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I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Nancy Mathison for forty-five years, give or take, starting when she first came to Santa Barbara to pursue a master’s degree at UCSB, and I was just a few years into what would become a close to fifty-year career in music retail.

As part of her focus when arriving in Santa Barbara, Nancy started a private studio of clarinet students, quickly growing it from a handful to a mature, robust, and respected group within the musical community.  Being in music retail, I not only had the opportunity to witness her passion and professionalism as a teacher, I saw the results of her hard work and dedication when her students came into the store. Her ability to share her love of music while instilling a strong work ethic, confidence, and desire to reach for the stars was infectious and shown through every student.

Nancy has stayed the course throughout the ensuing decades, never veering from this path and always ready to inspire and empower our youth through the magic of music.




Nick Rail

Former owner, Nick Rail Music


What parents say:


Our band experience with Sandy Adams at Ellwood Elementary could not have been more positive!  Sandy made band practice a place where students could make mistakes and joyfully celebrate what they created together. Despite having to get up to be at school early, our child looked forward to band practice  and always left feeling encouraged and with a smile on his face.  What started off as an obligation in fourth grade eventually became an essential part of our son's identity, for he is now a proud member of the La Colina Jazz Band and looks forward to participating in the jazz band at Dos Pueblos High School next year.  The band program in the Goleta school district gave our son the technical ability and confidence to play music at competitive levels, but more importantly, created a lifelong appreciation of music for our family.


Russell, Maureen, and Ethan Granger


Our son decided to join the Goleta school band in 3rd grade in 2018. He was not so sure about it at the time and he looked so little while carrying his saxophone in 3rd grade, but he has been playing saxophone ever since. The whole family was always so impressed with the concerts and parades he participated in. Although the elementary band was canceled over the pandemic, his experience inspired him to continue to play and learn music and we are so grateful for this.  It has been amazing to see him grow, participate, play songs, and be part of the school band. The Christmas parades were so much fun for him in both 3rd and 4th grade. Learning music is not easy, and having a friendly setting where you can play with friends makes such a difference. He even inspired his brother who is 2 year younger to try out an instrument during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the elementary school band has been canceled for the past 1.5 years due to the pandemic, which has limited band and music opportunities for so many elementary school kids. Not everyone needs to become a professional musician, but learning and appreciating music is for everyone and our family is so grateful for having had the opportunity to participate in a band experience. Both our kids have greatly benefited from it and music will stay with them for life. Seeing how it has enriched our children's lives, I hope for many more elementary school bands to bring the same experience to other families!


Nathalie Guebels


My son used to sing himself to sleep as a baby and toddler. He would also wake up singing. He was, somewhat inexplicably, a big fan of showtunes (inexplicable because he had never watched a single musical!). Being a lifelong music lover myself, I signed him up for toddler music classes through a great local studio, which we enjoyed together for many years. As he moved into elementary school, I would repeatedly bring up the idea of music lessons. He completely lacked interest, no matter which instrument I floated past him. Imagine my surprise! My child who had so loved listening to music each and every day of his whole young life no longer held that interest. What had happened?


Eventually, I stopped asking if he was interested in music lessons. Then, one day early in his 4th grade year, he came home and asked me if he could play the clarinet. Surprised, I asked what gave him the idea. The Santa Barbara Symphony’s Music Van had been at his school for an assembly that afternoon to advertise the Goleta Union School District band, and the clarinet’s “deep tones” had hooked him (that, and the Harry Potter theme music they played!). I enthusiastically agreed. He joined the school band the very next day, and made great strides in his first year of learning. Our son quietly showed great pride during the school band performances, as well as while marching and playing in the holiday parades with his friends. These performances were all skillfully steered by the talented, encouraging, and patient Ms. Nancy Mathison.


