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Santa Barbara Symphony & Westmont College Announce Strategic Partnership, Further Supporting Music Education Continuum

Westmont faculty to join Symphony leadership team; Dr. Yvette Devereaux appointed Conductor of the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony
Westmont faculty to join Symphony leadership team; Dr. Yvette Devereaux appointed Conductor of the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony

(September 10, 2020) Santa Barbara, CA –  The Santa Barbara Symphony and Westmont College have announced a strategic partnership to strengthen their ability to bring music education to local school children while creating a pipeline to provide lifelong musical opportunities in the community. This collaboration includes newly developed innovative virtual and socially distanced curriculum.

“This strategic partnership between the Santa Barbara Symphony and Westmont College is exciting news for our community,” said Nir Kabaretti, music and artistic director of the Santa Barbara Symphony. ‘I would like to thank my colleague Michael Shasberger and his team at Westmont for collaborating on this unique model that will enable us to connect the different phases of music education, from elementary school students up to college students, with our professional symphony. Westmont’s academic expertise will enrich the symphony’s youth ensembles with a well-designed curriculum to strengthen their experience, musical knowledge, and to develop their curiosity and creativity, which in turn, will help them in anything they choose to do in life.”

Kabaretti will oversee the project with the assistance of Shasberger, Westmont’s Adams professor of music and worship, Kristine Pacheco-Bernt, symphony director of music education, and other Westmont faculty and symphony staff and instructors. Yvette Devereaux, conducting artist in residence and community arts liaison to the Westmont music faculty, will conduct the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony. She will collaborate with Shasberger and Daniel Gee, conductor of the Westmont College Choir and Chamber Singers, on curricular development and financial aid for private lessons. Other members of the Westmont music faculty, along with the symphony’s professional musicians, will assist with youth symphony sectional rehearsals and masterclasses in coming months.

The Santa Barbara Symphony’s Music Education Center is the only music education program in the region tied to a professional symphony orchestra. The Santa Barbara Youth Symphony has a long history in the community and notable alumni in and out of the field. This strategic partnership will provide even more opportunities for students to thrive through music. Opportunities for mentorship, creative youth development, and more performances are just the beginning. 

A professional conductor, violinist, composer, arranger and music educator, Devereaux has conducted in a wide range of professional settings from major professional symphonies like the LA Phil, to film score recordings, festivals and educational settings. She was the first African American woman to be accepted into the conducting programs at both Chapman University and the Peabody Conservatory of Music. She is the founder and artistic director of The Progressive Symphony and its educational component, The Progressive Arts Academy, based in Compton, California. Her mission there was to bring quality training in the arts to underserved communities.

Gee, Westmont alumnus and assistant professor of music, earned a Master of Music degree at the USC Thornton School of Music and is completing his Doctor of Musical Arts there. During his time in Los Angeles, Gee served as the assistant conductor of the Long Beach Symphony and associate conductor of Choral Arts Initiative, a professional choir in Orange County. 

Shasberger, conductor of the Westmont Orchestra, is the father of youth orchestra alumnae Rebecca and Sarah and a former symphony board member. Other members of the Westmont music faculty will assist with youth orchestra sectional rehearsals and masterclasses in coming months.

“Westmont College and the Santa Barbara Symphony have been great friends and collaborators for many years,” Shasberger said. “I am delighted at this time to see the fruit of those collaborations developing into a broader strategic partnership and shared purpose. Maestro Kabaretti’s expanding vision for a vital continuum of music education and professional development for young musicians in our community provide a great catalyst at this moment. With the appointment of Yvette Devereaux as conductor of the youth orchestra in tandem with her affiliation as conducting artist and community liaison on the music faculty of Westmont College, we have a wonderful opportunity to build bridges between young musicians of every age and develop mentorships at every level.”

Additionally, as part of this coordinated partnership, Westmont musicians, both choral and orchestral, will collaborate with Kabaretti and the members of the Santa Barbara Symphony to build artistic partnerships between the collegiate and professional musicians.

The symphony recognizes and thanks Andy Radford for his 16 years as conductor of the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony. His commitment to musical excellence has benefited thousands of students over the years. “I want to thank Andy for all the wonderful years he led the youth symphony, inspiring so many young musicians with beautiful music,” Kabaretti said. “I look forward to many more years of making music together with him in his role as the symphony’s principal bassoonist.”

In response to the pandemic, all programming for the symphony’s Music Education Center (MEC) has adapted to an online environment and, despite being virtual, there is more momentum than ever. Starting in the spring, the Santa Barbara Symphony’s Teaching Artists led weekly virtual sectionals with students from all its performing ensembles: Bridge Orchestra, Camerata String Ensemble, Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Youth Symphony. These online classes offered students the chance to learn new skills, perform in front of others for feedback, and a way to connect with each other. 

Stay tuned for further details about this season’s Youth Symphony programming, and upcoming masterclasses and more this fall. For more information about the Youth Symphony, please click here.

About the Westmont College Music Department

The music department equips students for the serious study, composition and performance of great music within the scope of the liberal arts tradition and the context of the Christian faith and worship. The primary objective of the music department is to develop skilled musicians with Christian insight into their art and craft at an advanced level. The music department works toward that objective in many ways unique to the arts, and always as part of and in harmony with the total college community. The college offers a BA degree in music, music performance, and music composition tracks. Students may also earn the professional Bachelor of Music Education degree that leads to a public school teaching credential. Students may also choose the Bachelor of Music degree in performance with a concentration in voice, orchestral instruments and piano. For more information visit

About The Santa Barbara Symphony

Now in its 71st year, The Santa Barbara Symphony delivers artistic excellence, outstanding music education stewardship and programming, and community collaboration – all through symphonic music. Under the artistic leadership of Maestro Nir Kabaretti as Music & Artistic Director since 2006, The Symphony is one of the region’s premier cultural institutions. Through his charismatic leadership, this globally admired conductor and Santa Barbara resident invigorates audiences and musicians alike through his passion, creativity, and vast experience. As the only music education program tied to a professional symphony orchestra in the region, The Symphony serves more than 4,000 students annually throughout Santa Barbara County. While The Symphony continues to evolve, bringing joy, engagement, and connection remain steadfast pillars of its mission and were evident in the organization’s ability to thrive during the pandemic including the historic announcement that board chair Janet Garufis and President & CEO Kathryn R Martin join Nir Kabaretti in making a five-year commitment to serve in their roles. For more information, visit

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