforcing structures across subjects while inspiring them to come up with unique solutions beyond prescribed formulas. With its potential to bring about personal transformation and shape entire generations, arts education should be provided to every student through every grade. 


Emily Lezin

Emily Rose Lezin is a Los Angeles based singer, actor, and educator. Some of Ms. Lezin’s stage credits include: Amalia Balash in She Loves Me, Mařenka in The Bartered Bride, the title role in Bizet’s Carmen,


Ottavia in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro,  Zerlina in Don Giovanni (Narnia Festival, Italy), Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors, Delfa in Cavalli’s Giasone, Rose 3 in the West Coast Premiere of Jonathan Sheffer’s Blood on the Dining Room Floor, and Carrie Pipperidge in Carousel. Concert work includes the Mezzo Solo in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Music Academy Festival Orchestra conducted by Maestro Larry Rachleff (Granada Theater, Santa Barbara, California), selections from Rinaldo with Nicholas McGegan (Lobero Theater, Santa Barbara, CA), and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater (Viterbo, Italy). She has been featured in the master classes of Warren Jones, Matt Aucoin, and Jeremy Denk. 

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UCLA, Emily graduated with honors and received her Master’s degree in Music from Mannes College the New School for Music in New York City. Emily is a two-time vocal fellow and recipient of the Marcia and Jamie Constance Full Scholarship in Voice at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California under the direction of the legendary mezzo-soprano, Marilyn Horne. 

A seasoned performer, Emily Rose Lezin is known for her striking versatility as an artist and musician. With a particular interest in Cabaret and American Musical Theater along with classical music and Opera, Ms. Lezin brings her unique dramatic and musical sensitivity to various genres and styles. 

She serves as music director and vocal teacher for the musical theater workshop at A Time for Dance studio and has taught for the Youth Academy of Dramatic Arts (YADA). 

When Emily isn’t teaching, singing, or acting she is busy partnering with leaders in the Jewish community to help bring their bold ideas to light, through her work at UpStart.   

On music education…

The way we teach music can have such an impact on someone’s life! I am passionate about creating a safe and supportive learning environment so that students can learn and grow in my classroom. Music is healing and can be a wonderful outlet in a young student’s life. I am happy to teach a craft that will help students with focus, discipline, practice, patience, critical thinking, math, creativity, and much more.


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.


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.


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.

Kevin van den Elzin

Kevin van den Elzen is a young jazz-drummer originally from the Netherlands who resides in Los Angeles. He maintains a busy schedule performing and teaching in the US and Europe.


Kevin van den Elzen is a young jazz-drummer originally from the Netherlands who resides in Los Angeles. He maintains a busy schedule performing and teaching in the US and Europe. 

He has worked with the likes of Dick Oatts, Bob Mintzer, Larry Carlton, Bob Sheppard, the New York Voices, Eric Reed, Nick Mancini, Kim Richmond, John Clayton, James Carter, Jasper Blom, Bill Cunliffe, Paquito d’Rivera, Josh Nelson, Jesse van Ruller, Jay Anderson, Ben van Gelder, Ack van Rooyen and many others. 

He worked with big bands such as the Bill Holman Big Band, John Beasley’s Monkestra, Brent Fischer Big Band, Dave Slonaker Big Band, Mike Barone Big Band, Teryn Re Big Band, Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Bravo Big Band (Belgium), Orchestre de Luxembourg de Jazz, Millennium Jazz Orchestra and the Dual City Concert Band. 

He received his bachelor degree of the Conservatorium van Amsterdam where he studied with Marcel Serierse, Martijn Vink, Lucas van Merwijk and Gerhard Jeltes. He studied there as well with John Riley and Obed Calvaire. 

He graduated in June 2014 from the CVA with excellent results. In 2015, he moved to Los Angeles to study with Peter Erskine at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. In his 2nd year at USC, he became a teaching assistant for Peter Erskine. He graduated in 2017 with departmental honors. He studied at USC with Peter Erskine, Roy McCurdy, Ndugu Chancler and Aaron Serfaty. Other teachers were Russell Ferrante, Kathleen Grace and Bob Mintzer. He got private lessons with Jeff Hamilton and Joe LaBarbera.

