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Our Conductors

Sameer Patel, SDYS Artistic Director

Sameer Patel, Conductor and Artistic Director

Ovation Level: Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra

Internationally recognized for his deep musicianship and passionate communication, Sameer Patel is one of America’s most exciting young conductors.

Sameer is the newly appointed Artistic Director of the San Diego Youth Symphony, a transformational organization that reaches more than 3,000 students in its community through its thirteen ensembles, El Sistema-inspired classroom programs, and early childhood music classes. He also serves as Associate Conductor of the Sun Valley Music Festival and recently concluded an acclaimed tenure as Associate Conductor of the San Diego Symphony, where he reinvigorated the orchestra’s programming and connection with its community.

In the 2021-2022 season, Sameer makes debuts with the Grand Rapids Symphony, Sarasota Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, and the Florida Orchestra, as well as return engagements with the Knoxville Symphony and La Jolla Symphony. Recent performances include Puccini’s Tosca with Houston’s Opera in the Heights, as well as concerts with the orchestras of Toronto, St. Louis, Detroit, New Jersey, Phoenix, Sacramento, Toledo, New Hampshire, Bozeman, Savannah, Fresno, Knoxville, Alabama, Naples, Reading, and Jacksonville. He has also appeared with the National Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the Chicago Sinfonietta. Abroad, Sameer has conducted performances with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Sanremo, the Orchestra Giovanile Italiana, and the Leipziger Sinfonieorchester. With an unending enthusiasm for the music of our time, Sameer has championed music by living composers such as Adam Schoenberg, Anna Clyne, Mason Bates, Ellen Reid, Hannah Lash, Tan Dun, and many others. As the proud product of public school music education, Sameer dedicates time in his schedule each season to working with school and community ensembles, youth orchestras, youth music camps, and All-State orchestras around the country.

Sameer’s impressive work has led to recognition from the Solti Foundation U.S., which granted him three consecutive Career Assistance Awards and an Elizabeth Buccheri Opera Residency with North Carolina Opera. In 2016 he was recognized by Daniele Gatti as a top conductor at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy, which led to his acclaimed debut with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Sanremo. In 2013, Kurt Masur, the late Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, recognized Sameer’s talents with a prize from the Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Foundation, which allowed him to study with and assist Maestro Masur in his appearances with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. That same year, Sameer was one of only six conductors selected by the League of American Orchestras for the Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, which led to subsequent, multiple engagements with that orchestra. In the early stages of his career he held conducting positions with the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

Sameer studied at the University of Michigan and furthered his training across Europe with some of the greatest conductors of our time, including Gianandrea Noseda, Daniele Gatti, David Zinman, Paavo Järvi, and the late conductors Kurt Masur and Bernard Haitink. Additionally, Sameer has assisted and learned from leading conductors Gustavo Dudamel, Charles Dutoit, Edo de Waart, Robert Spano, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Stéphane Denève, Jaap van Zweden, Thomas Wilkins, Larry Rachleff, and Mei-Ann Chen, among many others.

Proudly born and raised in Michigan, Sameer makes his home in San Diego with his wife, Shannon, their four-year-old son, Devan, and their one-year-old daughter, Veda. In his spare time, Sameer pursues his passions for reading, languages, jazz, traveling, history, and tennis.

Anthony Do-Hoon Kim, Conductor SDYS

Anthony Do-Hoon Kim, Conductor

Showcase Level: Sinfonia

Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Anthony Do-Hoon Kim is a versatile conductor, music educator, and piano pedagogue, who has performed throughout North America. With a passion for inspiring the next generation of artists and a mission to make music education accessible to all, he joined the San Diego Youth Symphony as a conductor in 2013. Since then, he has directed SDYS orchestras at all levels, including the Prelude, Inspiration, Showcase, Ovation, and Community Opus Project. Prior to his time at SDYS, Mr. Kim served as Music Director of the Michigan Pops Orchestra and was the Founding Artistic Director of the Dead Composers Society at UC Santa Barbara. He appeared as a guest conductor with the University of Michigan Symphony and Philharmonia Orchestras, San Diego All-City Honor Orchestras, and Grossmont Union Honor Orchestra. He has additionally served on the conducting staff of the Thousand Oaks Philharmonic, U-M Campus Orchestras, UCSB Symphony Orchestra, South Coast Reading Orchestra, and Santa Barbara Youth Symphony. As a clinician, he has conducted and worked with orchestral programs at the San Diego State University, The Colburn School, Idyllwild Arts Academy, Kadima Conservatory of Music, David’s Harp Foundation, Casa de Amistad of Solana Beach, Fortissimo Orchestra in San Marcos, and VAPA programs at the San Diego Unified School District.

