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Congrats To YLJC's Class Of 2020!

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

They are our the YLJC Class of 2020!

A class that has persisted through the unthinkable and the unpredictable. Each of these students was born in the wake of 9/11 and grew up alongside the rise of social media and smart technology. They have lived through life-altering events that have reshaped our world and will continue on to change it for the better.  

We Are SO Proud Of You All!

Zane Adlam – Guitar  

Guitarist Zane Adlam will be graduating from Canyon Crest Academy and studying Astronomy and Astrophysics at Lehigh University starting in the fall. As an aspiring musician for much of his life, Zane had immersed himself in his beloved rock music for most of his formative musical years; however, as time passed and he became increasingly interested in honing his technical prowess, it was only a matter of time before he discovered jazz. Now, Zane only wishes he had joined the conservatory earlier, as he attributes virtually all of his recent growth, both as a player and songwriter, to his newfound love for and exploration of jazz. Zane expresses his most sincere gratitude to YLJC and to Gilbert Castellanos for the incredible opportunities he has had to play, learn, and grow under and alongside such amazing musicians.  

Sawyer Figueroa - Sax  

Thanks to the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory, Sawyer will never give up his desire to play jazz. While he will be attending UCSD as a Cognitive Science major, he still plans to find time to improve his improvisational skills no matter the circumstances. He’d like to thank Young Lions and especially Gilbert Castellanos for helping him make wonderful connections which he hopes to maintain for the rest of his life.  

Sergio Ibanez - Trombone

I will be attending San Diego State University in the fall to study music education. Music to me is a part of daily life, just as you brush your teeth or wash your face. The Young Lions Jazz Conservatory was also a part of that cycle. In order to respect the music and other musicians the jazz conservatory would always push me to be better, to do better. I am grateful to have been able to play with an amazing group of musicians that was cultivated and a part of the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory.

Christian Longoria – Clarinet

Christian Longoria will be graduating from Vista Murrieta High School where he plays clarinet in wind ensembles and saxophone in jazz ensembles. He currently play in the Blue Train Ensemble at the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory. Christian will be attending Riverside City College and he will be double majoring in Jazz Studies and Music Education. He has played in district honor bands and the Riverside City College Ellington Honor Band. Through the conservatory he has had the honor of playing numerous times at Panama 66 as well as at the San Diego Symphony Hall. Christian is extremely grateful for the opportunities Young Lions has provided him and for the instruction given by Gilbert Castellanos. He grew as a musician by being surrounded by such a skillful group of students and from being pushed by my mentors and peers and he is very thankful to be a part of something so great.

Jorge Mabarak – Bass

After graduation I plan on attending Grossmont College and continue playing bass in the Afro Cuban jazz band lead by Derek Cannon who I met out of my high school jazz band. Young Lions took what I knew and pushed me further into the world of jazz, introducing me to the styles of jazz and musicians that influenced them, and gave me the opportunity to not only learn about jazz, but truly experience and practice being in professional settings with other musicians to come together and make music. Thanks to the opportunities given to me, I've met some incredible musicians that I hope to continue playing with in the future and could not be more grateful for the opportunities that were given to me by Gilbert and the rest of the conservatory.

Christopher Martinez – Bass

This Fall I will be attending UCSD as an ICAM (Interdisciplinary Computing and Arts Major) student. At UCSD I will be taking music courses and will continue to study Jazz outside of school. Young Lions has been one of my favorite parts of my high school experience. The skills learned can be applied to many aspects of life. Young Lions community has been my second musical family.

Catie Murphy - Drums

I have committed to UCSD to pursue a degree in Marine Biology and a minor in Music. At first, I was hesitant about staying so close to home: but this quickly subsided with the realization that I could remain part of the amazing San Diego jazz scene. Though it’s only been three years that I have played as part of YLJC, I can’t imagine what my life would be without it. It 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.

Carmen Murray - Drums

Carmen Murray, drummer in Gilbert Castellanos' "New Soil" Ensemble, will be graduating from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, and pursuing a degree in Jazz Studies at NYU on a full-tuition merit scholarship. Carmen is a two-year member of the NextGen Women in Jazz Combo, a Vail Jazz Workshop Nominee, 2019 Essentially Ellington participant, has attended Jazz at Lincoln Center's Summer Jazz Academy, and placed twice at the NextGen Jazz Festival along with her YLJC ensemble. Having been a founding member of the conservatory, Carmen has enjoyed watching the organization grow, and will forever be grateful for the musical opportunities, as well as support and guidance, that she's received. She believes that the friendships and community she's built while in the program will be long-lasting, and hopes to help YLJC continue to serve the community in the future.

Alvin Paige - Sax

Hi my name is Alvin Paige, I’ve been a part of the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory since it started and have been given so many opportunities through the program. This coming fall I will be attending MSU as a jazz saxophone major. I am very excited to embark on this journey, and I’d like to thank all of the people that have helped with my development as a musician and person. Thank you to: Marcia Forman, Ms. Terry, Daniel Jackson, Gilbert Castellanos, Charles McPherson, and most importantly my mom. Without them I don’t know where I would be.

