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By Megan Burke

Even as a child, San Diego trumpet virtuoso Gilbert Castellanos said music for him was like sustenance. At age 7 he learned to read music by practicing his father’s original compositions. His musical experiences read like a jazz encyclopedia. He credits Dizzy Gillespie for helping him earn a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious music college, he’s toured the world performing with Wynton Marsalis and others. He’s currently up for Grammy consideration for best improvised jazz solo for his work on the album, “Days Like This” with vocalist Melissa Morgan. Castellanos was also recently named music educator of the year by the San Diego Youth Symphony.

Read this article and listen to its audio “first person” account in Gilbert’s own words at

Throughout his career, Castellanos said, he’s been inspired to be a “jazz messenger” for the next generation of musicians. He is now molding young musical minds as artistic director for the nonprofit International Academy of Jazz, an after-school program. He’s giving San Diego budding jazz talent the same opportunity he was given: to develop as musicians by performing with the pros.

His Young Lions, as he calls them, are up-and-coming musicians from various Southern California jazz music programs, including the academy, who play at Panama 66 in Balboa Park most Wednesday nights.

As part of our First Person series, Castellanos takes us along on his jazz journey.

San Diego Youth Symphony