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South Central School Hosts Music Festival to Unite Disadvantaged L.A. Students


Contact: Victoria Lanier

For Immediate ReleaseFSTOPday1LR-189

Phone: (818) 433-7600


South Central, Los Angeles – On March 15 and 16, 2017, over 500 students from 22 Los Angeles County schools joined together at Hooper Avenue Elementary for the 7th Annual Music Unites the World Festival hosted by Education Through Music-Los Angeles (ETM-LA).

Over the two-day festival, the students, along with their teachers, coaches and parents gathered bright and early each day with excitement and anticipation of meeting hundreds of other children with whom they would make music for the first time. The opening ceremony featured Dr. Gustavo Ortiz (Principal, Hooper Elementary) who welcomed the young musicians and school communities. He felt lucky to be hosting the festival at his school. “For us to have a theme of music uniting the world is so timely, especially for this community-being in South Central and being affected by many issues where kids don’t always have access to music. We always have issues with race, especially these days in our world and in the politics that we face. I think for our community it’s just a wonderful blessing to have a program like this. Education Through Music has brought us access [for] our students [to] learn about music that otherwise they wouldn’t get.” ETM-LA Executive Director Victoria Lanier and Board Chairman Booker White congratulated the students for their hard work.

A cornerstone of the festival entails inviting guest artists to work with the music students on their musical and ensemble skills. Guest artists this year included Sally Stevens (Vocal Director, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, The Simpsons Movie), Carmen Twillie (Vocal Soloist, Disney’s Lion King), Misha Shtangrud (Choir Director, Colburn School), Henry Wolfe (Singer, Songwriter, Producer), Andy Vargas (Lead Singer, Andy Vargas, Carlos Santana Band), MITRE (Singer, Songwriter), Jonathan Beard (Orchestrator, Kong: Skull Island, Despicable Me 3), and Vince Womack (Music & Band Director, Foshay Learning Academy). In addition, multiple influential keynote speakers provided inspiration and encouragement, sharing the importance of perseverance and hard work. Among them were Sebastian Krys (Record Producer, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan), Rory Pullens (Executive Director, Los Angeles Unified Arts Education Branch), Pamela Marcello (Representative, Congressman Adam Schiff’s Office), Vargas, and White. Pullens, who himself credits the arts for helping shape who he is today, emphatically shared with students how music and the arts helps them graduate and persist in college. When he asked the hundreds of students in the audience, “Who’s going to college?” – the hundreds of students unanimously responded with excited cheers, waving their hands high up in the air. To which Pullens proclaimed – “That’s what I’m talking about!”

Former guest artists have included Christophe Beck (Composer, Frozen, The Muppets), Cece Sammy (Vocal Coach, American Idol, E! Entertainment), Lisbeth Scott (Solo Vocalist, Avatar, Shrek), Evelyn Halus (Vocal Coach, Jennifer Lopez, Neil Patrick Harris), and Reggie Andrews (Music Educator, Tyrese Gibson, Rickey Minor, Patrice Rushen).

Showcasing the achievement of Los Angeles youth, the festival further portrays the power music plays in unifying diverse populations from differing ethnic, cultural and geographic backgrounds. Participating schools represented from areas such as Boyle Heights, Burbank, Chinatown, Elysian Park, Compton, Inglewood, North Hollywood, Pacoima, Pasadena, and South Central. An excerpt from essay winner, 5th Grader Lizbeth, expressed the importance of music’s role: “I like to learn music because everybody knows and understand[s] music. Music is like a form of talking to other people – without words, but through music. Sometimes I can’t explain how I feel, but music comforts me . . . In communication, music is important not only to me, but to the people around the world.”

Krys, during his keynote, remarked, “I want to congratulate ETM-LA who does an incredible job to keep music [in our schools]. It’s what we fight for, what we need. We need arts in schools. Arts education is vital to education.”

The first day was focused on Band and Strings ensemble students with master classes featuring guest artists throughout the day. These culminated in an All-Band Ensembles performance of Hard Rock Blues (Composer John Higgins), and an All-Strings Ensembles performance of Boil ’em Cabbage Down (Arranger John Higgins). The second day focused on Choral students where they worked with guest artists on folk pieces from around the world, such as China and Mexico. The culminating All- Choir Ensembles performance was Fanga Alafia, a traditional African greeting song (Arranger Paul Jennings).

Education Through Music-Los Angeles ( provides quality yearlong in-school music instruction in disadvantaged Los Angeles schools as part of the core curriculum for every child. Major sponsors for the festival included: Curly & Spike, Donut Friend, California Arts Council, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Premier Lighting, and The Music Man Foundation.

View photos from the Festival.