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Congrats To The Class Of 2023! 🎓

Well done, class of 2023! Your passion for jazz, your commitment to your ensembles and peers, and your dedication to honing your craft is truly inspiring. You have rightfully earned this moment of achievement! Best of luck with your future pursuits, and we eagerly anticipate the incredible things you will accomplish. We are immensely proud of you! 👏🎉


Emma Barrow - Trombone

I am planning to attend San Diego State University as a math major with an interest in math education! Although I won't be taking any music classes this semester, I still plan on joining the concert band or brass symphony at SDSU.

Being a Young Lion has been very important to me, even if it was for a short time. In my short time Young Lions Jazz Conservatory, I grew not only as a musician, but also as a person. I had an amazing time working with everyone, and it was an honor and a pleasure to be a part of.


Tavis Brown - Bass

After I graduate I'll be attending community college for a year then transfer to a 4 year business program with a Jazz Studies minor.

I joined Young Lions during the pandemic in Spring 2021 and I wish I had joined sooner. Since then, I've grown and learned so much as a musician thanks to the sense of community and having a safe space to express and develop my ideas with a lot of people who I would've never met outside of the program. I'll always be grateful to Gilbert Castellanos and all of the other amazing teachers in the program as well as all of my former bandmates for always pushing me to be better and to grow out of my comfort zone. This program is more than I could have imagined and I wouldn't be where I am today without it.


Nick Caldwell - Sax

Nick Caldwell has been playing piano since 6 years old, saxophone since 9, and has been playing jazz music since 11. Nick plans to pursue a teaching career after getting his bachelor’s degree at the Juilliard School, and he has made music a lifelong commitment.

Nick joined YLJC in its first year of running (2017), and in years since has opened countless doors to performances and educational opportunities that would have never been remotely possible without the dedication and care applied by Gilbert and everyone working to make YLJC happen. Being a Young Lion has left Nick with a personal quest to give back the time given to him at once a week rehearsals and that put into realizing the conservatory by board members and staff. Thank you, YLJC!


Ayden Chang - Guitar

I’m headed off to UC Berkeley in the Fall intending to double major in Integrative Biology and Geology to further my studies in Paleontology/Ichthyology, looking to go to Graduate School with similar intentions, while not directly studying music, I still very much intend on being involved with Music on campus. In what way? Well that will be seen once I get there.

Being a Young Lion, to me, has meant having a group of people that I can just come to, outside of my academic life, that I can just jam with every weekend and have fun doing so, not being judged, not being graded, and not worrying about having to go to another class right afterwards.


Gregory Flores - Trombone

I will be studying Structural Engineering at UC San Diego.

Young Lions Jazz Conservatory was everything I could ask for in a band that wasn't school-affiliated. It allows me to apply what I learn in Mission Bay High School's music program in a professional environment, while also learning the skills to perform in said environment, such as independently queuing the form for our songs. I get to bond with those who aspire toward music as I do, making friends from different schools and solidifying friendships in my own school. I hope to pass on this expertise to my little brothers, Alex and Joseph, whose talents in piano and saxophone are showing potential of leading them into Young Lions in the upcoming years.


Sam Holcombe - Bass

In the fall I will be attending San Diego State University and majoring in Jazz Studies. I am excited to be able to play locally and continue my pursuit of music, both with other students, and with my bandmates outside of school.

Being a Young Lion has allowed me to realize my passion for jazz and how much I enjoy playing it. I am thankful for the opportunities provided to me by Gilbert Castellanos, Bob Boss, Carter Key, and Rob Thorsen. I have learned a lot about playing and performing from all of these people. My biggest inspirations are Jaco Pastorius and Nate Jarrell, the music teacher from my high school, Canyon Crest Academy.


Delilah Kambourakis - Voice

I will attend Wellesley College in Massachusetts as a Biology major and possibly an additional Theater Studies major. I plan to explore scientific research as a career path, particularly in molecular biology or ecology. I will continue to sing at Wellesley and participate in the jazz ensembles and the theater department!

Young Lions has taught me to sing as a musician and express myself through music. At Young Lions, I've been pushed out of my comfort zone to sing music I didn't think I could. I want to thank all the musicians I've had the privilege to sing with and the instructors who have guided me. The musicians at Young Lions have helped me find my voice and become the performer I am today. I am sincerely grateful!


Matthew King - Guitar

I am planning to attend Berklee College of Music.

Young Lions has played a pivotal role in my development as a musician, and I'll be forever grateful for the unique opportunities to learn and play that it has offered to me. My time spent studying with Rob Thorsen, Bob Boss, Gilbert Castellanos, and the other students of the program has solidified my desire to pursue music.