We decided to augment his school lessons with the clarinet teacher he had the great fortune to work with through the school district, Mrs. Sandra Adams. We set up private lessons for him over the summer. As he entered 5th grade, band practice was sadly no longer offered at our school. It was, however, being offered at a nearby school. Our son woke up an hour early each Friday to head over to this nearby school to practice and represent his school in the GUSD band. As parents, we were amazed at his youthful dedication to music. Sadly, COVID derailed the lives of many at the end of that school year, and well into the next. No more school concerts, no more parade performances. But we were personally fortunate to be able to afford to continue his private lessons with Sandy Adams via Zoom.


Even though we are now back to full-time, in-person school, there is no school band opportunity for GUSD students as there once was for my son. I recently read that anyone who doubts the importance of any branch of the arts should challenge themselves to an entire month without music, television, movies, books, museums, and more. As I contemplate such a challenge, I realize what a dreary existence that would be for me! Can you imagine what COVID quarantine life would have been like without all these branches of the arts?! And I think of all the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders who are now not being given the opportunity to explore the world of music through learning an instrument.


When a child embraces music, the possibilities are amazing. Our younger son, who has watched his older brother play clarinet for years, has now taken up music lessons of his own. He is in his second year of learning the accordion with another talented local teacher (Mr. Richard Prato), whom we met through those early years of school band. And, my sons now have 3 younger cousins who have taken up instruments of their own (piano and flute) after watching their older cousins embrace music. It’s been amazing to watch this interest grow from child to child in our extended family. And it all truly started with an assembly introducing elementary students to a variety of instruments and the school band.


Our older son has now graduated to playing in his second year with the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony Philharmonia, with the continued tutelage, support, and encouragement of Sandy Adams, the teacher he once met through school band. Have you ever been “surprised by joy” while listening to the astonishing talents of young musicians playing together, daringly guided by dedicated teacher musicians? I have. It’s emotionally overwhelming, and I highly recommend it.


We couldn’t be more proud of our young musicians, nor could we be more grateful for the musical opportunities they have had, starting with the school band. I highly endorse the work of Nancy Mathison and Sandra Adams in their work to create an elementary band program for the students of Santa Barbara and Goleta.


~Kelly Streeton, El Camino elementary school PTA President



What music teachers say:


The Goleta Elementary Schools band program was started in the late 1990’s with Kellogg School.  Over the years, it grew to include every school.  This was a highly successful and desperately needed program to help students grades 3-6 learn to play an instrument.  Many of those students continued to play music all the way through high school and beyond.

By all accounts, when I was teaching, I had the most successful music program in Santa Barbara County.  The Goleta band program was the single most important ingredient to that success.  Several students each year from each of the Goleta Valley Junior High School elementary feeder schools joined the GVJH advanced band.   This provided approximately 20 seventh grade experienced musicians to my ranks.  The next year those students returned to the band as eighth graders and another 20 students or so from the GVJH feeder schools joined the advanced band.  Along with GVJH students that came from my beginning band, the GVJH advanced band averaged between 55-60 students. 


The GVJH Advanced Band won awards for best junior high marching band at the Santa Barbara Holiday Parade for 18 out of 21 years.  The jazz ensemble won best middle school ensemble at the DPHS jazz festival most years.  This could not have happened without an elementary program feeding into GVJH.


The quality of teaching in the Goleta elementary band program is stellar.  The band programs are high-quality, and the students learn so much.  Please support the efforts of Nancy Mathison and Sandy Adams to bring back instrumental music.  Your efforts will provide great invaluable support to a much-needed program.


Jeff Peterson

Retired music teacher

Goleta Valley Jr High School



In 2007 Nancy Mathison and I co-founded the BRAVO! after school band and orchestra program for elementary students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.  Together we helped grow the program from 80 students to over 200 students.  She is dedicated to providing quality music programs for young music students in our community.  


