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Local organization continues to set path for greatness


Young Musicians Foundation

The influence and significance of music in Black culture is one that is impactful across the United States and throughout the world. More specifically, it is one that is especially significant within the Black community. Although it may seem that a lot of Black individuals pursue music, only 9.9% of professional musicians are Black. While that percentage is small, there are institutions set up in areas such as South Los Angeles that are widely available and accessible for all people, including people of color. One of those institutions is the Young Musicians Foundation, newly relocated to South Los Angeles. 

The Young Musicians Foundation is a non-profit organization located at 1044 E. Jefferson Blvd. Suite A,  in Los Angeles. The Young Musicians Foundation was established in 1955 by Sylvia Kunin. Kunin’s mission and vision was to bring classical music to young audiences. The non-profit has been so successful that it gave birth to the creation of Debut conducted by Robert La Manchina. 

Kunin was born on July 14, 1913 and married to actor Al Eben, and had one son.  Kunin attended Poly High School, was a piano prodigy, won competitions, and studied with Artur Schnabel for three years in prewar Europe. In 1951, Kunin created a television talent contest feeling that classical musicians weren’t doing well in early television. The talent show was called “Young Musical America” which was shown on formerly known KLAC-TV (now KCOP). In 1954, she developed another television program called “Debut” where musicians competed for $1,000. In 1962, Kunin won an Emmy Award for the broadcast of “Auditions.” Kunin passed away in 2015 at the age of 101. 

The Young Musician’s Foundation was one of two pre-professional orchestras at the time of its creation.  In 1957, due to the need for financial assistance, the YMF scholarship program was designed. The YMF Debut Orchestra went on to tour Europe. In 1972, YMF built a small library of musical instruments for students to loan out and in 1976, Kunin created the Musical Encounters outreach program where students in the Debut Orchestra and under the age of 16 began performing in elementary schools throughout Los Angeles. Kunin won a second Emmy Award for “DEBUT”, a program of Musical Encounters on KOCE-TV. In 1995, the Youth Mentors Artists Program was established where senior Debut Orchestra instrumentalists and Scholarship Program vocalists mentored youth in underserved elementary and middle schools. 

As of 2017, there are no more orchestra programs at the foundation. As of now, the organization assists over 6,000 students weekly working in Compton Unified School District and Los Angeles Unified School District. The three programs the organization provides are a program for the schools, for the community, and partnership programs.  The program’s goals are to provide access to the benefits of making, learning, and sharing music. The school programs that are in need of in-classroom and after-school music programs partner with the YMF to provide tailored musical programs that focus on the needs and requests of parents and students.

General music, instrumental, vocal, and music technology are all offered throughout K-12. Programs for the community are also offered for students, K-12 and are tuition free. Programming consists of music technology and media arts classes, Producing Success: Creative Career Pathways, Community Music Academy, and offers workshops and concerts. Classes range from beginning to intermediate, where students learn to play brass and woodwinds, orchestral string, guitar, guitar, and harp ensemble, and combined orchestra, production, neighborhood events, and masterclasses.  In addition, film-making classes and general technical courses are offered. Partnerships include Homeboy Industries, WISE Women in Sound Engineering (8th-12th), and Newcomers English Language Enrichment (6th-12th). 

Cesar Tinoco, senior Manager of Community Programs for the Young Musicians Foundation shares his concern and hopes for the new relocation of the organization, stating, “We’re relatively new to the area, the organization has undergone a major shift and it’s been around for a long time. For many years, it was in Beverly Hills, it’s essentially a different organization. For me, the thing about moving into the neighborhood and the area was, first, how do we do it in the most respectful way and, second, how do we do it in a way that can be of the utmost service to the community.”