We Are L.A. Unified

Due to a series of severe budget cuts, Wendy Sarnoff has been the entire music department at Venice High for the past three years. In the community that made Jim Morrison fam...ous, her limitless energy continues to transform music at the school

She needed some help. Wendy worked with Brian Loucks and Melanie Bialis, board members of the Creative Artists Agency Foundation and longtime friends of the Venice High music department. They installed five separate recording studios last month on the campus. The facilities contained computers, processors and software.

“We needed a way to record students for their auditions,” said Wendy. The technology also helps budding, young composers to work in a quiet space. Lawrence Grey, a prominent producer of electronic music, has been teaching Wendy’s students the skills of his trade.

There is no formal entrance requirement for her music classes. Still, any student who mistakes easy accessibility for lax learning conditions would be making a major mistake.

“I hold them to a high standard,” said Sarnoff, who has taught music at Venice for 27 years.

Just ask Jordan Levine. Two years ago, as a 10th grader, he joined the Venice choir never having received voice lessons of any kind. This past October, the tenor was the only student in L.A. Unified to perform with the National Honor Choir, which compromises the best young singers from across the nation.

Or ask Jeannie Cajas, who has studied guitar with Wendy. Four years ago, the then-9th grader couldn’t read a note of music. Next month, she will audition for the chance to enroll in the San Francisco Conservatory of the Arts.

Behind the success stories, and the new facilities is an overriding message that Wendy imparts to all her students, regardless of their musical aspirations.

“Be in the beauty and grace of expression,” she explained. “Communicate without the need for language.”

COMING THURSDAY: The story of one teacher's hard lesson in survival and victory.

To nominate a teacher, student, employee or volunteer, send an email to Thomas.Waldman@lausd.net or call (213) 241-6766.

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