My five years at Nightingale MS taught me how to teach.  I was fortunate to work with Jennifer Elliott who helped me in more ways than I could ever begin to count & I had a Principal with a vision.  "Hi Desiree, Hope all is well with you. I was so happy to hear that you went to the High School of Performing Arts. My fondest memories of Nightingale are those of the concerts you and Jennifer put on. I wish you success in all your endeavors." Marylou Amato (Nightingale Principal)

Two & a half months after leaving Mary Schliff & Paul Smith at CSUN, I started at Nightingale MS where I had the task of building a choir and guitar program from scratch. Half way through that first year I had a total of 16 students (all 6th grade girls) that could admit that they wanted to be in my class... and thus my love and passion for Women's Chorus was born.  I ended up loving all of my classes and having a full, healthy, guitar and choral program that students wanted to be in & that I will always be proud of.  I owe a ton of my success in guitar to Little Kids Rock and to Scott Burstein.  

2009-2010  My Journey at Cortines, (at the time our school was called Los Angeles High School #9) aligned with my Masters work in Choral Conducting... (HUGE part of what I do Everyday, Special thanks to Thanks to Professors Brinegar, Belan, Lori Marie Rios & colleagues Aaron Moseley & Janine Dexter) took my job, and made it into a career, and my career became my passion.  My full time passion.  (I do make time for the love of my life, for Kitty Kitty, the beach & traveling) Also instrumental in me finding success in Classical guitar instruction, was Martha Masters, the folks at USC (thank you S. Burstein again for connecting me with Martha, as well as Brian Head & William Kanengiserr) and GFA in general.  The classical guitar community embraced me as choir teacher... from the get-go and I will forever be humbled.  

While I'm at it, THANK you to Yolanda Gardea, Jonathan Kenion, Jennifer Elliott, Suzanne Blake, Christopher Rodriguez, Luis Lopez, Julie West, Mark Johnsen...my parents & my friends (esp. Lindsey) for all the faith & support. 

   Facebook photo link

The events of the Cortines years (so far) are outlined below.  (Thanks Rodriguez) 

Festivals

  • Music in the Parks Music Festival: Gold and Silver Ratings for Chamber Singers, Advanced Band, Chamber Orchestra, and Women's Chorus.  VAPA wins Esprit de corps award: School which best represents itself and its community.
  • A cappella Scholarship Festival: Women's Chorus takes 6th place and $400 scholarship
  • Solo and Ensemble festival: String Quartet receives Superior rating
  • Instructional Music Festivals at Palms Middle School: VAPA ensembles earn Superior and Excellent Ratings
  • Loyola Guitar Festival: Advanced Guitar performance

Classical Guitar Program

  • Guitar Quartet is formed and performs in the VAPA Theater Department production La Llorona
  • Los Angeles Secondary Music Teachers Association Scholarship Auditions awarded a scholarship to Victor Trejo, Classical Guitar

Choral Program

  • Women's Chorus debut performances for VAPA's ribbon cutting ceremony
  • Women's Chorus performs for a Los Angeles Inaugural celebration
  • Members of Chamber Choir form octet for performance in the VAPA Theater Department production, La Llorona
  • Women's Chorus and Chamber Choir begin partnership with LA Opera Community Education Department In-School Opera production of Tanis in America

Spring Musical

  • Music Student Ashley Samudio has lead as Irene Molly in Hello Dolly!, Music Academy Orchestra performs in pit

Modern Band Performances

  • Rock Band students perform at NAMM Convention: performances include Sabian Live All-Star Guitar Night, Interviewed on the Sabian Live Channel
  • VAPA Open Mic Series produced by Music Department and featuring Modern Band students.

