The Santa Barbara Symphony has entered into a strategic partnership with Westmont College, offering the symphony’s students an opportunity to see what it’s like to pursue music in college and beyond.
Through its Music Education Center, which includes the beginner Camerata Ensemble, intermediate Philharmonia Orchestra and advanced Santa Barbara Youth Symphony, the Santa Barbara Symphony offers a continuum of music education programs to students in elementary grades, junior high and high school.
According to symphony music and artistic director Nir Kabaretti, the recent partnership with Westmont College extends that continuum into college by pairing the MEC’s younger students with Westmont music students, who serve as mentors.
Kristine Pacheco-Bernt, the symphony’s director of music education, expressed that she is very pleased with the arrangement with Westmont.
“Their music department is full of really wonderful students who are really wonderful musicians, so they’re the perfect mentors to our students,” she said.
The broadened continuum also provides the opportunity for Westmont music students to experience what it’s like performing in a professional symphony. Once the COVID-19 pandemic passes, restrictions are lifted and concerts can proceed as normal, Westmont musicians will be able to enter an apprentice program through which they can learn from a professional Santa Barbara Symphony musician and even play onstage with the ensemble as an additional musician.
Through this partnership, Michael Shasberger, Westmont’s Adams Chair of Music and Worship, and Daniel Gee, an assistant music professor, have created a music history and theory curriculum for MEC students to learn virtually.
Dr. Shasberger told the News-Press that these lessons will be taught in conjunction with the MEC students’ rehearsals, also conducted virtually, and will enrich the students’ understanding of the music they rehearse.
“They’ll understand the music they’re making more broadly and understand what it means not just to play, but study music,” he said.
Serving as the main connection between the Santa Barbara Symphony and Westmont College will be Yvette Devereaux, who recently took over as conductor of the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony.
A violinist, Dr. Devereaux formerly did string coaching at Westmont College, but now serves as its conducting artist and community liaison, a position dedicated to providing communication between the Symphony and Westmont.
Dr. Shasberger said of Dr. Devereaux’s position, “We’ve never had an appointment that was geared toward connecting us. That’s a unique and new role we’re really thrilled with.”
In an interview with the News-Press, Dr. Deveraux expressed pleasure that under this arrangement, “Westmont faculty can come to the youth orchestra and present an artistic curriculum and provide teaching opportunities.”
The expanded program provides the opportunity for grade school kids to experience what it’s like to study music in college, and if they so desire, make music their profession.
But Mr. Kabaretti said making more professional musicians is not the ultimate point of the symphony-Westmont partnership.
“My mission is not to produce more professional musicians … my mission is to create a better experience for them in the art,” the artistic director said.
Mr. Kabaretti said he sees the program helping students regardless of their final career.
“I think that it will develop their curiosity, that it will develop their creativity, which essentially will be the best way to measure their success in life in other things.”