In 2010, with the help of Dr. Charles Dickerson, founder and director of the Inner-City Youth Orchestra and Les Jones, executive director of the Watts-Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club (WWBGC), I helped start the Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory. The program is a partnership between the WWBGC and the Scholarship Audition Performance Preparatory Academy (SAPPA), with The Harmony Project and Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) providing expert advice on how to build a successful program.
The mission of the Conservatory is to transform the lives and minds of young people in the Watts-Willowbrook area of Los Angeles through high quality music education. The conservatory concept was inspired by “El Sistema,” the world-famous Venezuelan music outreach and education program.
Program participants spend two hours a week after school learning to read music and play symphonic instruments. By 2011, 75 students were active in the program, which includes a full youth orchestra. The Watts-Willowbrook Youth Symphony includes students from schools throughout Los Angeles, including Samuel Gompers, Willowbrook, Markham, Southeast and Bret Harte Middle Schools, 99th Street, Carver, McNaire Elementary Schools, Figueroa Street, Barrett, Laurel Street, St. Vincent, Amestoy Elementary Schools, Vanguard Learning Center and the Barack Obama Charter School.
Parent participation has been a vital part of the program, allowing the inner-city arts community to expand and compete at a consistent level.
Here is a link to the SAPPA website, where you can find out more about the program and watch a video of the Watts-Willowbrook Youth Symphony.