Charity concert to benefit East Los Angeles youth

Los Angeles Music and Art School celebrated its 16th annual Stars for the Arts benefit at the Santa Monica College Broad Stage last Saturday.

LAMusArt hosted a night of music for friends and supporters of art education to benefit underserved children in East Los Angeles.

The event opened with the LAMusArt Youth Choral ensemble, who sang John Lennon and Paul McCartney's "Eleanor Rigby" and Stevie Wonder's "Ribbon in the Sky," followed by an interpretation of Claude-Michel Schonberg's "Castle on a Cloud," performed by 8-year-old student Azucena Ortega.

The show continued with a set of performances by the Los Angeles Philanthropic Committee for the Arts Youth Orchestra and closed the evening with guest artist, baritone Marcelo Guzzo.

The benefit was created to raise funds for scholarships that are offered to students based on financial needs.

According to the LAMusArt website, the school has served over 100,000 students from an underserved community that has one of the highest population of children under the age of 10 of which half reach adulthood with no form of higher education.

“We know there is so much to be gained by involving children with arts education," said Isela Soleto, executive director of LAMusArt. “It provides the foundation for future success in college [and] in careers applied in the 21 century."

"The arts increases graduation rates and provides a haven for the children and their needs," she said. "The arts develop the four C's: creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking."

The event's co-chairs, Frank and Julia Sanchez and Jan and Lou Castruccio, honored George A. Ramirez, the executive vice president and chief of diversity at Union Bank, with the Creative Paths in Education award for his contributions to the school.

For more than 16 years, Ramirez has supported LAMusArt through youth education and empowering initiatives throughout California.

"I believe it is imperative to nurture the communities we serve," he said.

Ramirez said he remembers when he was invited to see the children perform many years ago.

He said he was struck by the enormous discipline and focus of the performers which took him back to his time at school where he learned to play the piano and engage in creative projects that made him "that kind of creative person in corporate America."

What began as an after-school art program for the underserved youth of East Los Angeles in 1945, has now developed to a "cornerstone and haven of art education for East Los Angeles and the surrounding community," according to LAMusArt.

"The music helped me with working with other bands, having multiple vocal parts," said student Alexander Schoenwald.

The art education has not only helped the students develop artistically, but also personally.

"Music is my life, and joining this choir made me self-confident and more social," said student Aja Gerardo.

CultureTina EadyComment