Students deserve the best musical training

OUR Programs

ELM provides close to 180 students, ages 7 to 18, instruction on orchestral instruments and participation in an orchestra. ELM is intensive; students study musicianship and performance for 10 hours per week: 2-3 hours for 2-3 days after school and 3 hours on Saturday. During the summer, we offer a 6-week music camp so students continue their music studies throughout the year.

ELM supports two choruses and three orchestras, and teaches violin, viola, cello, oboe, clarinet, flute, trumpet, and trombone year-round. We also have a robust parent music program where parents can study ukulele and perform with their children in our two annual concerts.

Our goal is for ELM students to develop discipline, increased self-esteem, and gain greater intrinsic motivation through participation in ELM’s intensive, high quality instrumental music education, ensemble playing and performance opportunities.


Beginning in 2nd or 3rd grade, ELM students attend after-school classes 2-3 times per week during the school year. During the week students study their primary instrument, musicianship (note reading, rhythmic and ear training) and receive homework support and other types of enrichment.

ELM has two locations for our after-school programs. Our Kerner Blvd location is home to our string program where students play violin, viola and cello. Our Venetia Valley School location hosts our wind and brass program where students play flute, clarinet, oboe, trumpet, and trombone. We are so grateful for our partnership with the San Rafael City Schools for providing free access to Venetia Valley during the week and on Saturdays.

In addition to goals of music excellence and achievement, ELM creates opportunities for students to thrive academically, socially and emotionally. Recent research conducted on students in a program almost identical to ELM and with students from similar socio-economic and ethnic background has shown that early and intensive music education speeds the development of speech and language skills, trains children to focus their attention for sustained periods and leads to improvements in cognitive skills like memory, attention, and reading ability, all of which are predictive of improved educational outcomes.

ELM supports the achievement of these outcomes – the music and social benefits of our program, through our philosophy that every child is an asset to our community and through our pedagogy of intensity, access, inclusivity and excellence.

Saturday Ensembles

On Saturdays throughout the school-year, ELM provides group and ensemble based music education for our students. Saturday is when all students come together to participate in ensembles. Our Saturday classes compliment and deepen our core program of instruction during the week by providing choral and instrumental ensemble experiences. 

All students are part of an orchestra, which requires discipline, focus, attention to detail, listening, as well as commitment to excellence. These skills transfer to all other aspects of their lives and they are increasingly engaged with their families and their music peers. Spending three days after school plus Saturday mornings playing music keeps them engaged in positive, learning based activities at times during which they may otherwise be home alone.

ELM places a premium on mentoring. All of our students have a skill, knowledge or idea that they can share and we promote peer mentoring and teaching as part of our core philosophy.

Summer Camp

Each summer, ELM hosts a summer class session for all current students. Most of our students attend our 6-week summer music camp, during which they are able to continue skill building and ensemble playing. We teach individual and group instruction on specific instruments as well as a special ‘summer' theme. Prior themes have included: Afro-Cuban music, bucket drumming, creative composition, and chamber ensembles. The sessions culminate with performances by all the students.

Many of our students also attend one or two week sessions at Cazadero Performing Arts Camp.

FAMILY participation

Parent involvement is a key feature of ELM promoting leadership, education and self-advocacy. ELM encourages strong family participation and provides music classes for the parents of our students. Parents sing and learn the ukulele on music that their children are learning in choir and perform in our concerts alongside their children. They practice music at home together and have music as a common language and joint passion. Because of the intensity of our music programs, our students advance quickly and often coach their parents on music. This promotes close and positive adult-youth relationships, especially valued by our ELM parents, many of whom do not speak English and struggle to remain connected to their children who are being raised in a country, culture, and language so different from that of their own.

Photo credit: Tim Porter