Living a life of music

James Elza Domine is a San Fernando Valley born conductor and well-established musician. He teaches a number of string and guitar courses at Pierce while also playing a large selection of instruments including piano, guitar, violin and viola.

“Most people’s lives, where you end up, is a combination of where your parents are to start with and where your education and opportunities take you,” Domine says.

He attended Taft High School, UCLA on a full scholarship and the The San Fernando Valley Orchestra, which he founded in 1979.

Ellie Pecora, a long time flute player in his college orchestra, said that in her experience with conductors and music professors Domine has a real skill in his craft.

“I’ve had exposure to others and I think he really knows what he’s doing,” Pecora says.

“We have some who play quite well and some who are just,” Pecora says as her voice trails off with a tone of implication. “That’s a tough thing to keep together and he does a fabulous job. I think that’s the strongest thing I can say about him.”

Domine plays with a number of bands including The Symphomaniacs, The Molay Band, The Screaming Clams and The Blues Bandits on Wednesday nights at the Corbin Bowl on Ventura Boulevard.

“Live music is a thing we are trying to keep alive instead of press the button and it goes type of music,” Domine says.

In the next few years he hopes to finish the pieces he’s working on and produce a play he has written.

He said that classical music is alive and well and inspiring more young artists than ever before.

“Mozart and Beethoven are more popular today than they were in their own time. There’s more people listening to them today than there ever were.”

He says that the doubt in future musician arises as you grow older and more out of touch with what is actually happening in the industry.

“Kids aren’t like we were,” he says. “We used to be smart and fun. No you weren’t, you were dull and silly. But you can’t say that.”

But one thing that is a concern to the future of music is the funding high schools and colleges are pulling away from the arts.

“Pierce has had a very successful music department in the past,” Domine says. “We would like to continue that in the future, but that requires support from an administration and this administration seems not to interested in the community or the arts. They are doing nothing to help us and everything to sabotage this department.”

“I’d like to see the performing arts at Pierce College thrive, I really would,” he says. “There’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to. We have talented people.”

Michael Gend, Chair of the Music Department discussed the shifting of funds away from the arts in the past couple of years

“If it were my decision, I’d funnel a lot more money into the arts, it has to do with administrators and the choices they make,” Gend says. “Hopefully at some point there may be a change of heart with the current administrators or maybe we’ll have new ones in the future who are more supportive of the arts.”

Although there is little funding for the arts, Gend is confident in the musical expertise of the staff. He said Domine was a talented man and a good resource for students.

“He’s a very talented guy and a really good teacher to get to know if you show promise as a musician,” Gend says.

Although there are many obstacles, travails and drudgery to overcome in the business, Domine said he has never let it get in the way of his passion for music.

“Once you start making music, it’s always fun,” Domine says.


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Brian Caldera is a Los Angeles based photographer, writer and entertainer born and raised in the glorious San Fernando Valley. He has spent his life enjoying all the opportunities his city has to offer.