Idyllwild Arts Academy’s Music Department inspires, educates, develops, and refines young musicians from around the globe, drawing on the talent, wealth of knowledge, and professional experience of our world-renowned faculty. We are committed to instilling the highest standards of musical excellence, and nurturing individual, artistic sensibility in every student.

It is our fundamental belief that music is essential to the successful evolution of human civilizations, and a transcendental asset for cultural expression. With our tireless dedication to this core value, we aspire to ensure music has a central place in contemporary society through preparing our students for lives that strengthen the public good.

  • Frequent performances on and off campus
  • Masterclasses
  • Working with prominent composers when they premier their works at Idyllwild Arts
  • Being featured in performances on NPR’s From the Top
  • Cross-departmental arts collaboration on campus
  • Piano Workshop (ages 9-12)
  • Symphonic Band (ages 12-14)
  • Piano Performance Intensive (ages 13-18)
  • Symphony Orchestra Intensive (ages 13-18)
  • Chamber Festival Intensive (ages 14-18)
  • Festival Choir Intensive (ages 14-18)
  • Harp Performance Intensive (ages 14-18)
  • Jazz Instrumental Intensive (ages 14-18)
  • Songwriting Intensive (ages 14-18)
  • Wind Symphony Intensive (ages 15-18)
  • Blair String Quartet
  • Calder String Quartet
  • Chatham Baroque
  • Cypress String Quartet
  • Ethel String Quartet
  • Juilliard String Quartet
  • Kronos Quartet
  • Miró Quartet
  • St. Petersburg String Quartet
  • Tokyo String Quartet
  • Jung-Ho Pak, conductor
  • Christopher Parkening, classical guitar
  • Martin Chalifour, violin
  • Midori, violin
  • Hilary Hahn, violin
  • Lewis Kaplan, violin
  • Mark Kaplan, violin
  • Joan Kwuon, violin
  • Movses Pogossian, violin
  • Sergio Schwartz, violin
  • Kurt Sassmannshaus, violin
  • Ian Swensen, violin
  • Angel Valchinov, violin
  • Linda Wang, violin
  • Ivan Zenaty, violin
  • Almita and Roland Vamos, viola and violin
  • Carrie Dennis, viola
  • Roger Myers, viola
  • Paul Neubauer, viola
  • Matt Haimovitz, cello
  • Barry Green, double bass
  • Sara Davis Buechner, piano
  • Byron Janis, piano
  • Norman Krieger, piano
  • Anne-Marie McDermott, piano
  • John Perry, piano
  • Thomas Rosenkranz, piano
  • Sandra Shapiro, piano
  • Nelita True, piano
  • David Shifrin, clarinet
  • Liang Wang, oboe
  • Robert van Sice, percussion and marimba
  • Tony Arnold, soprano
  • Marni Nixon, voice-over soprano for My Fair Lady, The King and I, and West Side Story
  • Simeon Simeonov, tenor
  • David Zippel, lyricist
  • Najite Agindotan, Nigerian percussionist
  • Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham, jazz masters with the Sweet Baby Blues Band
  • Sara Gazarek, jazz singer
  • Cathy Segal-Garcia, jazz singer
  • Sean Longstreet, jazz guitarist
  • Tamir Hendelman, jazz pianist
  • Vijay Iyer, jazz pianist
  • Harry Pickens, jazz pianist
  • Joshua White, jazz pianist
  • Josh Nelson, jazz pianist and composer
  • Joey Sellers, jazz composer and trombonist
  • Matt Zebley, jazz composer and multi-instrumentalist
  • Rufus Reid, jazz standup bass
  • Kendall Kay, jazz drummer
  • Pam Sheyne, Platinum record-winning songwriter
  • Kamille Rudisill, singer/songwriter
  • Jonah Tolchin, singer/songwriter
  • Bard College Conservatory of Music
  • Belmont University School of Music
  • Berklee College of Music
  • Boston Conservatory
  • Brown University
  • CalArts
  • Cal State Northridge
  • California Lutheran University
  • Cleveland Institute of Music
  • Columbia College Chicago
  • DePaul University
  • Eastman School of Music
  • The Juilliard School
  • Lawrence University
  • Loyola University New Orleans
  • Manhattan School of Music
  • Musicians Institute
  • New England Conservatory
  • San Francisco Conservatory
  • Southern Methodist University
  • Meadows School of the Arts
  • Swarthmore College
  • Temple University
  • The New School for Jazz
  • University of the Arts
  • University of Miami Frost School of Music
  • University of Michigan
  • USC Thornton School of Music
  • Yale
of our students who apply are accepted.

