Jazz Education For Middle & High School Students

Widely known as one of the most prestigious jazz education programs on the west coast, YLJC has small ensembles to big band for every skill every level.

Young Lions Jazz Conservatory offers one of the most prestigious jazz education programs on the west coast. This top-quality conservatory is open to middle- and high-school instrumentalists and vocalists who complete and meet audition requirements. Students are placed in small ensembles where they receive professional instruction from San Diego’s top jazz musicians and educators, including Gilbert Castellanos, Rob Thorsen, Bob Boss, and Tyler Kreutel. Music students delve into jazz theory, history, and performance. They also receive many opportunities to perform in concerts and attend jazz festivals throughout California. Young Lions Jazz Conservatory is the top school for middle- and high-school kids with a passion for jazz.

Catie Murphy - Drums

"YLJC has defined my taste in music, my self-image, my worldview, my practice habits, my best friends, and my fondest high-school memories. I can’t put into words how much the conservatory means to me; I just know that the YLJC family will always be in my heart and jazz will always be in my life."

Clarence McDuffie III - Trumpet

"What I like about the YLJC is that it gives real life Jazz experiences like going to gigs and getting paid.  I also like that you get to have interactions with people who like the same genres of music.  YLJC also provides great teachers and professional musicians to teach their students more about jazz. They also provide great concert experiences, my favorite is the Bayside Summer Nights concerts where we get VIP seating to watch professional musicians, I'm thankful for being part of this organization and being blessed with a new horn." 

Zion Dyson - Voice

“When I use phrases like ‘I’m digging these cats,’ my non-jazz friends look at me, and say: ‘What are you talking about?’ It’s neat how this music has affected my way of being.”

Tiger Diep - Alto Saxophone

"I am extremely grateful to have learned a tremendous amount under the tutelage of Gilbert Castellanos and Rob Thorsen and everyone at YLJC.  Forming connections with musicians and peers that share the same passion for the music as I do has been great... I hope to stay involved in the program in the future."

Julia Picker - Voice

"I joined the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory in the fall of my Sophomore year of high school with virtually no experience in jazz. However, with the support and guidance of the conservatory, I have not only become a better vocalist and improviser, but also a stronger leader and more well rounded musician. Some of my favorite memories of my high school years are performing at Panama 66, the Embarcadero, and Symphony Hall with my Young Lions combos and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to share these experiences with everyone in the conservatory."

John Murray - Bass

" Gilbert Castellanos and everone at YLJC are my jazz family. The best times of my life have been with them."

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Is Tuition?

Tuition is paid by the acendemic year.  Students can also join for the second semster (if there are spots available for their instrument).

  • $1000 for the acedemic year
  • $600 for the second semester only

Siblings receive a 50% percent discount.

There are no registration or material fees.

Do You Offer Scholarships?

Yes, we believe no child should miss out on the opportunity and enrichment that music education provides. To be considered for a scholarship, families should submit a scholarship application prior to the deadline.   Click Here for more details.

How Many Students In A Class?

Ensembles have an average of seven students each.

What's The Class Schedule?

Classes meet once a week for 90 minutes. The majority of classes are held on Saturdays and Sundays. Some classes may be held in the evenings during the week. Class schedules are not set until after the audition process.

What Is The Placement Process?

Placement is administered by faculty, and each student's audition is carefully reviewed. Students are placed in ensembles based on their ability demonstrated in the audition video.

Unfortunately we cannot accommodate requests to be placed in a particular ensemble. The best way to get placed in higher-level ensembles is to practice!

How Many Classes Can I Miss?

In order to maintain the cohesiveness of each ensemble, and to be eligible to participate in external performance opportunities, students must not have more than two unexcused absences during the season. An absence is “excused” only as expressly determined by ensemble instructors. 

If a last-minute emergency arises, students should notify their ensemble leader at the earliest possible opportunity. All other excused absences should be presented to ensemble leaders at least one week ahead of time for approval. Examples of excused absences include: college preparatory testing, funeral, family emergency, and illness.

Can I Join Mid Year?

Yes, mid-year auditions are held every December for the upcoming spring semester. Keep an eye on the website for dates or email us at info@yljc.org, and we'll notify you when placement auditions are announced.

Do I Have To Know How To Read Music?

Yes, YLJC has minimum requirements for the audition process, and reading music is a necessary component. Please view our audition requirements to learn more.  

Do You Offer Big Band?

Yes, we have a big band! Members are hand picked by our Artistic Director, Gilbert Castellanos.  

Do You Teach Different Types Of Jazz?

Yes, our curriculum represents many styles of music including traditional jazz standards from the American songbook, Afro Cuban, Latin Jazz, Bossa Nova, Samba Music, Funk Jazz, Traditional Jazz, Bebop, Postmodern Bebop, and Modern Jazz just to name a few. Students are also encouraged to write music for their ensembles.