The after-school orchestra program, Fortissimo, brought dozens of local school children to Palomar’s campus for fun and learning in June.

SAN MARCOS — A local after-school program investing in the next generation of musicians in North County recently wrapped up its first summer camp at Palomar College, which was held on campus from June 13 through July 1, 2022.

Some 40 students converged on Palomar’s main campus for morning music instruction and afternoon crafts—a last-minute arrangement after plans to host the camp at a local middle school fell through.

The program, Fortissimo, is sponsored by the San Marcos Unified School District (SMUSD) and Vista-based nonprofit The Kid’s College, and seeks to provide transformative learning experiences in music to children from low-income households in San Marcos.

“We are thrilled to be able to support these young musicians, who have already shown so much talent and promise,” said Palomar College Superintendent/President Dr. Star Rivera-Lacey. “Community outreach is a core value at Palomar College, which remains deeply committed to the development of all students in our District. I look forward to hearing how these young artists continue to pursue their passion.”

The summer camp deepened a relationship between the college and Fortissimo that began with a joint performance with the Palomar Symphony Orchestra (PSO) in March 2016.

In the years since, Palomar’s artists have performed numerous times side by side with the young musicians from the program, which is currently directed by Shannon Yandall, Principal Violist with the PSO and a local elementary school music teacher.

Dr. Ellen Weller, Professor of Music and Director of the Palomar Symphony Orchestra, said Fortissimo is an exceptionally promising program for local kids.

Ensemble classical music training, Weller said, helps young students learn cooperation, collaboration, and discipline, which in turn translate into improved academic and social behavior.

“Most of these students are the children of immigrants who had limited access to education of any sort,” Weller said. “By hosting this summer program, we have planted the seeds of confidence that they do belong in college. Instilling a sense of belonging and pride in attending Palomar College at a young age will keep these exceptional young people focused on the benefits of an education.”

Fortissimo is an orchestra program that began in January 2015 with 3rd grade students at Joli Ann Liechtag Elementary in San Marcos, and now ranges in age from 1st grade through high school. The program is affiliated with El Sistema, an after-school music education program whose motto is “Music for Social Change.”