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Instrumental Music

At San Juan Hills, we are proud to support the musical endeavors of young musicians.  Whether they want to pursue music for their career, or have music be a significant experience in high school that will allow them to continue on as amateur performers and patrons of music throughout their lives. Check out our web page on the SJHHS website, follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook.

Dean McElroy

Instrumental Music

Dean has been the Instrumental Music Director from the inception of San Juan Hills High School.  Dean received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education from California State University, Fullerton. After a successful 10 year career at Aliso Niguel High School, he was given the

opportunity to serve on the planning team for San Juan Hills the year before it opened, and led the establishment of the vision for the performing arts program.  As director of the Instrumental Program, he has seen the program grow from a handful of Freshmen to a thriving program with multiple ensembles and musical opportunities for all students.  Under his direction as the chair of the department, San Juan Hills has developed a performing arts staff that works collaboratively to offer a comprehensive performing arts department.  Our mission is to offer a Conservatory-style program that fully prepares students who want to pursue their art for a career, but to also bring the creative experience to all students regardless of their future career interests so that they may bring creative solutions to all of life's challenges.  

Dear 8th grade musicians coming to San Juan Hills High School:


              First of all – welcome!  We’re very proud of our music program here, and we’re excited to welcome you to our family.  I know it’s been a tough few years for music with the recent restrictions, but we held together really well and have been grateful to already put together several concerts of top level music.  We’re going strong, and we’ll be even stronger with you in it!  The point of this page is to answer all typical questions of incoming musician, and I’m happy to speak to you one on one if I don’t answer everything here.


Interest List:

VERY IMPORTANT!!!!  As information is available, the best way for me to get it to you is for you to fill out this Google Form.  Please do this immediately!  It is not an ‘official’ sign up (you need to do that through your registration portal).  It’s just a way for me to plan and get information out quickly.


Basic classes:

If you are a string player, you will automatically be scheduled into our string ensemble.  All wind and percussion players will be placed into our concert band.  There is also no audition for the marching band.  All band and string players (learn percussion or a new instrument?) are welcome to join.  If you sign up for marching band, you must also be in a concert band or string ensemble.  It is your PE class, so you do not select PE on your schedule (though you may also do a sport if you wish).  You do not need to audition for any of these courses.  These are entry level classes.  If you want to switch instruments or if a friend wants to learn an instrument, they can do so in these classes.  These classes ‘feel’ a lot like your middle school experience and does not take much more time after school/evenings than you did in middle school.


Advanced classes: 

You may audition for an advanced group.  We have 2 levels of bands and 3 levels of strings.  Typically, students do not play in the advanced groups until their junior year, but some freshmen who have been taking private lessons in an instrument that we need can sometimes audition into these groups.  This year we are playing Dvorak Symphony #9 and Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave.  Talk to your teacher/private instructor to see if you are ready for that caliber of music.  Strings should still consider auditioning even if you’re not ready for the advanced group since there is a good chance that we will run an intermediate group.  You will need to audition to get into the intermediate group.  To audition, go to Google classroom and add yeqcqsj for strings and qp2fxrr for winds and percussion.  Audition requirements will be posted in those classrooms.  You will submit a video.  Those who will be considered for the top groups will be asked to come in and sightread.  Auditions are due on April 24th.  You will be notified of your placement via Google classroom.  Remember, you do NOT need to audition to be in concert band, marching band, or string ensemble.  You do need to audition to be in the wind ensemble or the advanced/intermediate string groups.


Marching Band:

The marching band is an extremely fun experience for all students of all ability levels.  You receive PE credit for doing the marching band.  Also, many orchestra students learn a new instrument (winds or percussion) to be a part of this group.  It meets 1st semester only.  We meet T/TH 6-9PM.  We do this so you can still take 6 or 7 classes in the regular school day and/or participate in a sport that meets after school and still do the marching band.  We are also unique because we do not compete.  We learn a show, just like all other marching bands, but we only perform for 5 Friday night home football games.  There are no Saturday commitments, and our donation requests are much smaller than typical schools.  Marching band was designed like this so we can offer a rewarding marching experience while still balancing academics, sports, other musical activities (like full orchestra year-round and a winter musical).  This schedule allows all students in all situations to be able to fit marching band into their schedule.  Music students see this as a cornerstone activity, and we expect all band members (and encourage all string players) to be a part of this experience.


Summer Rehearsals:

We will have informal meetings in July and August once per week for all wind/percussion members whether or not they are in marching band (exact day/time TBA in May).  If you are on vacation – no big deal.  For the marching band, we will begin learning the show the week before school starts in the evenings.  Please book 5-9PM the week before school starts.  This is extremely important, and we ask that you book vacations/other activities around this week.



Anyone can join drumline, but you need to audition to play a battery (marching) instrument.  Make sure you are on the Google Form listed above, and you will receive the pertinent information as it becomes available.


I play piano/guitar.  What do I do?

You have a few options.  These are generally solo instruments, and we do not have a class specifically designed for these instruments.  We do have a commercial music class, and you can speak with Mr. Ushino about those opportunities –  However, we do have piano and guitar players in our bands/orchestras who play a different instrument.  We also use these instruments in our marching band.  There are also piano, guitar, and opportunities in our musicals.  If you do not play another instrument, my recommendation is to learn a new instrument in concert band or string ensemble, or join the choir (again, see Mr. Ushino).  Please remember, we use pianos and guitars in marching band (PE credit).


Do I need to take summer school?

The answer used to be ‘yes,’ but now that CCP is no longer a graduation requirement, the answer is now ‘maybe.’  A lot depends on what else you are doing.  If you are taking a regular Freshman class load with marching band (to take PE out of the 0-6 period school day), you can do all of this without taking summer school or a 0 period.  If you have trouble fitting things into your schedule, please see your middle school academic advisor about taking health over the summer.  I’m happy to speak with you about your class schedule and help you navigate through the process.

Thank you for getting to the bottom of this email.  This addressed the most commonly asked questions.  If you still need more information, please contact me at

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