The whole world is doing it, today, but you don’t have to leave Santa Monica.
It started 35 years ago in France, Fete de la Musique, the idea to have one day a year, summer solstice, when people would go to parks and town squares and street corners and make music, everyone from beginners to pros, any kind of music, any instrument, for free, for the love of playing music and the love of listening to it. Now it’s happening in more than 750 cities in 120 countries, and Santa Monica is becoming a hotbed for it.
This is our sixth time participating. The City sponsored two stages that first year, then the next year Arts Commissioner Phil Brock, then chair of the Recreation and Parks Commission, stepped in to try to expand it, but said it took several years to get the kind of funding needed to grow it.
Cultural Affairs Manager Allison Ostrovsky was the one who launched it here in 2012, working with the larger Make Music LA organization, and she’s still at it, enthusiastically. She told me she’s delighted at the way it has really taken off this year, with 11 venues (out of 29 venues for all of Make Music LA).
“That first year we acted as producer of the concerts,” she said, “and we’re not really
set up for that. When we were able to distribute our funds to the various neighborhood
associations a couple years ago, it made a big difference. Each group is able to spend that
money in the most appropriate way to put on their concerts.” Several of the venues (listed, with performers, at MakeMusicLA) will have food and drinks available, and Santa Monica Kiwanis Club is sponsoring the Douglas Park venue, 5 – 8 p.m. Brock said he will try to enlist more local civic organizations next year.
Ostrovsky acknowledged Brock’s contributions over those years, and getting the Arts Commission behind it this year helped, she said. She agreed when I suggested that music in public places in Santa Monica should not be limited to just one day a year, and that there is so much talent here that we could become known worldwide as a music city, and that would not be a bad thing.
So many excellent performers, but I would be remiss if I did not guide you to a couple of artists I’m very familiar with and enthusiastic about.
From 5 to 5:30 p.m., Diane Michelle will be singing jazz, folk and originals at Douglas Park, 2439 Wilshire, moving over to the Shotgun House near the library at Main and Ocean Park from 6:30 to 7 p.m., to be joined by ethnomusicologist Nicole Andrews for harmonies on well-known rock and folk classics and originals, covering three languages. You do not want to miss this. And yes, it’s my wife and daughter, but I stake my lifelong music critic’s reputation on this recommendation. Wanna make something of it? Do ya?
Okay, all the nepotism out of the way at once, but I would write about this even without
any personal involvement. Camp Kesem is a really great thing that my daughter has been
a big part of for 14 years, but it takes a little explaining.
We all know of organizations who provide a summer camp for kids dealing with cancer. Obviously very important. But overlooked, perhaps, is what kids have to deal with when a parent comes down with cancer. It shakes their world. It often freaks them out. They live with fear and uncertainty every day, or with the unfathomable loss if that parent succumbed. And there’s no one they can talk to, not even their best friends. Unless you’re in it you can’t really get it, and those kids know that and usually suffer in silence and lonely isolation.
Camp Kesem is a summer camp with all the usual activities (plus special, unique features) for kids who are in that very tough situation. Every one of them will tell you it is life changing, to be able to spend a week surrounded by people who all get it. You can go ahead and cry, if it hits you, and not feel ashamed. You don’t have to hide anything or hold it back. They have cabin chats at night where all those stories and stresses can come out, in a very supportive place. And for probably the first time in a long time, they can just be a kid having fun with other kids, period.
The counselors are amazing; college students who have to go through a rigorous selection process and then attend weekly meetings, and more, for months, training for the privilege. And they all will tell you what a privilege it is. Most come to Kesem (Hebrew for “magic”) because of a close friend who did it and raved about what an amazing experience it is.
Not only that, each volunteer counselor pledges to raise $500 for the camp. Our nearby UCLA had the second Camp Kesem in the country, and has been a leader in progress and
innovation. I’m proud to say my daughter Nicole has been one of those innovators,
coming up with new programs and positions to best utilize the human resources (and, yes, that keep her from “aging” or graduating out). She’s back again this summer, arranging her vacation time at work. If you would like to donate to keep this most wonderful, unique program helping kids who really need it, put your money here (and read a little more about the camp’s work): https://donate.kesem.org/fundraise?fcid=967938
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Is it true, as strongly implied by SMPD’s Erik Milosevich at the Friends of Sunset Park meeting last Saturday, that the biggest reason for our recent crime spike is all those non-violent prisoners released and unleashed on us by last November’s passage of Prop. 57 (64 percent approval)? Is having the most people possible behind bars, including 14-year-olds, and not giving credit for education and rehab efforts, a good idea? It is if you have invested in private prisons for profit, like our Attorney General Sessions. The state GOP fiercely fought that bill.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “When all else fails, write what your heart tells you. You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” — Mark Twain
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else
in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org