The Music Academy of the West is home to a unique, full-scholarship outreach program that sharpens young minds through an intensive regimen of music performance and instruction. Inaugurated in 1998, the MERIT (Music Education Reinforces Intellect and Talent) program provides musicians ages 11 to 17 with intensive mentoring from Music Academy fellows; including private instruction, chamber music coaching, masterclass participation, and social activities. Participants also have the opportunity to observe select masterclasses and rehearsals led by Music Academy faculty. 

Please Note: The MERIT program is a weekday program lasting from 9:30 am to 3 pm. Lunch is provided as part of the program and parents take turns bringing snacks for all participants. No overnight accommodations are provided.


How to Apply



Nico Abondolo, MERIT Program Faculty Advisor

Mr. Abondolo, also the Music Academy’s Double Bass Faculty Artist, works closely with the Academy’s administration on the development and implementation of the MERIT program. Mr. Abondolo is an internationally recognized double bass soloist and chamber musician, and was appointed principal double bass of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra during the 2011-12 season. He made his debut at age 14 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and in 1983 became the first double bassist to win first place in the International Competition for Musical Performers in Geneva, Switzerland. He has since appeared with orchestras and in recital throughout the United States and Europe. He has been principal double bassist for many film composers including John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Thomas Newman, and Alan Silvestri. He has been on the faculties of UCSB and USC, and currently teaches at Azusa Pacific University. He joined the Music Academy faculty in 1990, after attending as a fellow in 1987 and 1988.

A full-scholarship program, MERIT is supported by Patricia and Larry Durham, Connie Frank and Evan Thompson, The Cheeryble Foundation, The Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, and The Henry E. and Lola Monroe Foundation.