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Students Take the Stage at the 14th Annual Music Unites the World Festival

LOS ANGELES, CA – On March 6-7, 2024, as Hollywood buzzed with Oscar preparations, approximately 500 music students from across Los Angeles County exuberantly took the stage at the 14th Annual Music Unites the World Festival. Produced by Education Through Music-Los Angeles, this two-day event was filled with outstanding performances, Oscar and Emmy Award-winning guests, awards for top student essays, the World Premiere of an original song, and rapt audiences – all fostering unity through music.

Held just miles from Hollywood at the Skirball Cultural Center, students received coaching and inspiration from high-profile artists and esteemed educators. Advisory Board Member Rickey Minor (Musical Director, The Oscars) was on hand to coach the festival middle school rock bands. Each day culminated in special performances for family, friends, and fellow music students.

Day 1 showcased instrumental ensembles from ETM-LA’s partner schools with guidance from Juan Rodriguez (Band Director; ETM-LA 2022 Shining Star Music Educator) and Ryan Gonzales (Instrumental Director & Community Leader). 2024 Academy Award-Winning Composer Kris Bowers (The Last Repair Shop) welcomed the students with an uplifting message to continue their journey with music. 

Day 2 featured choirs, rock bands, and Orff ensembles that presented culturally diverse songs along with ETM-LA Music Unites the World Songwriting Contest Winner, “As One” by Composer Nick LaFleur. Coaches included Minor, Baraka May (Vocal Soloist; Billie Eilish, Encanto), Lydia Lee (Choir Director; ETM-LA 2023 Shining Star Music Educator), Misha Shtangrud (Director of Vocal Ensembles at Colburn School of Music; MUSYCA), and Rachael Denny (Dept. Chair, Pasadena Conservatory of Music).

In her keynote speech, Heidi Rojas (Artist, Songwriter; Little Mix, Dove Cameron) encouraged students to keep making music and to use their voice. The String Orchestra and Band Ensembles played music from Zambia, Japan, Germany and more countries. For the grand finale, Masanga Marimba led the festival goers in a joyful dance party celebrating music from Africa and Latin America.

Shoshana Bean (Wicked, Billboard #1 Artist) shared in a prerecorded message, “The greatest power music holds is its unique ability to connect us all…that everyone can speak – and doesn’t that just make music miraculous?” The winning essays conveyed similar sentiments: “I feel so fortunate to be in our choir, that my school offers music as a subject, and I think about how much more I enjoy music today because of all I have learned about music,” stated Celeste Castillo. Harmony Martinez wrote, “I feel like every day is a good time to share music with others and bring everybody together.”

During a Parent Panel on Music, Mind, & Child Development, Bowers shared, “Engaging with young people from the perspective of curiosity and the why behind whatever is happening can be helpful in motivating them.” Guest panelists also included Ricardo Hurtado (LA Musica Therapy), Baraka May, Katya Richardson (The Last Repair Shop), LA County Department of Arts and Culture’s Meia Johnson and Gillian McCarthy, and 2023 Shining Star Honoree

We express deep gratitude to our students and music teachers and all involved – our staff, parents, school partners, guest artists, volunteers, and supporters. Thank you Festival Sponsors: Booker & Sarita White, BTW Productions, The Carl and Roberta Deutsch Foundation, Prime Pizza, The Last Repair Shop, The Music Man Foundation, SEL4CA, Walt Disney Studios, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, and the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture.


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Education Through Music-Los Angeles is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to provide and promote music in under-resourced schools as part of the core curriculum for every child in order to enhance students’ academic achievement, creativity, and overall development.

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