A New Lead for Sound Minds

Trevor Thompson joined the California Symphony team earlier this year to amp up focus on the Sound Minds music education program, which provides intensive music lessons at no cost to students at Downer Elementary School in San Pablo. We checked in with him at the end of his first three months on the job.

Trevor Thompson

Trevor Thompson

Q: You are the most recent recruit to the California Symphony team – congratulations! Can you tell us what you do and a little about your background?

Thank you! I am a violinist and music educator originally from Columbus, Ohio. I recently finished my graduate studies at the University of Illinois and moved to California in August of 2020. I joined the California Symphony team in late January as the Program Coordinator and Lead Strings Instructor for the Sound Minds music program. We were able to develop a virtual program for the Sound Minds students this spring and currently the students are hard at work relearning about music! When instruction moves back to in-person, I will work with the students in both small groups and larger ensembles to learn about playing their instruments and to prepare music for concerts.

Q: You’re also a working musician. What do you play?

I am a violinist and I love to perform as well as teach. I have played with professional orchestras, in chamber music ensembles, and as a recitalist. I hope to perform with ensembles around the Bay Area soon! 

Q: What is it about the Sound Minds program that most excites you?

Offering a few tips on instrument distribution day

I was drawn to this role because of the impact the Sound Minds program has on the students of E.M. Downer Elementary School and the greater San Pablo community. Music education provides students a place to express themselves, to explore, and to be creative. Learning an instrument takes discipline, focus, time management skills, and gives students a sense of responsibility and self-ownership of their work. I am always amazed at the growth in maturity and confidence a student exemplifies after working with them, and its one of the main reasons why I became a music educator. 

Often, access and cost of a musical education can be huge obstacles for students and families to overcome. Instruments, equipment, and private lessons can all be incredibly expensive, and that means students can lose out on the truly wonderful benefits of learning music. The fact that the mission of Sound Minds is to provide free access to instruments and exceptional music education to the students made me want to get involved. The work this program is doing is having such a positive impact on these students. Even in my short time here, I can see how eager and enthusiastic these students are to learn. 

Stephanie is reunited with her blue cello

Q: Do you have any plans you can share about the future of the Sound Minds program?

We are very excited about the future of the Sound Minds program! We are currently working on a fun video performance project of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy that will involve our current Sound Minds students, Sound Minds alumni, and members of the California Symphony. This summer, we are planning to have a four-week summer school intensive with on-site learning five days a week. This will be a great kickstart to get students ready for the fall of 2021, where we are planning to be back to a regular in-person schedule.

The Sound Minds students are ready to learn and have fun making music together in-person again!


· Sound Minds provides intensive music theory and instruction at no cost to participants.

· Sound Minds students test 4x higher in math proficiency and 2x in reading compared with non-participants.

· Based on El Sistema principles which seek to effect social change through intensive music study and the ambitious pursuit of musical excellence. El Sistema focuses primarily on children with the fewest resources and greatest need.

Roses are red, donors are cool… You make a difference in the lives of underserved students when your give during Symphony Gives Week through May 8, 2021. And when you give $100 or more, you even get a prize in the form of a custom-made poem on a topic of your choice!

“My violin is filled with joy…” We specially commissioned a poem about Sound Minds. You can read it here: Ode to Joy: for the Sound Minds Music Education Program.


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