Young Lions Jazz Conservatory (YLJC) was founded by its artistic director, jazz trumpet virtuoso Gilbert Castellanos. Mr. Castellanos has a passion for jazz education and in 2013 started The Young Lions series, a program (currently presented weekly at Balboa Park's Panama 66 restaurant) that showcases young blooming jazz artists (ages 11-18) with whom he works closely as instructor and mentor.

Building on the success and momentum of the Young Lions Series, Castellanos expanded his vision and passion to raise up the next generation of jazz with the launch of Young Lions Jazz Conservatory. The non-profit organization focuses on the educational components of music: jazz theory, history, cultural context, latin/afro/brazilian rhythms, and master classes with internationally recognized musicians. Conservatory students are placed in small combos of seven or eight students and rehearse weekly. We currently have 85 students in 12 classes. One or more conservatory students is featured every Wednesday in the Young Lions Series at Panama 66 at the San Diego Museum of Art. In addition, conservatory combos perform at Jazz @ The Jacobs, Adams Avenue Street Fair, KSDS Jazz 88.3 Live Series, and festivals throughout the state. Students also have the opportunity to record at Lost Ark Studios, a professional recording studio. Classes are taught by Gilbert Castellanos, Rob Thorsen, Charlie Arbelaez, and Bob Boss.

In his youth, Gil was provided many opportunities by established jazz musicians, and he has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Nancy Wilson, George Benson, Diana Krall, Al Jarreau, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Dr. John, Charlie Hayden, Charles McPherson, John Clayton,  and Natalie Cole, just to name a few.

It’s been his ambition to provide today’s young musicians with some of the same opportunities he was fortunate enough to experience. Young Lions Jazz Conservatory is the fruition of this long-held dream.


Young Lions Jazz Conservatory: Giving young musicians diverse, experiential, and meaningful learning opportunities to sustain and enhance the development of America’s Classical Music — Jazz.


Young Lions Jazz Conservatory’s mission is to enrich young lives, and the San Diego community where they live, by inspiring imagination, intellectual curiosity, character, and self-confidence through jazz music instruction provided to middle and high school students; to facilitate exclusive performance opportunities for young musicians at public venues; to promote awareness and appreciation of jazz music in the community through live performances and education.


YLJC, a non-profit 501(c)(3) recognized corporation, is an organization dedicated to nurturing and supporting a collaborative learning culture that advances the mission, contributes to the vibrancy of the community, and promotes the development of well-balanced individuals.

We strive to find opportunities for community outreach that allow instructors and students to share their musical resources, gifts, and expertise beyond the classroom. Music is meant to be shared, and YLJC is dedicated to making a lasting impact on our community through a wide variety of community-based performances and programs.

In addition to the conservatory’s stellar faculty, world-class jazz professionals are brought in on a regular basis throughout the year to provide master classes that provide specialized training and coaching. Students study music theory, ear training, composition, improvisation, music history, and culture.

YLJC provides many opportunities throughout the year to perform in front of audiences at local venues and public and private events in the community. YLJC students attend jazz festivals and clinics, giving them the opportunity to meet other music students throughout the nation and to gain the experience of performing in a competitive environment.

Our goal is to keep our standard of teaching at the highest level while maintaining a friendly, fun, and nurturing environment. The study of music enriches not only the lives of the students and teachers, but the community and society as well.