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. Next year, I will be attending Dartmouth College, where I plan to major in Molecular/Cellular Biology and minor in Jazz Performance.

Piatt Pund - Violin

I will be attending school in Manhattan next year to study Music and Musical Theater. My time at Young Lions taught me quite a bit about music and who I am as a performer. I look towards my future with an eagerness and I am really excited to start my career in a music capital of the world. With all that I've learned from collaboration to leadership, I am completely positive that one day you will see me perform either on a Broadway stage or on tour with my own group. Thank you to all who have guided me over the past years, and a very special thanks to Gilbert Castellanos for believing that a fiddler could learn to hold his own playing bebop.

Christian Rodriguez - Guitar

After Graduating, I'm planning to go to Grossmont College to do Music Studies and Mesa City College to do Computer Science and then go to SDSU to finish my college degree. I'm planning to continue music for the rest of my life and being in the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory has opened many doors for me. I've met and played with amazing musicians and Young Lions gave me the opportunity to learn more on what jazz has to offer. Thanks to Ian Buss and Gilbert Castellanos for teaching me and pushing me to become a better musician.

Paolo Roque – Piano

Being in the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory has given me the means to not only improve as a musician, but also as an individual. As I started studying jazz in high school, joining the conservatory broadened my knowledge on the vastness and complexities of the music style. Getting to learn alongside musicians my age, be consistently challenged to improve, and develop in communication, leadership, and professionalism through numerous performance opportunities has truly been a blessing. I am extremely thankful to Gilbert and all of the YLJC instructors for the wonderful experiences and memories these past two years. After graduating from Mission Bay High School, I will be attending Point Loma Nazarene University to major in Nursing while continuing to study jazz in the ensembles there.

Caleb Sheffield – Drums

After graduating high school, I plan on attending California Baptist University on a music scholarship. I hope to participate in many ensembles at Cal Bap including Jazz Band, Concert band and drumline. I plan on majoring in aviation while possibly minoring in music. Young Lions has not only given me an opportunity to play jazz but has pushed me to a new level I couldn’t have achieved on my own. I am grateful for Gilbert and all the staff that have had an impact on my musical progression.

Sam Smylie - Piano

I will be heading off to Santa Monica College where I intend on getting both an associates degree in music and transfer to USC Thornton school of music to continue my jazz education, hopefully one day gigging and performing in Southern California. Words cannot describe how thankful I am to have learned under the instruction of Rob Thorsen. Rob believed in my ability to be a jazz musician and continuously worked past the clock to help me progress. Rob has taught me what it means to be both a phenomenal jazz musican and a compassionate human being. I am very grateful to have played with some wonderful students in the Young Lions program and am extremely excited to play with them once again as we all continue to grow as musicians. Im going to miss driving down to Point Loma every week, it was without a doubt the highlight of my high school career.

Nicholas Stoneking - Sax

My name is Nicholas Stoneking and I am a Senior at Patrick Henry High School.  I will be attending San Diego State this fall and majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Music.  I have been playing music almost all my life. I began on piano around 12 years ago and recently started playing saxophone again. I am so grateful to Young Lions for giving me an amazing opportunity to explore Jazz, as that was not available at my high school. On top of that, I was able to meet some really amazing musicians, instructors and participants. I have had a lot of fun in this program and only wish that I would have joined it sooner. I owe most of my excitement to the instructors though.  Mr. Albarez and Mr. Castellanos have done so much to help me in this program and I feel like they make that kind of effort with anyone who is wanting to learn.

Sophia Wagner - Voice

I will be attending Loyola Marymount University as a mathematics major in the fall. This was my first year in Young Lions and I plan on continuing to play jazz in any way I can throughout college. Young Lions gave me the opportunity to meet and play with many talented individuals and I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned and experienced in my first year in this program.

Kenneth Zayas - Sax

Saxophonist Kenneth Zayas will be graduating from San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts and plans on pursuing a degree in Global Jazz Studies at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. YLJC has truly inspired him and has given him the opportunity to build many lasting relationships from the great community he’s been a part of. He is extremely grateful for the amazing mentorship and musical opportunities Gilbert Castellanos has provided him. He’s excited to continue onto the next chapter of his musical journey and hopes to stay involved with this program as it continues to grow.

Joshua Zingale – Piano

Spending time with my band members and instructors has taught me what it means for one to be passionate about something. No matter the realm, whether it is music, church, family, or something else, I know to make time for what matters to me. As I pursue a degree in computer science at SDSU, as I enter the workforce, and as family and friends come and go, music will always be a pillar of my life on which I can fall back. Young Lions is an excellent program that attracts motivated musicians. I will recommend it.

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