Saturday night, October 4, was a big night in Northeast Los Angeles (NELA). Holding forth on Colorado Boulevard — between Eagle Rock Blvd. and Argus — was the 10th Annual Eagle Rock Music Festival (ERMF), which featured over 40 bands, dancers, and performers. Again this year, the Festival attracted more than 20,000 people, making this the largest live event in NELA.
Beginning at 5 p.m. and continuing until midnight, Colorado was shut down in both directions to allow crowds free-range walking and listening, eating and drinking, perusing 60 community vendors, and visiting local businesses. The huge diverse crowd, perhaps attracted by the fact that the event is free, was amazing. Even intermittent light mist/rain couldn’t dampen the celebratory spirit.
ERMF grew from Dahlia Days, an Eagle Rock community fair, and was the brain child of Eagle Rock Center for the Arts then Executive Director Denise Seider. I was associated with the ERMF at its inception, helping Denise with fundraising, booking talent, and logistics. I also became a Center Board Member.
One fond memory is of moving the Center’s ancient spinet piano, with the help of Eagle Rock’s most involved businessmen, Michael Nogueira, from the Center to Camilo’s Bistro. Camilo’s had just moved from York Boulevard to its new location on Colorado and wanted to be an ERMF host. They also were interested in showcasing featured performers from Uptown Cabaret, an annual fundraiser sponsored by UGLA (Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance). All they needed was a piano. Michael and I became piano movers! Colorado was not shut down in those early years and venues were not only along Colorado, but included the Center itself while extending down Eagle Rock Boulevard.
Photos: Students preparing to go on stage (top), Corelli String Ensemble (middle), RenArts Vocal Ensemble (bottom)
Denise left to take a position with the Armory Center for the Arts and the Center Board hired the able and talented Jenny Krusoe. Jenny expanded ERMF to its present format and with prodigious work brought ERMF into focus as an important NELA event. Current Center for the Arts ED Julia Salazar has sharpened the local focus and has raised city-wide awareness of the Festival. Support from 14th District Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, the City of Los Angeles, Northeast businesses and individuals has been the heart of the continuing financial health of the Festival.
This year, my own local focus was the performances at Renaissance Arts Academy (RenArts), a Charter School for the Arts housed in the old Piller’s Department store in Eagle Rock. RenArts, with an excellent faculty, headed by Director PK Candaux, will be celebrating its Fifth Anniversary later this month. It has achieved an enviable scholastic record while providing students serious study of music with access to performance.
In fact, RenArts demands that each student enrolled in the school must study either violin, viola, cello, or double bass. What is also amazing is that the students receive instruction on their instrument of choice as part of their school curriculum. During ERMF, RenArts students performed Contemporary/Classical repertoire by composers such as Holst, Ravel, Villa-Lobos, Kodaly, and others.
RenArts students appeared in string ensembles of from three to 25 members (under the direction of Maggie Edmonson), participated in the RenArts Dance Company with Percussion Ensemble. (Choreography by Sarri Sanchez and Eric Speth. Physical Education is supplied by mandatory ballet training!)
At least 25 students comprised the RenArts Vocal Ensemble (under the direction of Yorgos Adamis). Also included were some of my piano students who performed works by Bernstein, Persichetti, Reigger, Kabalevsky, and Muczynski.
The almost two-hour program played to a full house including northeast luminaries Congressman Xavier Becerra, Jenny Krusoe, Paul Vandeventer, and Tony Scudelarri, chair of the Board for Center for the Arts and Manager of the Northeast Democratic Club’s headquarters on North Figueroa in Highland Park.
I am sure that plans for the 11th Annual ERMF are already incubating. The inclusion this year of so many different types of music—from jazz and percussion to rock and hip-hop and from spiritual and world music to East Indian and Classical—showcases the diverse nature of our neighborhoods married through interest in music - an art which erases differences and provides a platform for understanding.
Congratulations to Julia and the entire Center for the Arts staff.
Carl Matthes is a native of Los Angeles and has lived in Eagle Rock for over 40 years. He is a former president and a current Board member of Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance. He is a former columnist and a current advisor to the Lesbian News, the oldest lesbian publication in America. He was editor of the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) newsletter and a former GLAAD National Board member. He has also been a Board member of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
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