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Congrats To The Class Of 2022!

Updated: Mar 27, 2023


Congrats YLJC Class of 2022!


Congratulations class of 2022! Your perseverance, dedication and love of the music has been inspiring to watch — you have earned this moment! Wishing you the very best of luck in your future endeavors and we can’t wait to see what your futures hold. 


We are SO proud of you!



Max Beitel - Trumpet


Next year I will attend a gap year program at the Impact 360 Institute in Pine Mountain, Georgia. After this I will pursue a degree in Jazz Studies at a four-year college.

I am exceedingly grateful for my time at Young Lions. I have learned so much about the art of jazz and how to perform in a professional environment. Gilbert Castellanos and the rest of the instructors at YLJC are outstanding mentors and inspiring musicians. The connections I have made through YLJC are invaluable. I am blessed to be a part of the YLJC family.



Kahir Brown - Drums


My name is Kahir Brown and I am graduating from San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. I will be attending San Diego State University to study music production, film and game scoring and composition in fall 2022.


I joined Young Lions Jazz Conservatory in the fall of 2021, where I played drum set and learned new songs outside of my knowledge. When attending the jazz conservatory it meant that I would be sharing my ideas with my fellow bandmates and not only learning a new song but interpreting it to be our own version of that tune. I am thankful that I was given this opportunity by Gilbert Castellanos and his team for broadening my perspective on music and introducing me to a side of music I had never experienced before. I give a special thanks to my bandmates who also took this journey with me and I'm glad we got to bond more from our common traits.



Sam Capron - Tenor Sax


Sam Capron will continue his music education along with business studies at Colorado State University.

I’ve spent weekends in extra-curricular jazz programs for six years. I enjoy the brotherhood and human connection of being part of a music ensemble which became more important to me than any sport or other social activity. At Young Lions Jazz Conservatory I improved my sax techniques, learned valuable stage skills, and explored new depths of my passion for music. As an instructor, Gilbert Castellanos held me to high standards of preparation and performance which has left a positive and unforgettable impression on me. Special thanks to Gilbert, Rob Thorson and all of the instructors and supporters who make YLJC possible. I’ll always be a proud alumnus.



Benjamin Delgado - Trumpet


Diego Benjamin Naylor Delgado - Studying Music/Music Industry at Loyola New Orleans. Young Lions Jazz Conservatory has given me the supportive yet competitive environment that I have always wished for in my musical education. I'm grateful to Gilbert Castellanos for his guidance over these six years and for the many performance opportunities. The friends I've made and the musical journey I've taken have been invaluable to me as a musician and as a person. Being at rehearsal every week gave me a goal to work towards, and the jam sessions at Panama 66 always inspire me to be a better musician. I've loved being a part of the Big Band and New Soil, and I hope we all keep in touch. Hit me up if you come to New Orleans!



Brenda Greggio - Piano


I will be attending the Manhattan School of Music on a merit scholarship as a Jazz Piano Studies major after graduating from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts.


My time at Young Lions Jazz Conservatory as a member of Gilbert Castellanos’ “New Soil” Ensemble has taught me so much about music as well as myself. I'm looking forward to starting my career in New York City and am very excited for this next chapter in my life. I'd like to thank Gilbert Castellanos and Young Lions Jazz Conservatory for providing me with numerous opportunities, as well as Jay Jay Lim, Tanya Djangirov, Danny Green, Lee Secard, Leonard Patton, Kamau Kenyatta, and my mom. Without them, I would not be where I am today.



Benedetto Grondona - Tenor Sax


Benedetto Grondona will be attending Point Loma Nazarene University as a Marketing Major and a Finance Minor


Ben joined Young Lions his senior year of high school and wished he took part sooner. “Out of all my seven years of playing saxophone, I have seen progress this year that no other education source could bring to me in years prior.” Being part of an ensemble with other passionate musicians is a key factor of the experience. Rob Thorsen is a fantastic mentor, musician, and ensemble director and, with his guidance, I have become a musician that I couldn’t have been without him.



Samantha Lincoln - Drums


Samantha Lincoln will be attending UC Davis as an Environmental Science major with a minor in music.

Samantha began her journey as a drum set player at 7, studying with Gary Nieves. Samantha was part of the school marching band and the Elite Indoor Percussion Group in middle school and high school. Later in her career, she studied with Duncan Moore. Recognizing her passion for drums, he recommended her to YLJC. Her love for music and talent continued to blossom. During her time with YLJC, her association with the group provided many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and memories. Playing with other talented young and established musicians elevated Samantha’s playing. Because of the Conservatory, she has been blessed with playing opportunities such as the Annual International Jazz Festival with world-renowned Holly Hofmann. YLJC has opened up new doors and ways for her to explore the jazz culture. Samantha is ever grateful for all that Gilbert Castellanos and the YLJC family have done.


