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Mater Dei Music Academy

Mater Dei High School, CA

1202 West Edinger Avenue, Santa Ana, CA, USA
Director: Taylor Smith
Category: Beginning Recruitment Program
Award: Gold, 2020

Project Description

We, the Mater Dei High School Music Academy, believe in building individual confidence and group collaboration by pursuing excellence from day one. We encourage all students to excel spiritually, and musically through expression and individual creativity.

The Music Academy is an after school music program for 4th-8th grade Beginning to Advanced Band students hosted by Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana California. A large majority of the student body comes from schools without music programs, or highly effected socioeconomic challenges in inner city public and private schools. Many of these students only experience music through this opportunity of practicing and performing on a high school campus surrounded by high school music students, professional musicians, and teachers. Every year, the Music Academy serves over 300 students across the Southern California region. They perform every year at Knotts Berry Farm, Disneyland, Segerstrom Center of the Arts, and at a Southern California School Band and Orchestra Concert Festival (SCSBOA). Many of our students go on to other high schools in the area with a knowledge of instrument fundamentals, performance experience in a large ensemble, and a new love for the arts.

Music Academy members who later go on to attend Mater Dei High School join Marching Band, Jazz Band, Wind Ensemble, Guitar, String Orchestra, and more…

Our goal is to connect the private and public school community to a quality music educational experience and provide an outlet for students who don’t have music in their schools with the best musicians and professional educators in the country.

Every summer, the Music Academy holds its annual week long band camp to encourage participation in music during the summer months as well as kick start the coming year. At the Music Academy Band Camp, our motto is, “Pursuing Excellence From Day One!” We do this by bringing in some of southern California’s best music educators and performing groups to create a fun, musical, and engaging camp experience. Students look forward to attending every year!

Target Audience

Private, Charter, and Public School students in grades 4-8.

Overview of planning and execution process for this project

In order to successfully maintain a program of this caliber, many staff members and parent volunteers are needed. Our private instructors lead sectionals, help with team building activities, provide private lessons, and simply enjoy playing along side the students. Parent volunteers help chaperone events, provide fun activities, food/drink/deserts, and help advocate for our program to the public and their individual schools communities.

  • Summer Band Camp – 2nd week of July (Monday – Friday 1-4pm) Takes place at Mater Dei High School
  • October – Halftime Performance with High School Marching Band
  • December – Annual Christmas at the Corner concert at Mater Dei High School (over 500 in attendance)
  • January – Ice Cream Social
  • March – Opening performance for the sold out audience at the Segerstrom Center of the Arts, Costa Mesa CA
  • March – Special Guest performer for High School Spring Concert
  • April – Theme Park Performance/Festival (Knotts Berry Farm, Disneyland, California Adventure, etc…)
  • April – Music Academy Jazz Band performance at Mater Dei High School RED HOT JAZZ event. This band always has a special guest LA Studio Musician play along!
  • May – Music Academy All-Star Recital
  • May – Final Spring Concert

Community Impact

Our High School program is starting to see more numbers in music enrollment. We have doubled in size in the last 3 years! Having a strong Music Academy has also inspired many other schools to consider a music education in their daily curriculum. During summer band camp, alumni from the Music Academy enjoy coming back to serve and earn service hours for helping staff and director with logistics of the event!

Overall budget


Specific Budget Breakdown

  • 35,000- Instruction/Private Lessons
  • 4,000- Trips/Festivals
  • 1,500 ‚Äì Shirts

What was your total program enrollment during the prior school year?


What is your projected program enrollment for the current school year?


New or recurring project?


How did you update/change this project from its previous occurrence?

Program Fees seem to be difficult to project without turning students and families away. We, Mater Dei High School, supplements students tuition from several inner city schools, while still making the Music Academy affordable to all other students. We are also reaching out to donors, sponsors, and coming up with creative fundraisers for the band.

Challenges/obstacles that were encountered

As the Director of the Music Academy and not having a booster program to start was difficult. I quickly created several responsibilities that parents could get involved with. For example, graphic design and t-shirt printing, food/drinks, marketing/recruiting, photo/video, social media promotion, chaperones, etc…

Another obstacle was the amount of students that were involved in more than 2 or 3 different activities outside of school and music. Scheduling rehearsal time and performances where everyone was able to attend continues to be difficult. In order to maintain strong attendance, calendars, weekly emails, social media, and phone calls are regular in making sure Music Academy stays at the forefront of parents minds and students commitments!

Students awareness of the Music Academy is sometimes difficult because of the demographic of our students families. Many speak other languages, and some do not have email addresses. In order to contact these parents, I have to attend Back to School nights, Parent Meetings, as well as some faculty meetings to educate the classroom/homeroom teachers that this program exists and describe what it is that we do and advocate for.

Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?

We measure the success/effectiveness of the Music Academy by the retention rate year to year, students involvement in other ensembles such as Music Academy Jazz Band, and the Mater Dei High School Marching Band, growing community awareness causing program enrollment to rise, and more of our students earning superior academic awards and recognition at their schools.

Every year we try new things to continue to improve the experience for parents, students, and staff. This year we changed the schedule to accommodate a Beginning Band and an Advanced Band. We have also added the new Music Academy Jazz Band that will be competing in festivals.

Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?

Organize a parent support team to help with marketing, outreach, inventory, and more. Every 4-8th grader is a potential member and deserves the chance to have an education in music. Build quality relationships with community members, administration, and local businesses.

Supporting Materials

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