In Addition…

  • Seminars, talks, performances, lessons, and master classes from Camerata Pacifica, LA Opera, Thelonius Monk Institute, Young Musicians Foundation, L.A. Master Chorale Chamber Singers, et al.
  • Students attended LA Opera's The Marriage of Figaro

2010–2011

Department Concerts

  • Annual Winter and Spring Concerts held at VAPA
  • Annual Solo and Small Ensemble Chamber Music Concerts held at VAPA
  • Articulation Assemblies for Incoming Freshmen

Classical Guitar Program

  • Hosted First Guitar Foundation of America Symposium
  • Guitar Quartet performs at CSUN
  • Los Angeles Secondary Music Teachers Association Scholarship Auditions awarded scholarship to Jerry Briseño, Classical Guitar

Festivals

  • Instructional Music Festivals at Palms Middle School: VAPA ensembles receive Superior ratings.  
  • Hosted VAPA's First Annual District Choral Festival: Women's Chorus and Concert Choir receive Superior ratings. 
  • Irvine Jazz Festival and Competition: Vocal Jazz and Jazz Combos perform
  • A cappella Scholarship Festival: Women's Chorus wins first place and a $1900 scholarship
  • Solo and Ensemble Festival: Guitar Quartet receives Superior rating
  • Heritage Festivals San Francisco Tour:  VAPA wins Spirit of San Francisco Award, awarded to the school which best represents itself and its community.  VAPA ensembles were awarded Gold and Silver ratings as well as first place ratings amongst top ensembles, and VAPA students including Mekela Sessions were recognized for individual excellence.
  • LA Master Chorale High School Choir Festival--VAPA Students participate in massed choir and Honor Choir.
  • Loyola Guitar Festival: Guitar Quartet performance
  • Pacific Guitar Festival and Competition
  • VAPA sends several students to the Southern California Vocal Association's Honor Choir Festivals. We consistently have the largest LAUSD representation (acceptance by audition).  

Choral Program

  • Concert Choir performs at L.A. Convention Center
  • Chamber Choir performs with L.A. Opera Community Education Department in production of the In-School Opera,The White Bird of Poston
  • Inaugural program of partnership with the Los Angeles Master Chorale: Voices Within High School Oratorio Project—members of the Mixed Chorus and Chamber Singers collaborate with LAMC teaching artists to create the libretto and compose the music of a world premiere oratorio, performed in concert by the students and members of the LAMC Chamber Singers and professional instrumentalists. VAPA is the only high school to be involved in the Oratorio Project since its inception. The first oratorio to be created: The Warrior God
  • Vocal Jazz performs Superintendent Opening Address and Special LAUSD Music Board Meeting, and Superintendent Retirement tea

Modern/Rock Band Performances

  • Open Mic Series produced by Music Academy, featuring Modern Band students
  • Students perform during visit by Dr. Phil and Kris Allen to VAPA's Rock Band Program, awarding students all over nation with access to free music curriculum and instruments through non-profit Little Kids Rock.
  • Rock Band Students perform at NAMM: Opening for Orianthi and Ted Nugent on the Main stage.
  • Played "Don' Stop Believin'" for recessional at first VAPA graduation ceremony

In Addition…

  • Student worked with David O. To compose a School song, which I conduct the entire senior class during graduation each year. 
  • Students attended L.A. Opera Performances and pre-performance lectures for the world premiere of Il Postino and for L.A. Opera's Eugene Onegin
  • Students attended dress rehearsals and master classes produced by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Los Angeles Philharmonic
  • Seminars, talks, performances, lessons, and master classes from Camerata Pacifica, L.A. Opera, Thelonius Monk Institute, Young Musicians Foundation, Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers, et al.

