Established in 1961 by Madame Alice Ehlers of the University of Southern California, The Southern California Junior Bach Festival was founded to stimulate interest in and appreciation for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Through workshops and seminars by well-known Bach scholars and the annual presentation of students in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival, the organization maintains high performance standards and interpretation of J.S. Bach's music.

Noted Baroque scholars and music teachers Evelyn Hood, Andrew Clemmons and Yvonne Gordon provided visionary leadership during the critical early years of the Festival. Evelyn Hood, a student of Madame Ehlers, and Andrew Clemmons both served as General Chairmen. Their dedication provided inspiration and support for the growth of the fledgling organization. The prestigious Complete Works Audition, which provides opportunities for the most accomplished students to challenge themselves, was initiated by Yvonne Gordon and Andrew Clemmons in 1977.

As a memorial, the Festival established in 1981 the Yvonne Gordon Memorial Medal awarded annually for distinguished performance in the Complete Works Audition. This commemorative medal was designed by Mary Evelyn Golz, a former General Chairman as well as longtime contributor to the Festival's success.

During his nine-year tenure as General Chairman, Carl Matthes led the Festival's effort to incorporate and also to expand its offerings for string, wind and voice musicians. Under his leadership, the organization continued and broadened a formal collaboration begun by Evelyn Hood with the distinguished Los Angeles Bach Festival, a long-standing forum for outstanding professional performance in California. The Southern California Junior Bach Festival presents its medal winners in recital and selects its most accomplished concerto soloists for the Young People's Concert during the annual week-long Los Angeles Bach Festival of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.

Serving twelve years as General Chairman, Sue Scofield strengthened the organization's relationship with the Los Angeles Bach Festival and also encouraged the expansion of SCJBF's organ program. Her strong leadership established a firm financial foundation for the organization's continued success.

In 2006, current General Chairman Dr. Mark Sullivan took the reins. Since then, he has overseen the design and implementation of the festival's web site, which now includes more efficient on-line student registration for all the branch and regional festivals. Today, the Southern California Junior Bach Festival involves approximately 2500 students from 34 branches of The Music Teachers' Association of California.

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