Music on Ocean Park: Fairview Brach Library Presents the Santa Monica Youth Orchestra

The Santa Monica Youth Orchestra (SMYO).

By Michael Ray


On Saturday June 24 the Fairview Branch Library hosted the Santa Monica Youth Orchestra (SMYO) as part of the library branch’s open house. SMYO, founded in 2011, is a tuition-free program for young musicians to mature musically. The diverse group of musicians is comprised of academics, artists, and community members. While the youth orchestra practices every Sunday at Virginia Avenue Park, they only play a handful of recitals throughout the year, most are by invitation.

Inside the newly renovated community room of the Fairview Branch Library, the SMYO played to an intimate audience. The songs included “Tenor Madness” by Sonny Rollins, “Sakura” which is a traditional Japanese folk song, and orchestra rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Beat it.”

“It was quite an intimate setting, it was cool, and worked out because the audience was right there. [There was] a nice warm vibe,” said brass instructor Tom Ralls.

The orchestra’s founding director, Shabnam Fasa, received her musical training at Holbaek Kunst art school and holds a degree in ethnomusicology from UCLA.

“I played as a child in a youth orchestra in Denmark and that was the best life experience,” Fasa explained. “I learned so much about music, different time periods and music styles, social interaction, friendship, teamwork, performing, mentoring, and teaching. And I’ve wanted to create a place that would offer the same type of experience I had when I was young.”

After the concert, some of the young musicians and parents explored the library’s shelves while others chatted in the community room.

Acting Branch Manager Jennifer Boyce said that even though the library reopened nearly a year ago, many people think that it is still closed, and today’s open house is a reminder that “we are still here and please come and visit.”

In addition to regular concerts, throughout the summer the Virginia Branch Library will host an all-ages summer reading program, writing workshops and offers remote access resources to library card holders. For more information head to: and

The orchestra’s founding director, Shabnam Fasa with two SMYO players.
The Santa Monica Youth Orchestra (SMYO).
Brass SMYO players at the concert.