Contact Us at (951) 587-1536


Thomas G. Kociela
Music Director and Conductor

Tom Kociela is a sought-after educator, conductor and clinician.  His extensive performance and teaching experience allows for a unique sense of direction, the results of which have been incredible ensemble synergy and enthusiastic student leaders.  Originally hailing from Farmington Hills, Michigan, Tom’s first exposure to a youth orchestra was in the eighth grade when he joined the Livonia Youth Philharmonic (Livonia, MI) at the suggestion of a friend.  In high school, Tom trained and performed with the Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra, he has been involved with orchestras ever since!

Tom was the Assistant Conductor and Winds and Brass Coach at the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO).  He also served as CYSO’s Pathways Neighborhood Ensembles Music Director, designing and implementing small ensemble and private lesson programs at underserved schools around Chicago.  Tom developed and directed the brass ensemble at the University of Chicago where he was also Instructor in Trombone and Euphonium.  As an Arts Instructor at the Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) Tom taught music theory, brass technique and directed the ChiArts Wind Ensemble.  He taught group rhythm classes to beginning and intermediate violin and piano students at the Triton College Preparatory Music School in River Grove, Illinois.  Additionally, Tom maintained private studios at several schools where many of his students went on to earn significant college scholarships for abilities on their instrument.

As a performer, Tom has been a substitute with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on tenor trombone and has been featured on the euphonium and bass trumpet within the orchestra. He has shared the stage with conductors and artists such as Bernard Haitink, Michael Tilson Thomas, James Conlon, Yo-Yo Ma, Michelle DeYoung, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, David Robertson, Sir James Galway, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Sir Patrick Stewart. Tom traveled to Carnegie Hall on tour with the CSO three times, performing under Pierre Boulez and Riccardo Muti. He also performed with the CSO for Festa Muti!, a Free Concert for Chicago in Millennium Park.

Tom has performed with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Ars Viva Symphony (Skokie, IL), West Michigan Symphony, Chicago Composers Orchestra, Kenosha Symphony (Kenosha, WI), and Racine Symphony (Racine, WI), among others.  He can be heard on recordings backing singer/songwriter Andrea Miller, saxophonist Steve Cole, pianist Russ Ferrante, singer/songwriter Brandon McHose and jazz legend Curtis Fuller.

Tom is creator of the Intonation Repair Tool (IRT), a training method which is used to improve individual and ensemble intonation.  The IRT is used around the globe by beginning instrumental music directors, middle school and high school ensembles, youth symphony orchestras, regional orchestras, university music studios and prominent professional musicians of many genres.  Tom has given masterclasses about the IRT and the art of ensemble playing at Western Michigan University, Michigan State University, Northern Illinois University, Hope College, The Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, Roosevelt University and many school programs.

Tom attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts where he studied music education with Charles Groeling and trombone with Jay Friedman. He is the choral director at John W. North High School in Riverside where he is currently developing new course offerings which coincide with expanded arts requirements. Tom resides in Riverside with his wife, Dr. Yelena Grinberg, a research scientist in neurobiology at the University of California Riverside.  Since moving from Chicago to Southern California in January of 2014 Tom and Yelena have been enjoying the many destinations and rich culture of Southern California as they continue to make kale smoothies each morning!

Scott Merrin
Conductor – Junior Youth Symphony

Scott Merrin has been involved with music since the tender age of 5, where he learned piano.  From that point on, his development and relationship to music has been growing.  His experience in teaching and performing allows him to exhibit passion, energy and enthusiasm when on the podium.

Originally from Washington State, Scott added guitar, saxophone, electric bass and string bass to his instrument proficiency list while growing up.  He performed with school bands from 7th Grade through college, as well as being involved with the worship team at church.

After graduating from high school in 2002, Scott attended George Fox University in Newberg, OR, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Music in 2006.  He immediately enrolled in the MAT program at University of Portland in Portland, OR, where he received his Master of Arts in Teaching in 2007.

In the fall of 2007, Scott got his first teaching job in North Franklin School District in Connell, WA.  In his four years there, Scott taught grades 7-12 in band, jazz band, guitar, and music appreciation.  He also guest conducted the Inland Northwest Musicians, a classical music organization consisting of vocalists and instrumentalists, in December 2010 for their holiday concert held in Connell.

In the fall of 2011, Scott and his wife, Laura, moved to Southern California, where he began teaching at Calvary Murrieta Christian School.  In his three years at Calvary, Scott taught grades 4-12 in band, strings, jazz band, marching band, and choir.  In 2012, Scott joined the Robert Holts Jazz Orchestra as the string bass player.  Also in 2012, Scott joined the Valley Winds Community Band, playing baritone sax.  In 2013, out of the Robert Holts Jazz Orchestra, Scott became a founding member of the Second Hand Jazz Combo, which specializes in combo style jazz from the 1920’s to 1940’s.  Each month, he can be seen performing at Speakeasy at the Merc in Old Town Temecula, as well as at wineries, parties and other events in the Temecula Valley.  Also in 2013, Scott started the Celebration Orchestra at his church, Gateway Church of the Nazarene.

Most recently, in April 2014, Scott became the Director of Instrumental Music at James L. Day Middle School of the Temecula Valley Unified School District, where he teaches band, jazz band, and string orchestra for grades 6-8.

In his spare time, Scott and his wife Laura like to relax at the beach, take in Storm baseball games, and spend time traveling to visit family in both Washington State and Indiana.