Classical Instrumental

Ransom Wilson

World-renowned flutist, recording artist, chamber musician, and conductor Ransom Wilson, who joins Idyllwild Arts as Director of Orchestral Programs, is only the latest addition to an extraordinary classical music faculty. Wilson is professor of flute at Yale University School of Music, suggesting that, like the entire Idyllwild Arts classical music faculty, his devotion to teaching music equals his devotion to performing.

Giving individual attention to the artistic growth of our instrumentalists is a promise that our Classical Music program takes seriously. Southern California’s dynamic music scene gives instrumentalists access to private lessons with outstanding professionals. Passionate teaching and frequent performances allow our students to become the musicians they dream of being. With a focus on chamber music and orchestral repertoire, our program provides students with the skills and training necessary to enter the most
demanding conservatory, college, and university programs.

Classical instrumentalists at Idyllwild Arts are immersed in a rich environment brimming with talent,
dedication, and countless sources of inspiration. We offer the opportunity to play in chamber ensembles, and in an orchestra whose international standard for excellence has been recognized through performing world premieres by an honor roll of distinguished composers, including Maria Newman, Richard Danielpour, Ezra Laderman, Bruce Adolphe, and John Cage.

Artists of this quality write for our Classical Music programs because they know our student musicians will do justice to their work. Gifted conductors like Leonard Slatkin, Jorge Mester, Ransom Wilson, and Peter Askim have guided our students.

Classical Piano

Our classical piano department is one of the strongest at our school. Students study with Dr. Douglas Ashcraft and Dr. Jeanette Louise Yaryan, both of whom are active performers and have a vast, diverse background as teaching artists.

Our selective and small department allows for extremely close, individualized instruction with faculty. Each student is assigned to one of our artist-faculty as their primary teacher, but also receive coaching and feedback from the other piano faculty. Idyllwild Arts piano majors receive weekly private lessons on their classical repertoire. They also are assigned to classical vocal and instrumental partners, and receive individual and group coaching on their collaborative repertoire, and have numerous opportunities to perform throughout the year. Some of these opportunities include performing on our Music Department Showcase concerts, Chamber Music recitals, the annual Idyllwild Arts Gala in Los Angeles, and our department’s PianoFest, a longstanding and celebrated tradition of our school. Additionally, opportunities exist for students to learn how to play with choir, Musical Theatre students, and participate in multidisciplinary projects.

We encourage and prepare our students for competitions and festivals throughout the United States and abroad. Many of our students have won the school-wide concerto competition, awarding them the opportunity to perform with our orchestra. Numerous guest artists have come to perform and give masterclasses over the years, including faculty from the Cleveland Institute of Music, University of Southern California, Indiana University, Oberlin Conservatory, North Carolina School of the Arts, the Eastman School of Music, and the Colburn Conservatory.

This cohesive pre-collegiate training for students sets our program apart from other performing arts schools in the nation. Our students have gone on to study at some of the best institutions in the world, including the Juilliard School, the Eastman School of Music, the Colburn Conservatory, the New England Conservatory, Oberlin Conservatory, and Yale University. Alumni of our piano department currently enjoy a broad range of international performing and teaching careers.

Marshall Hawkins

The rich history of jazz comes alive at Idyllwild Arts through the founder of the school’s Jazz program, bass legend Marshall Hawkins, who earned his chops on tour with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock more than fifty years ago. Because jazz continues to be the love of his life at age eighty, Marshall is often found performing at music venues in the town of Idyllwild on nights when he’s not teaching.

