This year’s Stairway Honor Award will be shared this year by two women who have made played significant roles in developing, sustaining and enlarging the district’s music and arts programs, Zina Josephs and Jean Sedillos.
Growing up in a family of musicians and teachers, Josephs studied piano with her mother, her sister Ellen (a music major at USC at the time), Salome Arkatov, Alice Ehlers, and David Berfield. A fourth grade beginning violin class at Ivanhoe Elementary School led to violin lessons with Jane Haffa and John Browning, Sr., and to orchestras at Franklin Avenue Elementary, King Jr. High, Marshall High School, the LAUSD All-City Orchestra, the Idyllwild Arts Festival Orchestra, and the USC Symphony, led by Frances Wilson, Verne S. Martin, Morris Halford, Ray Wurfl, Dan Lewis, and Walter Ducloux.
Josephs majored in Music Education at USC, joined Mu Phi Epsilon (professional music fraternity) and MENC (Music Educators National Conference), and taught K-6 general, choral, and instrumental music at San Pedro Street School, a Title I elementary school in downtown Los Angeles, from 1968 to 1986. She also served on the boards of the Los Angeles City Elementary Schools Music Association and the California Music Educators Association/Southern Section.
After her daughter Emily played in her first Stairway concert in 1996, Josephs began attending SMMUSD Board of Education meetings to request reinstatement of the district’s K-5 vocal music program, which had been eliminated in 1983. In 1997, she and Jean Sedillos were among the first appointees to the Visual and Performing Arts District Advisory Committee (VAPA DAC). This committee meets monthly and prepares semi-annual reports to the Board of Education, with the goal of making a comprehensive, sequential arts education program (including Dance, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts) an integral part of the core curriculum for all K-12 SMMUSD students. (www.smmusd.org/vapa )
In 1999, Josephs was appointed to the SMMUSD Prop X Oversight Committee, where she worked to ensure that new facilities met the national Opportunity-to-Learn Standards for Arts Education: Dance, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts. In 2004, she joined the district’s “Arts for All” committee. Its nine-year strategic plan for arts education was adopted unanimously by the Board of Education in 2005.
In 2006, state block grants finally funded the reinstatement of district-wide music instruction for all SMMUSD 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. 1,050 elementary students received music instruction from credentialed music teachers in 2004, but this funding allowed 2,487 elementary students to receive instruction from credentialed music teachers in 2007.
Josephs has also volunteered with Stairway, PTA and PTA Council, school district parcel tax campaigns, Measure Y+YY, Save Our Schools, Resources for Infant Educarers, Pacific Composers Forum, Santa Monica Arts Commission, Santa Monica Neighborhood Council, and one of the city-recognized neighborhood organizations, Friends of Sunset Park.
Her husband Bill is also a teacher and a music lover, and they enjoy L.A. Philharmonic concerts at Disney Hall and the Hollywood Bowl (where they went on their first date in 1968).
She often cites a favorite quote from Shinichi Suzuki, the man who developed the Suzuki Method: “If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.”
Jean Sedillos began volunteering for SMMUSD in 1977 and never stopped. . With her two daughters in band, orchestra, and choir, she concentrated on supporting the district’s music programs.
In the 1980s, she wrote the Santa Monica Band Parents Association newsletter and worked at the SMBPA’s Bingo games, which raised funds that kept the district’s music program alive and continue to supplement secondary-level band, choir, and orchestra music budgets today. She served in the trenches at Marching Band tournaments and helped raise funds for Symphony Orchestra trips.
For twelve years, she helped produce Stairway of the Stars, designing posters and programs, handling ticket sales, script writing, and even making flower arrangements one year.
In 1991, though she is not a Samo alumna, she used her powers of persuasion to convince guest conductor Richard Wagnon to let her play flute in the alumni/student orchestra that performed at Stairway in 1991. She recalls that the student performers in the ensemble saved the alums from embarrassing themselves.
In 1997, Sedillos was one of a number of parents and music teachers who believed that the music program needed official representation within the district, and convinced the school board and administrators to form a district advisory committee for fine arts, now called the Visual and Performing Arts DAC. Serving for eleven years, she was a strong voice for restoring elementary music education, strengthening secondary programs, and improving music facilities.
That same year, she became a founding member and leader of Restore Barnum Hall. This group of volunteers raised $1.5 million towards the $8 million restoration/renovation of Samohi’s theater and monitored countless details of the project – from rigging, sound, and lighting systems, acoustical improvements, mural restoration, landscaping. donor recognition panels to ensuring that the colors of the new paint were historically accurate.
In one high-tech operation, Restore Barnum Hall members lined up and flushed all the hall’s toilets at the same time to find out whether the noise could be heard in the auditorium (it couldn’t).
Sedillos lobbied the school board tirelessly until the district conducted a use study and hired a theater manager to make sure that Barnum Hall, one of the community’s most architecturally and historically significant buildings, as well as one of its most beautiful and important resources, is well and truly used to benefit Samohi and the community. The hall now generates enough revenue to ensure its well-being. Along with the Samohi Alumni Association, Sedillos still helps with some maintenance and improvement projects, such as last summer’s installation of a priceless donated Wurltizer theater organ.
Her work has paid off in her own family: Her daughters have careers in both music and education – Laurie as a public school teacher who has formed and led several children’s choirs and Holly as soprano soloist, private voice teacher, and member of the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
A UCLA graduate and editor/writer by trade, Sedillos lives in Santa Monica with her husband Jon and their Welsh Corgi, James Macaño, who also sings.