Orchestrating Experiments: Elisheva Bailey


Evelyn Ramirez

Bailey poses at her desk in MIT, where she teaches biology.

Elisheva Bailey steps into a space immersed in music. One side of the room is filled with the deep sound of the tuba and the jazzy noise of the saxophone. On the other side she hears the precision of violinists using their bows to emit music off the strings alongside the high-pitched sound of the flute. 

Outside of being the newest Biology and Principles of Biomedical Sciences teacher, Bailey is the president of the Cambrian Symphony, which has about 80 participants and includes both students and adults who play a variety of instruments. Each adult musician is paired with a student musician so that the student can learn from the adult.

The Cambrian Symphony performs five times a year, most notably as the background music for The Nutcracker with the San Jose Dance Theatre at the Center for the Performing Arts. They are the only ballet company that uses a live orchestra for The Nutcracker.

“I love it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” Bailey said. 

Although she is the president of The Cambrian Symphony, Bailey does not know how to play any instruments; however, she has been learning to play the saxophone for about a year. 

“My husband plays and my daughter plays [saxophone] and every Christmas, there’s a thing called saxophone Christmas. About 250 saxophone players get together from all over California to play at a public venue,” Bailey said. 

Lately, Bailey has not been able to devote as much time to her hobbies because of the transition to teaching at UPA. 

Bailey previously taught at Palo Alto High School, Leland High School, Pioneer High School, and other high schools in San Jose Unified as a long-term substitute teacher. She also has some experience with middle school. She finds that UPA is unique from other schools because of the environment. 

“I like the smaller environment,” Bailey said. “I think the students do better here because of it, [and having better] access to the teacher, so they do not get as lost.” 

Despite teaching in San Jose, Bailey grew up in the city of Los Angeles and came to Northern California to attend UC Davis after high school. 

Bailey has three degrees: her undergraduate from UC Davis, her MBA at the University of Phoenix, and finally her teaching credential and master’s in teaching at Western Governors University.

She originally attended UC Davis to become a veterinarian because of her love of science. However, she was rejected from veterinary school and ultimately gravitated towards teaching. For a period of time, she was a stay-at-home mom and volunteered at her children’s school. She found that she enjoyed working with the children and combined that with her love of science to become a teacher. 

“I’ve always felt that science is amazing and interesting,” Bailey said. “The way that I was taught science was terrible, and I always said, ‘You know, I know that I can do this better than the way that I was taught,’ so I’ve striven to do so.”