The Jazz program prepares its students as both performers and arrangers. Performance opportunities include jazz combos, jazz ensemble, and vocal jazz ensemble. Our program is steeped in traditional and progressive jazz studies of improvisation, rhythm section skills, and technique, allowing for a specialized education in both solo and ensemble playing. Our award-winning combos perform at festivals, including the Berklee and Reno Jazz Festivals. The curriculum includes jazz theory, jazz history, improvisation, and computer music applications. Vocalists perform with combos and in the jazz vocal ensemble. Every Jazz program student receives weekly private instruction on their main instrument and a weekly combo lesson. The department also offers rhythm section classes for piano, guitar, bass, and drums.

The Idyllwild Arts Academy Songwriting program was the first of its kind in the United States. Our program offers songwriters an intensive curriculum in the genres of popular music, music business, and music production. Our high school students develop and hone their skills in lyric, melodic, and harmonic writing, as well as gain an understanding of basic music industry, marketing, music business and music production skills and knowledge, including live sound and music recording. The courses nurture students in creating and developing their own style while also exposing them to other styles and genres.

Songwriting majors take classes in creative writing, lyrics and melody, musical arrangement and performance, music theory, music business and marketing, pop music history, music production, as well as private instruction in piano or guitar. Masterclasses and workshops given by seasoned music industry professionals are also an integral part of the curriculum and occur throughout the academic year. The Songwriting Program present four performances a year, and juniors and seniors must also present solo shows.

The Idyllwild Arts Academy’s Voice program strives to promote versatile and healthy singing, being rooted in providing fundamental training for young vocalists in the Classical style. Led by LA Opera vocalist Lori Stinson, our Academy Voice students receive private Classical Voice lessons, with the option for juniors/seniors/post-graduates to have private lessons in additional styles with instructor and Chair approval. Voice students of any grade may also take a private lesson in a secondary area such as composition or an instrument, with instructor and Chair approval.

Idyllwild Arts Academy Voice majors also take the core curriculum of Theory, History, and piano proficiency with their fellow Music majors, with multiple options for electives. They study numerous vocal styles in the classroom, and receive training in vocal ensembles, theatre, vocal diction, and collaboration with student pianists. They are also afforded the opportunities to collaborate with Classical, Jazz, and Songwriting students. Juniors and seniors must present solo recitals. Vocalists at Idyllwild Arts Academy learn well-rounded musicianship, and gain an ability to explore a variety of career options for vocalists.

The Music Department prepares talented musicians for successful professional careers. The faculty auditions serious and talented young classical, songwriting and jazz musicians from around the world. Private instruction is offered by the finest teachers and performers in Southern California. Instrumentalists participate in orchestra and small ensembles; pianists study piano literature, keyboard skills, accompanying and ensemble playing. Jazz students work on improvising and playing in combos while developing their own style. Guitarists can participate in jazz ensembles. Singers study diction, ensemble singing, and the history of the art song and opera. Songwriters study both performance and business aspects of their field. All students meet and hear guest artists perform and participate in master classes.

Candidates for the Music major are encouraged to send an online submission containing the specific requirements below. Online submissions should be YouTube links if possible. A live, on-campus, audition may be scheduled.

Classical Piano:

Three prepared pieces representing contrasting styles from the standard repertoire. All works must be performed from memory.

Classical Orchestral Instruments:

2-3 prepared pieces representing contrasting styles. For auditions on campus, you may choose to bring your own pianist, but it is not required. Please note a pianist will not be provided for auditions.


2-3 original songs with words in English and 1 cover song (performed instrumentally and sung to show arranging/interpreting skills). Lyrics should be included with audition submissions.

Jazz Piano and Instruments:

Three prepared pieces from memory: a blues, a standard and a jazz standard. Students are asked to demonstrate knowledge of scales, inversions and chords. Demonstration of improvisational skills highly recommended.


Three selections, all must be from memory.