As a Conducting Fellow, Mr. Kim studied at the Pierre Monteux School and the Conductors Institute at Bard College Conservatory of Music. Additionally, he has performed in masterclasses for artists including Leon Fleisher, Gustav Meier, Yuval Yaron, and the Juilliard String Quartet. As a featured performer, he has given live radio performances and led numerous world premieres of works by living composers. He is a recipient of multiple career grants from the Léni Fé Bland Foundation and has won first prize awards in piano from the Music Teachers National Association and Saddleback Symphony Young Artist competitions. Mr. Kim was awarded a Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Michigan where he studied under Kenneth Kiesler. He also holds both a Bachelor and Master of Music in Piano Performance from UC Santa Barbara, where he was a student of Charles Asche.

Jessica Swift, SDYS Conductor

Jessica Swift, Conductor

Showcase Level: Philharmonia

Originally from Colorado, Jessica Swift holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a Master of Music degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a dual concentration in conducting and French horn performance. While at UCLA, Ms. Swift served as a Teaching Assistant and Graduate Conductor with the UCLA Bands.

Ms. Swift is grateful for the opportunity to interact with musicians of all ages and ability levels and enjoys a variety of professional engagements as an educator, conductor, performer, clinician, and composer. Highlights include performances at Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, national and regional educational conferences. Recently, Ms. Swift was selected as one of six national conducting audition finalists with the United States Air Force Bands.

Currently, Ms. Swift is the Director of Music and the Department Chair of the Visual and Performing Arts program at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, California. Previously, Ms. Swift has served as Director and Conductor for the Santa Monica College Emeritus Concert Band and has held tenure with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, where she provided instrumental instruction at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Sharing the gift of music with students of diverse backgrounds remains the central passion of her career.

Tamara Paige, Conductor

Tamara Paige, Conductor

Showcase Level: Concert Orchestra

Ms. Tamara Paige has been a music educator in the San Diego area for over 20 years directing a wide range of performance ensembles and creating collaborative experiences within the community. She also directs the orchestra program and co-chairs the music department at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts.

Over the years, Ms. Paige’s music programs have been recognized for their professional level of performance, have received top honors and national recognition, and have sent scores of students onto successful college and professional musical careers. In 2019 Tamara received SDYS’s Profiles in Music Education Award for her continued work with young musicians. As an alumna, she is proud to return to SDYS as a conductor.

James Sepulvado, SDYS Conductor

James Sepulvado, Conductor

Showcase Level: Wind Symphony

James Sepulvado is a conductor, professor, published author, President and co-founder of San Diego Winds, and leader of a coalition working to rebuild music programs in San Diego’s east county. In addition to his work at SDYS, Mr. Sepulvado serves as Associate Professor of Music and Chair of the Performing Arts Department at Cuyamaca College. He was also recently appointed Interim Director of Bands at Point Loma Nazarene University. Prior to his position at Cuyamaca College, Mr. Sepulvado served as the Instrumental Music Director at Point Loma High School.

His first book, The Joy of Listening to Music, was published by Great River Learning, a division of Kendall-Hunt, in the fall of 2020. James is a co-founder and President of San Diego Winds, a non-profit music education organization centered around a professional Wind Ensemble, one of only two in the nation. He is the camp director of the San Diego Summer Music Institute.

James performs as a freelance professional tuba player and has appeared with Seaside Brass, Westwind Brass, and the San Diego Winds. Mr. Sepulvado is a member of the American Federation of Musicians Union, Local 325. He holds a bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University in Music Education and a Master’s degree in Education from National University.

