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Behind the scenes at the Colburn School

January 3, 2009 | 12:15 pm


At the Colburn Conservatory of Music downtown, a visitor can observe the pleasures and frustrations of musical learning at the highest level, watch a world-class violinist lead a master class and soak in the energy of young people expressing their artistic feelings. Soon these students will deal with careers and adult responsibilities — never an easy transition for any college graduate, especially in hard times. For now, those concerns are over the horizon. This is the time to hone their skills and live inside the music.

The conservatory and its 105 students occupy a cloister-style campus across the street from Disney Hall. This year, its class of 43 was selected from more than 400 applicants from around the world. Also located here is the Colburn School of Performing Arts, a community school where more than 1,500 preschoolers to adults study music, dance and drama.

At one-tenth the size of Juilliard School in New York, Colburn deliberately focuses its curriculum. It does not, for example, offer jazz, opera and voice programs. "We are strictly performance-oriented," says one instructor.

Writer and librettist Charles Koppelman documents the atmosphere and follows a handful of students through their paces in a story in Sunday's Arts & Books section.

Photo: Indira Rahmatulla, left, Elicia Silverstein and Francesco Camuglia at the Colburn School. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times