ELM inspires youth from underserved neighborhoods to thrive emotionally, socially and academically through music education, performance, and engagement in a vibrant center of musical excellence.
ELM is a full scholarship multi-year program that provides music education, ensemble, and performance opportunities to low-income youth to develop the social, emotional, and academic skills they need to succeed in life.
We believe that every child is a valuable member of our ensembles and that our students deserve the best musical training and mentors possible.
We are committed to the emotional and social well being of our students and to their ability to succeed through high school and beyond. We hold ourselves and our students to the highest standards.
We know family participation and community partnerships are the key to accomplishing our mission.
"Brilliant intelligence is everywhere, equally distributed. But opportunity is not. ELM is one way we can change that paradigm."
Jane Kramer, Executive Director and Founder
ELM began as a pilot project in 2008 when Executive Director, Jane Kramer Ph.D. received a one-year Time Out grant from Vassar College to “pursue a passion and/or take a risk.” She took a leave of absence from her research position at the University of California, San Francisco Institute for Adolescent Health Policy to focus on her oboe and English horn studies. Returning to music was demanding and exhilarating for Jane, but this opportunity highlighted the disparity in access to a high quality music education for children in her own community.
Rather than continue her research work at UCSF, Jane decided to pursue her lifelong dream to follow in the footsteps of her mentor and role model, Dr. Ruth Greenfield. In the 1950s, Dr. Greenfield started the Miami Fine Arts Conservatory, an accessible and inclusive school of the arts, in (at the time) a segregated Miami, Florida.
Jane purchased 15 soprano recorders, identified elementary school children from the Canal neighborhood in San Rafael, and committed to teaching the students twice a week. ELM took root with its Saturday music school for 25 children and currently teaches over 120 preschool through high school students.
Programs include chorus, orchestra, chamber music, jazz, and parent music groups. In addition to school-year classes, ELM runs a summer camp, concert series, and provides scholarships for private lessons for exceptionally motivated students. There are no financial barriers to participation.
The Canal neighborhood is densely populated and comprised of primarily of immigrant families with more than 12,000 residents living in 3,500 households. Nearly 80% are of Latino, Asian, or African American heritage. Twenty-two languages are spoken. The median family income is $36,000 with 15% of all families living below poverty level.
One of the most exciting initiatives in educational reform today hails from Venezuela, where in 1975 economist, composer and conductor Jose Antonio Abreu launched El Sistema, a free program in classical music for children from highly impoverished communities. Now nearly 40 years and 800,000 students later, El Sistema is a world acclaimed program being emulated around the world. Dr. Abreu approached his work as much as a social reformer as much as an advocate for music education, and it is El Sistema's dual foci that propel and sustain the program. El Sistema's mission is not to create professional musicians, but to promote the collective practice of music through symphony orchestras and choruses in order to help youth achieve their full potential and acquire values that have a positive impact on their lives.