Ulli Reiner

Ulli Reiner, Conductor

Inspiration Level: Symphonic Strings

A four-time Grammy nominee and Grammy Education 2017 finalist, Ulli Reiner has conducted Symphonic Strings since 2011. She is an adjunct faculty member of Palomar College, concertmaster of the Palomar Symphony Orchestra and Poway Symphony Orchestra, and founding Artistic Director, conductor, and concertmaster of the Poway Symphonette. She has been the orchestra director for the Poway Unified School District since 1983. Additionally, Ms. Reiner co-founded the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra of San Diego and is the Artistic Director of the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra String Classes. She is a past conductor and co-founder of the San Diego Civic Youth Orchestra’s Intermediate String Orchestra and Chamber String ensembles. She is also the orchestra director at the O’Connor Summer Workshop held in NYC and North Carolina and is a certified instructor of the O’Connor American Music Method. Ms. Reiner is sought after as a clinician, guest conductor, and adjudicator, having worked with CMEA, MTA, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, SCSBOA, and Grossmont College.

She serves on the Rancho Bernardo Library Discovery Concert Series Board and is the current President of the American String Teachers Association San Diego Branch.

An alumna of SDYS and a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music, Ms. Reiner received a Bachelor of Music Education degree with emphasis in violin and viola performance. Ms. Reiner has also worked on three Master of Music programs in music education, Suzuki and violin performance. She has toured extensively as a performer, violin soloist, and conductor with numerous orchestras, including having participated in the SDYS 70th Anniversary tour to China in 2015.

Lowri Casimiro, SDYS Conductor

Lowri Casimiro, Conductor

Prelude Level: Debut Strings Class & Inspiration Level: Overture Strings

Originally from the United Kingdom, Lowri Casimiro attended the Royal Welsh College of Music where she studied performance on viola and violin, graduating with a Bachelor of Music. She continued her musical education in London with Post-Graduate studies in performance at Trinity College of Music and a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education from Roehampton, University of Surrey.

Since leaving the United Kingdom, Ms. Casimiro is grateful to have had the opportunity to travel the world, teaching music to students of all ages in prestigious international schools. Some of her favorite schools include Bluewater International School in Koh Samui, Thailand and Al Yasmina Academy in Abu Dhabi. Since settling down in San Diego five years ago, she has been a valued teaching artist at SDYS’ Opus Community Project.

Ms. Casimiro is an Orff certified teacher; her true passion lies in developing the musical minds of younger students and she now teaches within the Chula Vista Elementary School District. In 2015, she was the recipient of the VH-1 Save the Music Foundation, Music Educator of the Year, recognizing her commitment and dedication to her students.

Valerie McElroy, SDYS Teaching Artist

Valerie McElroy, Conductor

Prelude Level: Debut Winds & Inspiration Level: Overture Winds

Valerie McElroy is a flutist, educator, music arranger, and multi-instrumentalist who has traversed the world of music in her teaching and performance. She is the founder and director of VM Studio, a private music education studio, and is a regular performer with San Diego-based professional ensembles Connessa (2021 Finalists in Chamber Music, The American Prize) and Flûtes de Salon (NFA Convention Performers, 2022).

As a sought-after flute clinician and collaborator, Ms. McElroy serves as the Flute Ensemble Director at Villa Musica, is a member of the Music Teachers’ Association of California (MTAC), and formerly served as Treasurer on the Board of Directors of the San Diego Flute Guild. A Chicago native, she studied at DePaul University with Mary Stolper, Hideko Amano, and Jennifer Clippert and has since worked with hundreds of music students in her educational career. Her pedagogy is centered around the development of the whole musician.

Marife Biares, SDYS Conductor

Marife Biares, Conductor

Prelude Level: Beginning Strings Class

Marife Biares was born in the Philippines and grew up in a family of musicians. Her experience in orchestra performance began at the age of six as a violinist in the children’s orchestra Pasaknungan Philippines, and she is a graduate of the University of the Phillipines College of Music with a major in music education.

From 2000 to 2014 Marife taught violin at the University of the Philippines, College of Music extension program. She also taught violin class for beginners at the International School Manila. She was a mentor at the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth “Ang Misyon”, was is inspired by El Sistema with the vision of excellence in music performance.

In 2015, Marife joined the Filipino American Symphony Orchestra (FASO) led by Musical Director Robert Shroder, with which she has performed at many venues and events across California.

For the past twenty-two years, Marife has been shaping the lives of children and young adults through music. She has been a long-time teaching artist with San Diego Youth Symphony, working with students throughout SDYS’ programs. In addition to her work with SDYS’ Opus Project in Chula Vista, Marife teaches at Sunnyside Elementary School. She is an advocate for all students to receive high-quality music education including students who attend school online.

San Diego Youth Symphony