On music education…

Music education is very important for young people, because they can find their own identity through it. Students will find out what they like and what they don’t like. Also, it gives them a sense of cultural history which I think nowadays is more important than ever. 


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.


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.


Symphonic Jazz Concerts

We are torchbearers for symphonic jazz, an innovative hybrid form of music blending the worlds of jazz and classical music.

The 68-piece Symphonic Jazz Orchestra is the only orchestra in the country solely dedicated to the blend of jazz and classical. Every year, this orchestra performs a free symphonic jazz concert for the community at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach.

Since its debut in 2002, the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra has commissioned thirteen new works, and performed seven world premieres along with three U.S. premieres.

Soloists who have joined the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra include George Duke, Christian McBride, Dave Grusin, Raul Midon, Lee Ritenour, Justo Almario, John Clayton, Carlos Cuevas, Bill Cunliffe, Peter Erskine, Robert Hurst, Phil Perry, Lesa Terry, Ernie Watts and The Yellowjackets.

Recent Concerts

Family Jazz Hour
A free public concert presented by members of Symphonic Jazz Orchestra (SJO)

Tuesday May 7th

5:30 pm – Food (proceeds to PTA)

6:30 pm – Concert

Where: Farragut Elementary, 10820 Farragut Drive, Culver City, CA 90230

It was a super fun evening of music, food and prizes! Featuring a professional jazz band as well as performances from Culver City Elementary students. All students that attended received a prize and adults were entered to win an Amazon gift card!

Students heard musicians play in an intimate setting, as well as shared with their parents and siblings the music education and inspiration they experience in their classrooms.

Who is SJO?:  A non-profit that teaches music to students in Culver City elementary schools each and every week! They also bring together a 68-member orchestra to play free concerts. This is all part of their mission to transform communities, schools and lives through music.

This performance was made possible in part by the City of Culver City, in celebration of the 25thanniversary of the Performing Arts Grant Program, with support from Sony Pictures Entertainment.





Looking Forward, Looking Back

In 2015, the 67-piece Symphonic Jazz Orchestra produced its first recording, entitled “Looking Forward, Looking Back.” This album features George Duke’s “Bass Concerto” for Christian McBride, Lee Ritenour’s commission “Symphonic Captain’s Journey” and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” featuring Bill Cunliffe.

CLICK HERE to purchase.


“Beyond Symphonic Jazz” on KJazz 88.1 FM
Monday Nights at 9pm (PST)

Hosted by SJO Music Director Mitch Glickman, “Beyond Symphonic Jazz” radio show explores where the worlds of jazz and classical music meet with interviews with some very special composers and performers. The show also features rare recordings along with new works that continue the great American tradition of symphonic jazz. Where the musical lines start to blur, is where things get Interesting.

The 2-hour show on KJazz 88.1 FM airs every Monday evening from 9 – 11 pm (PST) and can be heard online at The broadcasts are also archived and can be listened to anytime you’d like just by clicking here. Please note, the archives are only available for two weeks following the broadcast.


The ASCAP Foundation/SJO Commissioning Competition

Each year, we partner with the ASCAP Foundation to throw a commissioning competition for individuals who compose symphonic jazz. The ASCAP Foundation/SJO Commissioning Competition is open to all direct ASCAP composer members.

Our Music Advisory Board determines the winner, who is then commissioned to write a new orchestral score. This newly commissioned work is premiered by the 68-piece Symphonic Jazz Orchestra at its free annual concert and is entered into the organization’s catalog of symphonic jazz commissions.

Meet this year’s winner, Jihye Lee



This diverse group of music masters guide artistic decisions, including concert programming and guest artist selections. Each year, they decide who will receive the ASCAP Foundation/Symphonic Jazz Orchestra Commissioning Prize.

Billy Childs
John Clayton
Joseph Conlan
Rashid Duke

Peter Erskine
Mitch Glickman
Ruth Cameron Haden


Eddie Karam
Christian McBride
Bob Mintzer
Ernie Watts