Glendale Unified youth orchestra hopes for big donations at concert

Music students Nicholas Rogers and Alex Paranyan, members of the Caesura Youth Orchestra, start to figure out their parts under the guidance of instructors Rachel Lopez and program founder Dave Ferguson during a rehearsal at Cerritos Elementary School in Glendale on Tuesday.
(Tim Berger/Glendale News-Press)

For the past six years, some of Glendale Unified’s neediest students have put away their cares, if temporarily, and picked up a trumpet, clarinet or other musical instrument.

A select few from Cerritos and Columbus elementary schools are part of the Caesura Youth Orchestra, which provides music training to students at no cost to the district or families.

The group will host its first and likely largest fundraiser of the school year, called “A Portrait of Fall,” at 4 p.m. on Sunday at the Glendale City Church, 610 E. California Ave., with the orchestra’s founder, Dave Ferguson, hoping for a big turnout.

While there is no set price, donations will be accepted during the performance. Those looking to give can also visit


“It’s an important fundraiser because this is how we fund the program on a yearly basis,” Ferguson said. “Our goal is to reach out to our most underserved communities.”

The Donald Brinegar Singers, a choral ensemble, will perform, along with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Chorus and cellist David Lockington, who is the Pasadena Symphony’s music director.

According to Ferguson, the suggested donation price is $20, with 100% of the proceeds directed to the program.

While Ferguson’s students won’t be performing Sunday, they will be present, answering questions and passing around donation baskets.


Music student Elisa Barrig, of the Caesura Youth Orchestra, plays the flute at rehearsal at Cerritos Elementary School in Glendale on Tuesday. A fundraiser for the music program will be held at a performance called “A Portrait of Fall” at the Glendale City Church on Sunday at 4 p.m.
(Tim Berger/Glendale News-Press)

The program is aiming to have its first student performance on Dec. 6 at the church. In previous years, the orchestra has taken part in festivities at Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital and Taste Walk Glendale.

Ferguson said 175 students have participated in the elementary after-school program over six years, with some staying on for three years. The orchestra is intended for third- through fifth-graders.

“Students who have been in our program are now first chair in their middle school orchestras if they’ve stayed with music,” Ferguson said.

Students begin with three months of learning how to play the recorder, before being given the option to continue with other instruments.

On a Tuesday afternoon, Ferguson was overseeing a woodwinds rehearsal at Cerritos, under the direction of instructor Rachel Lopez.

Students practiced a set from a Christmas music medley with their clarinets and flutes, while a nearby classic textbook, “Essential Elements for Band,” was available to help in the learning process.

Cerritos fifth-grader Ayleen Viteruo is in her second year with the orchestra, but is new to the flute after having learned the viola.


“I like them both,” said Viteruo, when asked if she had a favorite instrument. “It’s fun to try something different.”

Nicholas Rogers, under the watchful eyes of fellow clarinetist Alex Paranyan, demonstrates a problem he is having with his clarinet at the Caesura Youth Orchestra rehearsal at Cerritos Elementary School in Glendale on Tuesday. A fundraiser for the music program will be held at a performance called “A Portrait of Fall” at the Glendale City Church on Sunday at 4 p.m.
(Tim Berger/Glendale News-Press)

Cerritos fifth-grader Elliot Contreras-Garcia may be the most seasoned performer in the group of 30 elementary-school musicians.

Contreras-Garcia is in his third year with the group, and he will be learning how to play the trumpet after “getting comfortable” with the clarinet.

“It’s been fun to play and to learn new instruments,” Contreras-Garcia said. “I’m better at the clarinet, of course, but I want to get better at the trumpet, too.”

Lopez is one of four instructors — the others are Jason Flaksman, Micah Wright and Alexander Knecht.

“They’re all hourly employees, so they need to get paid,” Ferguson said. “That’s why we need a few fundraisers.”

The Caesura Youth Orchestra has also depended on the kindness of local businesses that have donated instruments or money for refurbishments.


In total, the orchestra has about 95 instruments, many of which have been refurbished at Charles Music Store & Studios in Glendale.

“This program has been a success because of the community, local businesses, the school district and others,” Ferguson said. “The more we receive, the more we can do.”

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