Inaugural Cohort of Debut Fellowship Recipients Announced

Inaugural Cohort of Debut Fellowship Recipients Announced


Inaugural Cohort of Debut Fellowship Recipients Announced

Young Musicians Foundation and Artistic Advisor Vijay Gupta Launch Fellowship For Developing Leaders in Community Engagement and Civic Artistry

Young Musicians Foundation (YMF) Executive Director Walter Zooi and Artistic and Program Advisor Vijay Gupta today introduced the inaugural cohort of Debut Fellowship recipients. The Fellowship includes a $5,000 stipend, extensive professional development and direct experience in working with the students and communities YMF serves.

The dual goals of the Debut Fellowship Program are to empower exceptional musical artists and educators to become effective change agents and advocates for the arts, especially music education, while broadening and deepening the work of YMF’s schools and sites educational programs. YMF currently provides music instruction to over 4,500 students at 26 partner schools and sites in underserved, under-resourced districts and communities. “Engaging our communities is essential: not only as some moral imperative to assuage our dedication to a rarified art form,” explained Vijay Gupta, “but as a critical, viable and imminently imperative pathway to realizing our greatest good as artists – and community members.”

Debut Fellows will receive professional development in Community Engagement, Organization Building and Advocacy, Communications and Fundraising, and other areas crucial to developing and maintaining effective initiatives for systemic change. As importantly, Fellows will gain direct experience in community engagement by working directly with the student and community populations YMF serves.

The cohort were selected based on their demonstrated commitment to social justice and systemic change through the arts in education, specific expertise or concentration in community-based arts education or programming, and diversity of experiences in terms of communities or populations served and areas of interest. “The diversity and depth of experiences, accomplishments and interests this cohort brings to YMF is fantastic,” commented Walter Zooi, “we’re excited by the many possibilities for change and growth for the Fellows themselves and for YMF as an organization.”

The first cohort of Debut Fellows includes:

Nina Shekhar: Nina is a composition graduate student at the University of Southern California. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, earning dual degrees in music composition and chemical engineering and graduating summa cum laude.

Dr. James Sherry: James holds a DMA from the Peabody Conservatory and a PhD in Music Education from the University of Iowa. He served as Director of Instrumental Music at the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Dubuque, Mahidol University College of Music in Thailand.

Federico Zuniga: Federico is active in the Latin alternative music community. Currently, he is teaching Son Jarocho alongside Jarocho master Cesar Castro for the Arts in Corrections Program via the Alliance for California Traditional Arts at Norco State Prison.

Young Musicians Foundation (YMF)

The Young Musicians Foundation’s (YMF) mission is to empower under-served, often marginalized students to find creativity, connection and joy through music, which they’ve been doing since 1955. The Debut Fellows program was created as part of an organization-wide re-alignment and restructuring process. Through this process it became clear that YMF needed to be structured around one central program with a clearly defined mission and service model. The program that was demonstrating the greatest impact, experiencing the greatest demand was the Teaching Artist Program. The evidence of this impact was undeniable. Since the summer of 2016 YMF’s Teaching Artist Program has grown from serving approximately 1,100 students at 11 schools and sites to now serving over 4,500 students at 26 schools and sites on a weekly basis throughout the school year.

YMF’s innovative approach to music training reaches students ages 4 to adult covering a 195-square-mile area in greater Los Angeles. In addition to serving school site partners, YMF also works with formerly gang-involved, recently incarcerated men and women in partnership with Homeboy and foster youth through a partnership with UCLA Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy and Alpert School of Music.

For more information on the Young Musicians Foundations and their programs visit