Weekly Update: June 4, 2013

Weekly Update, June 3, 2013

Among the many talented Monterey Bay writers and arts critics who have joined us is Heather Morris, anointed as the Santa Cruz Sentinel music critic following the retirement later this year of Phyllis Rosenblum. View Heather’s profile on our Who We Are page, and see her review of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte in the fully staged UC Santa Cruz production this past weekend. (Also, on our Music Reviews page, find my own of soprano Clarissa Lyons’ recital for the Carmel Music Society.)

Speaking of performances by and/or including arts students, Youth Orchestra Salinas (YOSAL) gave Monterey County three tightly disciplined performances, at Northridge Mall on May 11, at the King City Fair on May 17 and at Sherwood Hall in Salinas last Friday. One Carmel resident, who attended the last performance, told me emphatically, “This is the best thing that could happen for young people in Salinas.” Despite media attention to the gang crime the city has long endured, YOSAL has attracted substantial participation and support from communities up and down Salinas Valley. As the local extension of El Sistema, the amazing music education program founded by José Antonio Abreu in Venezuela to “rescue young people in extremely impoverished circumstances from the environment of drug abuse and crime into which they would likely otherwise be drawn,” takes its challenges head-on. For most of us, the face of El Sistema that first appeared in this country was that of its greatest achiever to date, Gustavo Dudamel, now music director/conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. YOSAL’s music director and conductor is Juan Felipe Molano, a real sparkplug of energy for the kids and ambassador/cheerleader to the community. He’s also ambitious to grow the program; currently it has five “nucleos” in the county, the main ones in Salinas and King City, with three satellites operating at Martin Luther King, Kammen and Los Padres elementary schools in Salinas.

More than 55 students play in YOSAL’s orchestra, while nearly 100 participate in its “pre-orchestra.” Most of them come from Hispanic families, while many are of Asian descent, where, in both cases, education and arts are culturally high-priority. Such commitments demand sacrifices of money and time by the families of these students. To them, those sacrifices are worth it, even in the face of cutbacks in arts education in the public schools. In Venezuela, the government sustains El Sistema; here it is up to individuals and foundations. PAMB strongly supports arts education institutions and urges you to visit our Educational Performance page to find out how you can participate with this and other invaluable education performance institutions.

El Sistema has also taken root in Santa Cruz County. The Santa Cruz Education Foundation’s website proclaims, “El Sistema Santa Cruz is a pilot afterschool orchestral program that debuted at Gault Elementary School in May, 2012. With an initial grant from the Yahoo Employee Foundation, sponsored by a Gault parent and Yahoo employee, El Sistema seeks to provide high quality music instruction and ensemble performance. The program began with kindergartners, expanding to Kindergarten and first grade in 2012-13.” The implications are huge, whether or not you were a fan of the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez.

Meanwhile, the students of Mt. Madonna School, on Summit Road above Watsonville, are preparing their annual production of Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic, which they will perform at the Mexican Heritage Theater in East San Jose on June 7, 8 and 9. This pageant of drama, music and dance includes participation by kids from pre-school to seniors, and has been the school’s annual gift to the community for 35 years. For information and required reservations, find the link to the school on our Educational Performance page.

The spirit of the late Michael Smuin, visionary dancer/choreographer, lives on in the company he founded, Smuin Ballet. Its spring tour includes two appearances at Sunset Center in Carmel, this Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Scott MacClelland, editor