2011–2012

Department Concerts

  • Annual Winter and Spring Concerts held at VAPA
  • Annual Solo and Small Ensemble Chamber Music Concerts held at VAPA
  • Articulation Assemblies for Incoming Freshmen

Spring Musical

  • Music Students Josie Jones, Taylor Washington, Evan Washington, and Amanda Aceves Lopez have leads in Dreamgirls!, Music Academy Orchestra performs in pit

Festivals

  • Fullerton Jazz Festival and Competition attended by Vocal Jazz and Jazz Combos
  • VAPA sends several students to the Southern California Vocal Association's Honor Choir Festivals. We consistently have the largest LAUSD representation (acceptance by audition).  
  • Hosted second annual District Choral Festival: Women's Chorus and Concert Choir receive Superior ratings.
  • Instructional Music Festivals at Palms Middle School: Ensembles receive  Superior Ratings.  
  • District Guitar Festival: Intermediate and Advanced Guitar both receive Superior ratings.
  • Loyola Guitar Festival
  • LA Master Chorale High School Choir Festival—VAPA Students participate in massed choir and Honor Choir.
  • Solo and Ensemble Festival: Guitar Quartet receives superior rating
  • Heritage Festivals San Diego Tour
    • VAPA is awarded Sweepstakes Award for highest performing music program overall
    • Women's Chorus Received a Gold Rating and First Place Award
    • Advanced Guitar Received a Gold Rating and the Adjudicators Award for Instrumental Ensembles
    • Concert Choir received a Gold Rating and Taylor Washington received a Best Soloist award for his piano accompaniment
    • Vocal Jazz received a Silver Rating and Stefany Montoya an award for Best Vocal Soloist

Classical Guitar Program

  • Hosted Guitar Foundation of America Symposium: Los Angeles
  • Guitar Quartet performs at CSUN
  • Los Angeles Secondary Music Teachers Association Scholarship Auditions: Awarded Scholarships—Daniel Salazar, Classical Guitar

Choral Program

  • Vocal Jazz: Pasadena caroling, performing for the Los Angeles Fire Department, charity luncheon, etc.  
  • Vocal Jazz: Community performances: Biltmore Hotel tree lighting,
  • Chamber Singers perform at Superintendants Retirement Function to honor District retirees
  • Los Angeles Master Chorale Voices Within High School Oratorio Project Year 2: The Legend of Kaguya
  • Mixed Chorus performs with LA Opera Community Education Department in production of the In-School Opera,The White Bird of Poston

Modern/Rocl Band Performances

  • Open Mic Series produced by Music Academy and featuring Modern Band students
  • Song Writer's Showcase—Music Compositions, performances and student-created Music Videos
  • Rock Band Students perform at NAMM: All Star Guitar Night

In Addition…

  • Students attended dress rehearsals and master classes produced by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Los Angeles Philharmonic
  • Seminars, talks, performances, lessons, and master classes from Camerata Pacifica, L.A. Opera, Thelonius Monk Institute, Young Musicians Foundation, LA Master Chorale Chamber Singers, et al.
  • Young Arts Award 2012: John Espino, Vocalist
  • PTSA Scholarship Winners: Madeleine Adragna, Taylor Washington, and Jossue Lucas

2012–2013

Department Concerts

  • Annual Winter and Spring Concerts held at VAPA
  • Annual Solo and Small Ensemble Chamber Music Concerts held at VAPA
  • Articulation Assemblies for Incoming Freshmen

Festivals

  • Irvine Jazz Festival and Competition attended by VAPA Jazz Combos and Jazz Band
  • Loyola Guitar Festival—Guitar Quartet
  • Instructional Music Festivals at Panorama High School: Ensemble receives Superior Rating.  
  • A cappella Scholarship Festival: Women's Chorus wins fourth place! And at $1200 scholarship
  • Los Angeles Master Chorale High School Choir Festival—VAPA Students participate in massed choir and Honor Choir.
  • Solo and Ensemble Festival: Guitar Quartet receives superior rating
  • Heritage Festivals San Francisco Tour: VAPA wins Spirit of San Francisco Award, awarded to the school which best represents itself and it's community.  VAPA ensembles were awarded Gold and Silver ratings as and VAPA students including Mekela Sessions were recognized for individual excellence.

