James Paoletti

By Scott MacClellandPaoletti

WHILE HE DIDN’T conceive of the Orchestra in the Schools—it was established in 1988 at All Saints Day School in Carmel Valley—James Paoletti has been its most determined champion. A fundraiser at a private home in the posh Tehama subdivision on Sunday attracted a host of supporters ranging from Monterey Peninsula area musicians and music lovers, retired politicians, members of the Youth Music Monterey County board of directors and, of course, OITS board members. The mood was festive as two young musicians performed a short but enchanting concert.

In the background was the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) just signed into law by President Obama, restoring the arts in public school curricula as equal to other academic studies.

A better way to describe Paoletti is champion for “affordable” after-school music education with OITS as his principal instrument—or as he says “sharing my passion for music with young people.” In the early years, he recruited elementary students from both private, public schools, and the home-schooled, by persuading the schools to provide bus transportation to All Saints where parents picked up their children after rehearsals. But as the program grew the All Saints administration began to worry about liability issues and sought to limit the enrollment to something under 40. “I thought, well, kids are bused to other locations to play sports. How was this different?” he told me.

Jim and his wife Emma—a “beautiful 18-year-old” church organist at the time they met—came to Monterey from Southern California in 1989 when he was hired to teach elementary school music for the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. That was a scary time for school music programs which, in many districts, were being cut or dropped altogether. Undeterred, and perhaps because music was always prominent in his Italian heritage and family, Paoletti sought additional opportunities through the still-new OITS program at All Saints and by networking with other music education programs. Youth Music Monterey, descended from the Youth Orchestra of the Monterey Peninsula, was still finding its legs, and Paoletti correctly saw that OITS was a natural feeder for that now hugely successful program.

Through numerous changes in OITS’ relationships with different schools and other music programs it has become its own independent 501c3 non-profit able to receive tax-deductible contributions and grants. Among the latter, a recent grant from the S.T.A.R. foundation made it possible to acquire a dozen much-needed instruments. Today, 130 students rehearse and perform—as they did last week in Monterey in an orchestral concert with Paoletti conducting.

Paoletti took his BA and MA in music education and acquired his teaching credentials at CSU Los Angeles. He taught in the school district of LA—in a music magnet school—and in the Pasadena and Temple City districts before coming to Monterey, totaling some 30 years as a music educator. His instrument is the tuba and he has performed in the Monterey Bay region in classical and jazz ensembles. He plays violin competently and teaches it specifically. He has guest conducted the Monterey Symphony and YMMC orchestras. His OITS orchestra has participated in YMMC concerts. In his own words, “I love to teach symphonic orchestras, string orchestras, string quartets, concert bands, wind ensembles, jazz ensembles and jazz combos.”

It’s a dynamic brew. Speaking like a financial adviser he adds, “Diversification is the greater strength.”