A Melting Pot

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
When singer Lea Salonga kicked off the first ever Global Pop Series at the Walt Disney Concert Hall two weeks ago, it was a spectacular performance by a great Philippine artist for the Filipino community for many. But for the execs of The Music Center, it was the culmination of a long-awaited experimental project.
The Music Center’s Vice President of Programming and Planning Josephine Ramirez had waited four years for the Global Pop Series to come into fruition.  The idea was to attract immigrant communities to watch their country’s top artists and more importantly, the funds from the shows would go directly to the Music Center’s non-profit Active Arts programs.

Ramirez and Music Center President Steven Roundtree had long wanted to bring in popular foreign artist to perform at the famed Music Center’s houses including the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

“We wanted to do something new for Los Angeles that would be both attractive to us as an institution and give immigrant communities in LA to come and have a great time,” she said to the Asian Journal. “We wanted to start building up a revenue-generating concert series that whatever profit goes to fund a free program we started four years ago.”

Active Arts at the Music Center provides over 55 to 65 free or low cost events a year. Some of the Active Arts free events include Dance Downtown, where attendees could dance the night away under the moonlight, Drum Downtown, Get Your Chops Back, and Friday Night Sing-a-longs.

“We needed to find a way to fund it besides donated income,” she said.

But with limited resources and lack of aptitude of the given culture for the planned Global Pop Series, Ramirez had to take a systematic approach.

After getting grants from the James Irvine Foundation, Ramirez spent a few years commissioning research on the largest immigrant groups, their financial power and the communities concert market. They conducted demographic and market research before narrowing the ethnic groups. The last step was researching on their pop stars.

The report found that the Latin market had the vast audience and market appeal. But for the inaugural Global Pop Series, Ramirez said they to wanted to reach out and target other ethnic groups not known for visiting the Music Center venues.

Ramirez said, generally speaking, that there is a perception among many ethnic groups that believe the Music Center is only for the elite and high-class residents of Los Angeles.

However, that shouldn’t be the case.

“The answer is complicated it could stem from physical barriers because of the amount of traffic to get to downtown, to emotional barriers,” she said. “A lot of people think of the old music center [as having] to pay a lot of money to watch a show– but that’s not true either. Many are just not aware of the Center’s free activity. We want to change people’s perception…we want them to know this is their music center as well.”

Ramirez said that Filipino community was among the six or seven ethnic groups that they had chosen for the inaugural Global Pop Series.

To further cement their choice, they brought in advisors from the Filipino community.

Search to Involve Pilipino American (SIPA) Joel Jacinto and Public Relations Executive Winston Emano were among the consultants.

“We’ve known Joel Jacinto for centuries,” she said. “We wanted to get in touch with them and not only host them and other leaders of the Filipino community but they were brought in a way so we could go through this hand and hand.”

They chose Lea Salonga because “it was a no-brainer.”

“She’s a huge star in the Philippines and a Broadway star,” said Ramirez. “Her selection was not as scary.”

The final piece of the puzzle arrived when the Blue Ribbon, a philanthropic group of women, made a substantial financial contribution to sponsor the event.

With the first performance being a hit, Ramirez hopes to continue the Global Pop Series and bring in other Filipino artist to perform at a Music Center venue.

She said that after the Salonga performance, attendees were given a survey to fill out and asking for people’s advice.

“We’re interested in looking to see whom they wrote down as the next Filipino star to perform here,” she said.

About Active Arts

Here is a list of upcoming free events available at the Music Center:

August 8 – Dance Downtown Zydeco featuring TLou and his Superhot Zydeco Band

August 9 – Drum Downtown

August 15 – Friday Night Sing-A-Long 80’s Night

August 22 – Dance Downtown Cha Cha & Salsa

For more information about upcoming events or to contribute to the Music Center and Active Arts please go to http://www.musiccenter.org


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