The History of Class Act: How a Dream Became a Vibrant Reality

In the opening months of 1994, parents from seven Orange County elementary schools sat around a table and discussed their hopes and dreams for music in their children’s lives. Guided by then-Education Director Kelly Lucero and ardent Pacific Symphony supporter Valerie Imhof, this group of visionaries conceived a unique partnership between the Symphony and local school communities—and Class Act was born!

Symphony musicians would serve at the heart of this new and exciting partnership. Parents, teachers, and administrators at seven inaugural schools would also play an important role, each bringing their own unique contribution to the program. In September 1994, Class Act went from being a beautiful dream to a vibrant reality. Three Symphony musicians joined the team as the program’s first teaching artists. Cindy Ellis, flute; Andy Honea, cello; and Michael Hoffman, trombone stepped off of the concert stage and into the classroom!

Pictured L-R: Andy Honea (cello), Michael Hoffman (trombone), Kelly Lucero (former Education Director), and Cindy Ellis (flute).

A violinist, teacher, and passionate lover of music, Valerie Imhof has been the beating heart of Class Act since its creation. Though her official title is Class Act co-founder and program chair, Valerie is affectionately known as the program’s beloved “godmother”. When asked what inspired her to create Class Act collaboratively with a group of parents, she enthusiastically shares, “we wanted to develop a program that actually connected with the schools in a very meaningful way, and we thought that parents would have a good idea of how to do this.”

Class Act co-founder Valerie Imhof prepares a class for their Class Act lesson.

“Music is always about people, wanting to connect, and connecting together.”

Valerie Imhof, Class Act co-founder and program chair

This approach, putting parents at the center of the partnership, clearly worked. It continues to be a critical part of the program’s success, as Valerie has seen over the years. “Involving the parents was the best way forward, because we were invited to be part of their schools, instead of imposing ourselves upon them and trying to ‘sell’ what we had. Today, the parents’ role is just as essential, with parent volunteers handing down their knowledge to the next generation of parents.”

Applications are now available for the 2022-2023 Class Act year! For more information on bringing Class Act to your school, visit our website.