Evan Ludington - Piano


Evan Ludington will be attending Stanford University majoring in History and Musicology.

Evan has been playing piano for seven years and studying classical composition since 9th grade. He has been playing jazz for two years but just joined Young Lions this spring. Studying music has provided Evan a unique lens at history, sparking his interest in ethnomusicology and world music as an agent for history. He is incredibly grateful to Gilbert Castellanos and Young Lions for introducing him to the San Diego jazz scene and is honored to have met the many unique and talented musicians in the program.



Savannah Michel - Piano/Voice


I'll be attending UC Berkeley where I plan on continuing my studies as a pianist and vocalist and majoring in Music and minoring in Environmental Science. I joined Young Lions in my sophomore year, and have had the opportunity to study under Bob Boss and Gilbert Castellanos. My musicianship has grown so much because of Young Lions, and I have been able to make so many connections too. Young Lions has really affirmed to me that music is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I will be eternally grateful to Gil, the conservatory, and to all my bandmates.



Elizabeth Murphy - Voice


I am going to be attending UC Santa Barbara, majoring in Linguistics with an emphasis in French. While I will not be pursuing music as a major, I hope to keep jazz as a part of my life in college as well. Working with Gilbert in “The Birth of the Cool” ensemble, along with performing at Panama 66 and other performance opportunities, has helped me to grow dramatically as a musician and I am so grateful to the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory for that.





John Murray - Bass


I’ll be studying Jazz Bass at The Juilliard School in Manhattan. I started playing bass at 8 years old and studied classical music in a youth orchestra. At 12, I met Gilbert Castellanos and my life changed forever. Gilbert became my mentor, YLJC became my second family and improvisational music became my focus. Without Gilbert’s mentorship, guidance, leadership, YLJC’s program and the community's support, I would not be where I am today. I was lucky enough to win a few artistic awards during high school, but my fondest memories have been with the friends I made at YLJC. San Diego is lucky to have YLJC, and I look forward to seeing Gilbert and younger students take the program to new heights.



Fritz Oca - Trombone


Fritz Allen C. Oca II will be attending Grossmont College and plans to transfer to a university to study computer science.


I have been playing trombone for a little under six years now before my graduation, and I’ve been a member of Young Lions for two years. I will continue to love jazz, and although I won’t be playing my trombone everyday anymore, I will always look back at my time as a Young Lion fondly. I’ve had a good amount of opportunities to express myself through jazz improvisation, and I will never forget the joy it has brought in my life. Thank you all!



Max Payton - Piano


I’m moving to Florida to take my gap year before attending Rollins College in Orlando. I will be majoring in Anthropology! Being a Young Lion has brought me a sense of community in the music world that I haven’t experienced before, having a weak music program at school. Young Lions has sparked my love for playing in a band and it makes me grateful for the jazz community here in San Diego.






Kyra Recabaren - Bass


Kyra will be attending Grossmont College as an undeclared major.


I joined Young Lions in Senior year being very new to jazz, and it proved to be the best decision I’ve made to further my skills as a musician. I’ve grown so much musically and personally thanks to Gilbert and my fellow musicians at YLJC and Panama 66; I would not be where I am today without them. I look forward to continuing playing jazz throughout college and beyond.




Jonas Reinke Barteau - Piano


After high school, I plan on going to San Diego State University majoring in Public Administration. Young Lions Jazz Conservatory was where I had my first experience with playing jazz. The Conservatory was a great opportunity for me to develop as a musician and expand my horizons. Being a Young Lion means pushing your limits to better yourself and achieve something great. I want to thank all the instructors who were there to help and support me on my journey and all my fellow students for which I had the opportunity to play with.I also want to thank Gilbert and the organization for making jazz a part of my life.



Lucca Rodriguez - Piano


Lucca will be attending Westmont College where he is undeclared.


At the beginning of my time here, I was a musical misfit without a clear direction. Now I belong to a community of artists who’ve challenged me to new heights. Since joining, my world has expanded massively in all sorts of exciting and unexpected ways. I’ve been introduced to astounding new music and granted the chance to study under true masters of the craft. I never thought I’d find such an engaging and supportive group of musicians. Young Lions has made a massive impact on both my musical and personal journey. In particular, I’d like to thank Tyler Kreutel and Gilbert Castellanos for their endless wisdom and patience. I’m forever grateful to all of you for giving me a chance and showing me the way.



Jacob Williams - Guitar


I plan to attend UCLA and have enrolled in the Global Jazz Studies major.

I joined YLJC when I was in eighth grade. At the time I had very little experience as a jazz guitarist. Throughout my years in Young Lions, I have been pushed to become a much better musician. Having the chance to work with the amazing people in the program has encouraged me to continuously improve and has made playing music so much fun.






Emmanuel Borboa Hill - Trumpet


I will be attending Mesa college to run track in hopes of getting more offers in the future.




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