The first must be one art song or aria from the Classical repertoire list below, which illustrates the student’s range:

  • A selection from the book “24 Italian Songs and Arias”
  • A selection from the “First Book of Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone/Bass”
  • Händel
  • Mozart
  • Schubert

The second selection may be Classical or Jazz. If Jazz, it must be from the following list below:

  • Autumn Leaves
  • My Funny Valentine
  • Girl from Ipanema
  • Night and Day
  • My One and Only Love
  • It Could Happen to You
  • Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Corcovado)
  • Alice In Wonderland
  • Bye Bye Blackbird
  • Route 66

The third selection is the student’s choice, from Classical, Jazz, or Musical Theatre standard repertoire. It should be in a contrasting style and/or language from the other two selections.

The audition video must include the piano part, and/or a backing track. If the student wishes to audition on campus, they may bring their own pianist and/or backing track. We will not provide a pianist or Jazz combo for a live audition.

For auditions we are interested in seeing the applicant’s level of accomplishment and musical knowledge.
For live auditions students may be asked to perform any technical studies they are working on and major and minor scales. Students may also be asked to sight-read and demonstrate their knowledge of music theory. In addition to the above skills, jazz students are asked to improvise at the highest level they are able.

For specific questions regarding the Classical Music and Voice admission process, please contact:
Tara Sechrest at 951.659.2171 x2345 or

For specific questions regarding the Songwriting and Jazz admission process, please contact:
Christy Wilke at 951.659.2171 x2223 or

All Idyllwild Arts Academy Music Department teachers are, or have been, performing and recording professionals. Extensive and deep knowledge of individual and ensemble performance, and of every other skill needed for success in the music industry is taught by a faculty of artists whose credentials include doctoral degrees in music, countless years of performing on stage and for film soundtracks, winning medals in international piano and violin competitions, and sharing the stage with legends like Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis, Ray Charles, Roberta Flack, Frank Zappa, and Herbie Hancock.

Learn More…

Evan Christopher ‘87
Jazz clarinetist

Jason Jackson ‘89
Trombonist for Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

Sydney Guo ‘89
Noted vascular surgeon with offices in four California cities

Vesselin Gellev ‘95
First Violin for London Philharmonic Orchestra

David Chang ‘95
Clarinet for Pacific Symphony

Claire Chase ‘96
2012 MacArthur Fellow, Cofounder of International Contemporary Ensemble

Michael Emanovsky ‘97
Associate Principal Horn for Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra

Andy Fraga, Jr. ‘97
Jazz percussionist

Orpheo McCord ‘98
Composer and percussionist, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Llinos Richards ‘99
Cellist for Siren Electric String Quartet

Liang Wang ‘99
Principal Oboe for New York Philharmonic

Bei Zhu DeGaulle ‘99
Violin and Third Associate Concertmaster for Hong Kong Philharmonic

Dobrina Dobreva ‘02
Violinist, now an immigration lawyer

Chia-Ling Chen ‘02
Associate Principal Cello for San Diego Symphony

Andy Lin ‘02
Violist and Founder of New Asia Chamber Music Society

Adam Glick ‘02
Senior Development Officer for the Brooklyn Museum

Todor Popstoyanov ‘03
French Horn for Hong Kong Philharmonic

Graham Dechter ‘04
Jazz guitarist and recording artist

Gunvor Sihm ‘04
Violinist for Nightingale String Quartet

Mike Barnett ‘05
Composer and pianist

Trevor Hall ‘05
Guitarist and recording singer/songwriter

Yao Guang Zhai ‘05
Principal Clarinet for Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Delcho Tenev ‘05
Violin for Colorado Symphony

Kolio Plachkov ‘06
Third Associate Principal Horn for Colorado Symphony

Maron Khoury ‘07
Second Flute for Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

Lin Ma ‘07
Associate Principal Clarinet for Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Casey Abrams ‘09
Multi-instrumentalist and recording artist

Nora Germain ‘09
Jazz violinist

Leah Hausmann ‘10
Violinist for Amatis Piano Trio

Shih-Po Cheng ‘10
Co-founder of Avenue Music and Education School, Taiwan

Jacob Scesney ‘11
Jazz saxophonist

Learn More About Idyllwild Arts Alumni…