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Serving Up Music, Differently

South Bay Music Association, a non-profit music organization based in El Segundo, has adapted to this challenging year and continues to serve the community.

By Maureen Kingsley

The novel-coronavirus pandemic has forced many cultural institutions and performers throughout Los Angeles County to temporarily halt normal operations and rethink how they can best serve the public. Among these is our own local South Bay Music Association (SBMA), headquartered in El Segundo and led by President and Music Director Steven Allen Fox (pictured).

Historically a group that performs live music for the community, provides a top-quality elementary-school band program for El Segundo, and financially supports El Segundo High School’s award-winning marching band, SBMA has pivoted a bit, retaining its support of ESHS’s Marching Eagles while starting up a mini-grants program for El Segundo’s music teachers, maintaining a roster of scholarship programs, and producing three virtual recordings.

“The pandemic begs the questions, ‘What’s our place?’ and ‘Where do we fit in?’” says Steven Fox of SBMA’s identity in a time when large, live audiences are prohibited. Prior to the pandemic’s onset here in the United States, SBMA had recently released ownership of the elementary band program back to El Segundo Unified School District (ESUSD) with support from the Ed! Foundation, but SBMA’s performance arm was still very active, sending its concert band and chamber groups to venues and events throughout El Segundo.

Steven says he and the SBMA board th

Headshot of South Bay Music Association's Steven Allen Fox
SBMA's Steven Fox

ought very seriously about the nonprofit’s mission to “create a lifetime of music to the El Segundo community” during these challenging times and decided on a new, pandemic-friendly endeavor to benefit El Segundo youth: the creation of mini-grants for the school district’s music teachers.

“SBMA board member and ESUSD music teacher Heather Ukrisna helped originate the idea of awarding grants to local teachers struggling to adapt their music instruction to the hybrid/online model,” Steven explains. Teaching in the time of COVID-19 requires purchasing additional sheet music in digital form, he says, as well as acquiring new instruments for students to use at home and basic disinfectant and personal protective equipment for teachers. Educators were also in need of funds for hiring instrument specialists to work with students virtually.

To support the teachers and get them these resources, SBMA invited all music teachers in the district to apply for an SBMA mini-grant. Six teachers applied and all six were awarded grant money, Steven shares, totalling $5,000. The process moved quickly, with teachers applying in August and receiving funds within a couple weeks of school starting.

Funding from SBMA also continues to be awarded to local students and graduates via scholarships, Steven says, including the Edie and Mike Rice Scholarship Fund and monies to help students in community band pay for private lessons. In the pipeline is funding for ESUSD students who need assistance paying their music-program fees, he adds.

Performing for the Public...Virtually

In an effort to continue sharing the joy of instrumental music with the community, SBMA’s musicians are currently producing performances that they recorded remotely, that will be edited and published online for anyone to view. “We’ll release these one at a time, during the winter, for the community to enjoy,” Steven says. And in addition to benefiting the public, he adds, the recorded performances are growing and expanding the musicians’ capabilities and skills, as they learn to play along with a background track, while wearing headphones and following a metronome. This type of virtual concert, available online and featuring musicians playing remotely, has become a new normal for performing musicians.

Staying Afloat

SBMA is surviving through this difficult year, adjusting its activities accordingly to maintain the health and safety of its musicians, our local music teachers and students, and the greater community. Donations are very welcome; visit SBMA’s website at to make a donation or simply learn more about this valuable local cultural gem.

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