Choral Program

  • VAPA sends several students to the Southern California Vocal Association's Honor Choir Festivals.  We consistently have the largest LAUSD representation (acceptance by audition).  
  • Los Angeles Master Chorale Voices Within High School Oratorio Project Year 3: Gilgamesh: Live While You're Alive.
  • Mixed Chorus performs with LA Opera Community Education Department in production of the In-School Opera,The Letter
  • Vocal Jazz performs at the Superintendent Retirement Tea

Classical Guitar Program

  • Guitar Quartet performs at CSUN
  • Guitar Foundation of America Award and Grant
  • Martha Masters Master Class
  • Advanced Guitar performed a world premiere composition.
  • Awarded for Excellence in Guitar Education, one of four guitar programs in nation to receive such an award.

Modern/Rock Band Program

  • Song Writers Showcase—Music Compositions, performances and student-created Music Videos
  • Open Mic Series produced by Music Academy and featuring Modern Band students

In Addition

  • Students attended L.A. Opera Performances and pre-performance lectures for LA Opera's Il Due Foscari.
  • Seminars, talks, performances, lessons, and master classes from Camerata Pacifica, L.A. Opera, Thelonius Monk Institute, Young Musicians Foundation, Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers, et al.

  • Students attended dress rehearsals and master classes produced by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Los Angeles Philharmonic


    2013-16

    Department Concerts

    • Annual Winter and Spring Concerts held at VAPA
    • Annual Solo and Small Ensemble Chamber Music Concerts held at VAPA May 14th & 15th

    Festivals

    • Vocal Jazz Fullerton College Festival
    • Intermediate Guitar went to a first annual festival at Vanguard University
    • Loyola Guitar Festival—Advanced Guitar Quartet
    • Vanguard Guitar Festival— Intermediate Guitar
    • Instructional Music Festivals at Palms MS High School: Concert Choir:  Superior Rating.  
    • A cappella Scholarship Festival: Women's Chorus May 17th
    • Los Angeles Master Chorale High School Choir Festival—VAPA Students participate in massed choir and Honor Choir.Instrumental students play on stage with Composer F. Nunez for the premeire of his piece "Es Tu Tiempo"... in June they (+ our 4 honor choir students) will sing/play that piece with the LAMC.  (Thank you so much Lesili Beard!)
    • Solo and Ensemble Festival: Guitar Quartet receives superior rating
    • SCVA Choral Festivals both Classical and V Jazz
    • Jazz & Blues Festival: Vocal Jazz and combos
    • Mixed Chorus No. Hollywood Festival May 16th. 

    Choral Program

    • VAPA sends several students to the Southern California Vocal Association's Honor Choir Festivals.  We consistently have the largest LAUSD representation (acceptance by audition).  One student goes to All-State
    • Los Angeles Master Chorale Voices Within High School Oratorio Project Year 4: FRANKENSTIEN: (more information below).

    Classical Guitar Program

    • Guitar Quartet performs at CSUN
    • Guitar Foundation of America Regional Symposium.

    Modern/Rock Band Program

    • Song Writers Showcase—Music Compositions, performances and student-created Music Videos May 27th!!!!  
    • Open Mic Series produced by Music Academy and featuring Modern Band students
    • Students perform at the Whisky-a-go-go for an hour long set

    In Addition

    • Conducted SCVA's Jr. High Honor Choir (+vocal jazz performed) in Santa Monica 2014
    • Students attended L.A. Opera Performances and pre-performance lectures for LA Opera's Carmen.
    • Seminars, talks, performances, dress rehearsals & lessons, and master classes from Camerata Pacifica, L.A. Opera, Thelonius Monk Institute, Young Musicians Foundation, Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers, et al.