Karen Dutton

Music Teacher

Adams Elementary School


What parents say:

I was the Foothill Elementary School PTA Band Coordinator for 7 years and I worked very closely with Nancy Mathison and Sandy Adams. They were in charge of the band program across the Goleta Union School District (GUSD). They selected the instrument teachers to be hired, and created and coordinated the teaching schedule that covered all the individual elementary school band programs throughout the District. At the beginning of each school year they conducted an instrument demonstration assembly at each elementary school for the kids to learn about the instruments and the band program. That was always a very exciting day. As part of the program, they organized all the details involved for the 100+ band students from the entire district to rehearse and perform together as the GUSD All Schools Band in four events every school year: The SB Downtown Holiday Parade (won 1st place in their division on several occasions), The Goleta Old Town Christmas Parade, The GUSD All Schools Band Winter Concert and Spring Concert. Nancy and Sandy were also in charge of the GUSD loaner instrument program, meeting with the kids and their parents to provide instruction on proper instrument care, and at the end of the year they conducted the annual instrument cleaning and repairs.


Nancy, Sandy and all our instrument instructors were very invested and enthusiastic about our children’s music education opportunities and experiences.  In the seven years that I was involved, our school’s student participation in our band program tripled. The Foothill school’s band program consisted of 12 classes per week. We had 5 instrument instructors including Nancy and Sandy, who also doubled as our band directors. Every week each band student received 1.5 hours of musical instruction, which consisted of a 30-minute beginning or advanced instrument group lesson in flute, clarinet, saxophone, brass, or percussion on one day, along with an hour beginning band or advanced band rehearsal on a separate day.


There are so many benefits to providing young children with exposure to music education. My own children have participated in the Foothill Elementary, La Colina Junior High and Dos Pueblos High School instrumental music programs. Music is an important part of our physical and emotional well-being. It connects with the autonomic nervous system -brain function, blood pressure and heartbeat, and the limbic system -feelings and emotions.


Music is its own language strengthening the brain’s language center, improving listening, focusing, and communication skills, and eye-hand coordination. By participating in a music group, students learn multi-tasking and team building. Music requires the student to simultaneously focus, count and subdivide, read, produce a sound with expression and dynamics, listen to each other, and communicate and coordinate their efforts in order to perform as a cohesive entity. In this way music is also a team sport. An orchestra is the largest team there is. Groups like concert band, marching band, orchestra, and jazz band are confidence builders, and provide a healthy educational team and safe social place for kids to belong.


All these reasons are beneficial to young pliable elementary school aged minds, but also have a big impact in junior and senior high school when kids so often feel out of place, lost or awkward, particularly those who are not athletic or involved in a team sport.


Having The South Coast Youth Program available to all elementary school children would be hugely impactful to our children’s educational, emotional, and mental growth. Providing a dynamic program to this age group would also provide them with more skills in their tool kit as they move on to junior and senior high school. An elementary music program is also vital to feeding and sustaining the music programs in junior high and thus high school music programs. Even if someone doesn’t become an amazing musician, just having the experience of some music education widens their understanding of the world and ability to connect to others.


My son is a perfect example - very intelligent, shy and not athletic. Beginning on trumpet in band at Foothill he switched to tuba in junior high and continued through high school. He was grateful for Band, which is truly his team and where he made the majority of his friends. His high school years would not have been as successful emotionally, physically, socially or academically without band. Band gave him a place to belong, gained trust and confidence in himself, and the experience of working hard as a team, relying on each other to reach the goal and feel the thrill performing together on the football or competition field, or on stage at Carnegie Hall. While his interests for the future are in computers, the education and experiences he has gained through music are responsible for so many of the valuable skills he’s developed: his level of focus, thoughtfulness and empathy; his expanded awareness, ability, openness, and interest to connect and engage others; his academic achievements and status as an honor student; and overall highly responsible and fun young man.


The South Coast Youth Band is an exciting opportunity for all the elementary school aged students in our area! Nancy Mathison and Sandy Adams are exceptional musicians, instrument instructors, and band directors. Their great enthusiasm and dedication to music education for elementary students, combined with their successful GUSD band program experience makes them superb candidates for creating an excellent youth band program ...


Monica Bucher-Smith

2013-2020 Foothill Elementary School PTA Band Coordinator / Flutist / Parent

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