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Music teachers collaborate on virtual performance

Music teachers from 20 San Juan Unified schools came together recently to record a virtual performance of the song “Ancient Flowers” from composer Yukiko Nishimura. The song was played at the virtual Evening with the STARS event in October. 

San Juan Unified wanted to know a little bit more about this work, so the communication team reached out for a short Q&A with Winston Churchill vocal and instrumental music teacher Sonia Takanikos, who organized the performance.

Q: How did this project come together?

A: Inspiration from the composer. I wrote to the composer Yukiko Nishimura to inform her that San Juan Unified performed her work for a virtual performance and here is her message to me: 

“Hello Sonia, It is good to hear from you. I am sorry for not replying to you soon. Thank you for being interested in my work, Ancient Flower. I’d love to leave some words about the piece.

“I originally wrote this piece for string orchestra but it has been getting more popular than the string version. I am surprised. 

“As you know, I am from Japan but I didn’t put these melodies with an oriental atmosphere intentionally. It did come from somewhere in my mind very naturally. So that this is the moment I always realize that I am from Asia. Actually, I love traditional music and instruments and I often hear the sound of those.

As for Ancient Flower, I used very common classical harmonies on the background of the main melody. It becomes sounding quite sophisticated, I think.

“As you said, I definitely know that the composition field is a male-dominated field from the old period. But, every time you listen to music, you don’t recognize that it is ‘mannish’ or ‘womanish’ even if either gender of the composers wrote that music. Music is the music itself no matter who wrote the music. This is my opinion overall.

“But … as you realized, there are rather few women composers and (mostly) white-male composers in this real world. So that it’s good to know there are people like you to raise your voice. I am thankful to you to notice that and say that to the public.

Best, Yukiko”


Q: Why the song was chosen?

A: I chose this composition because I find the melodies beautiful, and allows each musician to create and tell their own stories. The program notes state "You might imagine that the ancient flower is a dainty, tiny flower; perhaps an exotic flower; or perhaps even something else. Whatever you imagine, the flower will bloom in your way in this piece." When purchasing music for my school, I try to purchase music that will speak to my diverse student population. This piece was composed by a woman from Tokyo, Japan but more importantly, this work is just beautiful. 

Q: How many music teachers were involved?

A: There were ​15 current San Juan Unified music teachers, 2 retired music teachers, and three private instructors who teach San Juan students. These teachers teach at 20 different schools.

Q: How long did it take?

A: This project took close to 30 hours to complete from creating the click track to assembling and lining up the audio and videos. I have created a few projects now so I am becoming a little faster than I was in the spring.


Video Credit

"Ancient Flower" by Yukiko Nishimura

Performed by San Juan Unified School District Band Directors



Jamie Jun- Carriage Drive and Whitney Elementary

Sonia Takanikos- Winston Churchill Middle School


Kevin Glaser- Retired (El Camino High School)


Sarah Brown- Grand Oaks Elementary / Arts & PE Department

Liz McAllister- Private Instructor

Cindy Teresi- Earl LeGette Elementary School

Bass Clarinet

Stephanie Sugano- Music Educator

Alto Sax

Gabe Read- El Camino High School

Mark Tulga- Retired (Carnegie Middle School)

Tenor Sax

Whitney Disney- Arden Middle School

Baritone Sax

Gabe Read- El Camino High School


Marc Marmorstein- Lichen P-8

Michael McAllister- Mira Loma HS

Ed Moore- Bella Vista High School

French Horn

Karen Davidson- Pasteur Middle School and Casa Roble High School

Mike McAllister- Mira Loma High School


Mitch Evett Rio Americano High School


Jeremy Lauder- San Juan High School


Jeremy Lauder- San Juan High School


Peter Mancina-Sylvan Middle and Mesa Verde High School



Matt Brown- Private Instructor 

Brittany Burris- Deterding Elementary

Donna Pool- Arcade Middle School


Participating San Juan Unified School District Schools:

Arcade Middle School

Arden Middle School

Bella Vista High School

Carriage Elementary

Casa Roble High School

Deterding Elementary

Earl LeGette Elementary

El Camino High School

Grand Oaks Elementary

Lichen P-8

Mesa Verde High School

Mira Loma High School

Ottomon Elementary

Pasteur Middle School 

Rio Americano High School

San Juan High School

Sylvan Middle School

Whitney Elementary

Winston Churchill Middle School

VAPA Coordinator- Gary Coartney