    • Students attended dress rehearsals and master classes produced by the Los Angeles Master Chorale 


    Hosting Guitar Foundation of America's Regional Symposium in November, where Advanced Guitar, The guitar quartet and some of our soloists played for adjudication.  The day was full of workshops, concerts & a mass rehearsal of guitarists from all over— my students (& I) got to play for Adam Holzman in the culminating concert. 2013 & 2015

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    Also our partnership with LAMC expanded this year, it used to be just considered Voices Within, but they have made our partnership extra special— now they just call it The Oratorio Project.  http://www.lamc.org/education/oratorio-project     The Passion of Anne Frank, 2015's Project.  Free, Jan 23rd, 2015 7pm.

    February 12, 2014

    Frankenstein: Of Monsters and Men, Major New Oratorio Composed by Students from Downtown LA’s Ramón C. Cortines High School to be Premiered by Students and Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers as Part of Chorale’s Acclaimed “Voices Within” Outreach Program

    Free Matinee and Evening Performances Open to Public Are 
    Thursday, February 20, 2014, noon and

    Friday, February 21, 2014, 7 PM

    at Ramón C. Cortines High School's Main Theatre

    Oratorio Is Based on Mary Shelley's Classic 1818 Novel Frankenstein

    Frankenstein: Of Monsters and Men , a major new oratorio with powerful themes of rejection, misunderstanding and regret composed by 100 high school students from downtown Los Angeles' Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts and based on Mary Shelley's classic 1818 novel, is being premiere by the students in conjunction with the Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Singers, instrumentalists and soloists in free matinee and evening performances on Thursday, February 20, 2014, at noon, and Friday, February 21, and 7 pm, at the high school's main auditorium. (Ample free on-site parking is available.) Compelling arias and rousing choruses tell the dark gothic tale of the eccentric scientist Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque monster during a laboratory experiment, and then, horrified by the result, regrets giving life to the creature he just made. The students composed the melodies and lyrics for the oratorio, which is told in several musical movements. The performances are the culmination of the Los Angeles Master Chorale's award-winning "Voices Within" artists-in-residence program, designed to foster collaboration among students to create and perform theirown original choral works.

    Shelley's novel, written when she was only 21 years old, resonates with students on a variety of levels. For the oratorio, students have focused on Shelley's theme of being outcast as their libretto portrays the tale of a lonely creature shunned by his creator and misunderstood and feared by everyone else.

    The 9th through 12th grade students worked closely over a 20-week period with the guidance and mentorship of singer Alice Kirwan Murray, lyricist Doug Cooney and composer Jonathan Beard, as well as their own choir teachers, Desiree Balfour and Stormy Sacks. They learned how to adapt a classic work of literature, write a libretto based on the adaptation and create the melodies and harmonic structure for each movement of the oratorio. They also learned techniques for capturing the "voice" of the characters and how to propel the momentum of the plot and paint the mood of a scene. After the work was completed, students auditioned for feature roles and received vocal coaching to prepare for the culmination performance. This is the fourth year LAMC has offered its "Voices Within" program at the school.

    An oratorio is an extended musical composition with a text dramatic in character for solo voices, chorus and orchestra, performed with minimal action, costume and scenery. Complex and sophisticated musical works, they challenge even season composers, making the student's accomplishments particularly noteworthy.

    This massive undertaking is an extension of the Los Angeles Master Chorale's award-winning music education program, "Voices Within," which was originally designed to teach fifth graders collaborative and compositional skills by composing and performing their own original songs and has engaged over 25,000 children and created over 350 original songs since its launch in 2001.

    Encouraged by previous successful collaborations involving elementary and middle school students, and with the support of the California Arts Council's Artists-in-School Program, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Los Angeles Master Chorale adapted the "Voices Within" curriculum to address the advanced maturity of high school students, specifically choral students at the new visual and performing arts high school in downtown LA.

    The concert is free, and seating is first come, first served. Cortines High School for Visual and Performing Arts is located at 450 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Campus parking is free (enter on Cesar Chavez Avenue).

    Frankenstein: Of Monsters and Men - World Premiere



  •  *Student art work (credit)


              

*Student art work (credit)

2015:

2016-2018 Vox Femina_ Zipper Hall & solo at ACDA