Lola Marcantonio - Piano/Voice

Lola Marcantonio will be graduating from Pacific Coast Academy and heading to Illinois, Chicago to attend UIC in the fall as a Jazz Studies major for piano and vocals. She will be searching for any opportunity to pursue her love for music, dance, photography/film, acting and the fine arts as well.

Over the last 3-4 years that she’s been with YLJC, Lola has grown as a musician and person. Going into the conservatory, she had no jazz experience but knew she connected with the music deeply and with the help of Gilbert Castellanos, Kathy Shoemaker and of course the conservatory, her love for jazz grew rapidly. She is immensely grateful and gives thanks for being taught by such great mentors and friends, exploring the possibilities within the art itself, connecting with others and for the opportunity to build her confidence in a supportive community. She is especially appreciative for this last year she has had with her peers and teachers but is excited and hopeful for the next chapter in Chicago.


Elijah Marrewa - Drums

Now that I am graduating high school, I am off to study Jazz at the University of North Texas in Denton. I am very excited to see what my next four years of college are going to be. Texas is a completely new place to me so I can’t wait to meet a bunch of incredible musicians and make some incredible music in college.

Young Lions Jazz Conservatory has helped me gain a deeper understanding and love of music. I’ve been so lucky to be given so many chances and amazing opportunities to be able to grow as a musician and person. Gilbert has done nothing but push me since day one and I can’t thank him enough for all that he has done for me and the Jazz community.


Clarence McDuffie III - Trumpet

Hi my name is Clarence McDuffie III, I am a trumpet player, and I am a graduating senior at YLJC and San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts..

I plan to attend the following semester at San Diego State University. I will continue my studies in Jazz and work to venture into other forms of music. Being in the Young Lions meant the world to me. Ever since I was a little boy all I’ve wanted to do was to play music. The Young Lions has given me that and ten fold. Through the great guidance of Gilbert Castellanos, I have reached heights within music and within life that I couldn’t have imagined to be possible. I have fallen in love with the music we created, the community that was being made, the feeling of the audience's enjoyment of our playful melodies. It is heartbreaking to know that I must move forward in my musical endeavors, but I know that the tools given to me by this organization will only propel me into a brighter future.


Alexander Myers - Drums

I will be attending Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University in the fall where I will be double majoring in Jazz Percussion and Cognitive Sciences on the premed track.

Being a Young Lion, above all else, means being connected. The community that Gilbert has fostered has meant an incredible amount to me as I have not only gained knowledge, but also friendships and a new way of thinking that stems from the music. In addition to the friends I’ve made, I also have thoroughly enjoyed and learned from activities such as the masterclasses that are organized by the conservatory. I am proud to have been a part of this outstanding program and I will never forget the impact that it had on my playing as well as my outlook on life.


Audra Orozco - Guitar

I will be attending San Diego City College as an undeclared major.

The conservatory has meant a lot to me over the past years. It has improved my playing and I have grown as a musician because of it. I would like to thank all of the YLJC, teachers and fellow bandmates, for such a great experience.


Ariana Rice - Voice

My name is Ariana Rice and I am graduating from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. I will be attending The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music to study vocal performance in fall 2023.

The fall of 2022 was my first year joining Young Lions, and I wish I had joined sooner. I’ve been a vocalist for over 8 years, and no other institution has taught me as much as Young Lions has. I grew so much knowledge being a member of “The New Perspective Ensemble”. I learned so many new songs, and gained a lot more confidence in improvisation. The Jazz Conservatory definitely affirmed to me that music is something I want to have a lifelong dedication to. I improved overall as a performer, and gained a lot more stage etiquette. I got along so well with my bandmates, and had so much fun making each tune our own. I’d like to thank all the instructors at Young Lions Jazz Conservatory for giving me numerous opportunities, especially Rob Thorsen for being such an incredible mentor to me. Without his guidance, and without Young Lions, I wouldn't be the musician I am today. I am excited for my future in New York City, and I will forever be grateful to Rob, The conservatory, and my bandmates.


Joel Vettel - Bass

I will be attending CSU San Marcos and am currently undeclared but will certainly be taking some music coursework.

As a student at San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts I was exposed to great teachers that encouraged me to look into Young Lions. My Young Lions instructors, Charlie, Tyler, Gilbert, Rob, and Bob have not only taught but inspired me on my musical journey.


Stephanie Zavala-Lemarroy - Violin

Next year, I will be attending UC Berkeley where I hope to continue my studies in music through a double major program.

I joined Young Lions two years ago and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Along with helping me improve as a musician, the weekly rehearsals have allowed me to make many memories with the rest of my combo that I will treasure forever. I am so grateful for Gilbert Castellanos and the rest of the instructors at YLJC for creating a welcoming and inspiring environment for the next generation of musicians


Not Pictured

Max Friedl - Trombone

Silas Sick - Drums

Ava Strickland - Voice


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