Susan Pascale, musical director, founded the South Pasadena Strings Program in 2001. A former symphonic violinist, Susan moved to South Pasadena from Long Island, New York. Soon after she arrived, she went to the local public school to inquire about enrolling her daughter Ariana, a 2nd grader, in the orchestra program. Ariana had played violin in her New York public school orchestra.
Pascale was astonished to discover that, like so many budget-strapped California schools, there was no instrumental or orchestral program for children under 5th grade. She describes her reaction as 'panic.' "I wandered around the school's picnic tables and expressed my upset to any parent who would listen!"
She found that many parents wished musical instruction were available through the schools. So she volunteered to teach a free beginning violin class for six weeks. Twenty-five students signed up. By holiday season, the group played its first concert. That was the start of the Los Angeles Children's Orchestra and the development of the Pascale Method®.
The program has grown to include more than 350 students of all ages, and a wide variety of classes and private lessons, including Pascale's own KinderPiano® and KinderViolin® classes. Pascale oversees each student to ensure the right match with the teacher and the instrument. "One of the advantages of being in a program is that we offer flexibility; there are many options."
"I feel that my job as director of the Strings Program is not only to teach the kids how to play a string instrument correctly," says Pascale, " But also to create an environment that inspires them to practice – to set goals, to be a part of something larger then themselves, and to experience what it means to work hard and accomplish something really great -- whether it's performing in the school auditorium, or at Carnegie Hall. Working hard pays off. It makes you feel good about yourself."
The program is known for its many exciting performance opportunities and routinely wins top honors at regional and national music festivals. The Children’s Orchestra is scheduled to make their third trip to Carnegie Hall in Spring, 2013.
The school has also earned a national reputation for its ability to launch preschool and elementary age children in music, and to keep them involved. "Some schools only accept children who are already high-achieving players; but at our school, most children start as beginners, as young as 3," says Pascale. "By the time they reach 12 years old, they've played volumes of orchestra compositions, they have great sight-reading skills, they have performed in numerous recitals and festivals, and they're really comfortable onstage. By the time they reach the teen years, they're winning seats in the top youth orchestras and music schools, and earning music scholarships and awards. Children from our program consistently excel, beyond the norm. The results of our Pascale Method® can be seen in our videos."