I took my first guitar lessons at Pedrini’s Music near Fourth & Main streets in the downtown. Pedrini’s has been gone for a long time now, over ten years it seems. In it’s place now is a beauty academy.
I remember going there as a kid also, for school band related music necessities like saxophone reeds. My father bought my first guitar there, when I was eight years old.
I remember the many accordions and horns behind the counter… There were guitars racked on the wall at the northeast section and towards the back as you enter the walkway from Fourth street. You’d walk in through the arcade, turn right into the store, then on the left near the entrance there were music scores. They had varying music books: piano methods in Spanish, band methods, cancioneros (popular Mexican songbooks) etc. I bought two piano books there, a technique book called Una docena al día (A Dozen a Day) and some arrangements of Rachmaninov works.
Near its end, Pedrini’s stopped replenishing its supply of sheet music, unlike The Sheet Music Shoppe on Bristol & Callens Common (More on that soon). Their music books were worn, this was all due to music illiteracy.
Pedrini’s had practice rooms in its basement where one guy taught guitar and other instruments. Lessons were an hour and they started with the teacher writing out an assignment then leaving the student to practice for the remainder of the hour. Students bought their lessons ahead of time, typically on arrival, where they’d pay and get a receipt to show the teacher.
The practice rooms were rented out to music groups, most of them played música versátil, the type common in Mexican gatherings.
The Pedrini Guitar Method
Pedrini’s guitar teacher, Ramiro I think was his name, taught chords and harmonized scales used in requinto style playing (guitar soloing). He started with the key of C Major, presenting a harmonic formula, orcírculo, common in many Mexican and Latin-American boleros, which typically are romantic songs for serenading etc. So the first chords were C Major, A minor, D minor and G7, and the C Major scale was harmonized in thirds. Of course, the harmonic system was in Spanish, so instruction was done using solfege: Do re mi fa sol la si, instead of the English system CDEFGA, so you’d have Do mayor, La menor, etc.
With each new lesson a new key was introduced until eventually minor keys were taught. These minor keys were accompanied by a scale, harmonized in sixths instead of thirds like the previously learned major scales (with the exception of E Major).
This is how I built a basic chord and scale vocabulary, that I put to work with a rondalla, which is a social group of guitarists and troubadours. The rondalla (or estudiantina, or tuna) is a tradition of Spain, Mexico and Latin-America. And it was alive and well in Santa Ana. We rehearsed at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at Delhi and we went around serenading…
I’m happy to say that I built a musical foundation, in part, through Pedrini’s Music in downtown Santa Ana. Not only am I happy, and proud, but I’m very lucky to have experienced this piece of Santa Ana now gone into history. One after another music stores closed in Santa Ana. Soon after Pedrinin’s there was Blue Note Music, which serviced the instruments of Santa Ana Unified, which was next door to where the Proof bar is now. Then The Sheet Music Shoppe closed, they too serviced SAUSD. Most recently Carvin Guitars on Main street across the Bowers Museum closed.
But not all is lost. There likely will be other stories to tell of music merchants in town. Colton Piano returned. They’re located on Main street near the School of the Arts. Their business a bit maimed, just a shadow of their former glory from when they were near the 55 freeway, and where I took my first piano lessons.
To be continued, there’s still something to say about Colton Piano, Blue Note Music and The Sheet Music Shoppe.
Years ago, going back 20 years or so, there was a music store named Samara Musical on the corner of 1st & Broadway streets in Downtown Santa Ana.
I acquired some of the rarest imported cds there, and not just anything, but really impacting, life-changing music. It’s sounds like an exaggeration but it’s true.
Samara was associated more with popular or regional Mexican music genres, things like corridos, mariachi, versátil even rock en español. This last genre is why I entered Samara in the first place… I went hunting specifically for that genre when I stumbled upon an overlooked cd carousel. That carousel had some absolute gems of albums. I think the first ever cd I bought there was called Embrujo flamenco, by a group of the same name, recorded on Sony Discos in the mid 1990s. I was floored by the quality of that group, a Mexican trio of guitarists that recorded arrangements of classical guitar works but adapted to flamenco guitar. They also included some Mexican arrangements like El balaju and Huapango.
Given the rarity and quality of that album I returned to Samara Musical. I went back to that same carousel and found what ended up being the album that changed my life, Nacionalismo musical mexicano, which is where I was first exposed to the symphonic work La noche de los mayas (The Night of the Mayas) by Silvestre Revueltas. That was back 1997 or 1998. Soon I became an enthusiast and collector of symphonic Mexican music and was never the same from that point on, to this day.
I never imagined that such a modest music store would house such important music, absolute gems of Mexican musical patrimony.
My beginnings as a collector at Samara Musical led to searching elsewhere for this genre of Mexican art music and the only other place nearby with a respectable collection was the classical music section at Tower Records in Tustin. I added album after album from there, then elsewhere like Mixup Classical at Perisur mall in Mexico City, their online store, Librerías Gandhi in Mexico City, Bellas Artes in Mexico City (where I bought Manuel M. Ponce’s complete piano collection, 7 cds) and in other parts.
The classical section at Amoeba in Hollywood deserves some mention, I must say.
Nowadays, very luckily, there is the Urext online store, which sells digital music downloads. That label has produced some of the most significant Mexican art music albums in recent times like the multi-volume México Barroco, México sinfónico, La melodie mexicaine (French art songs by 19th-century Mexican composers), Canciones de Jalisco (art songs from the state of Jalisco) and so much more. These are only very few of the ones in my personal collection, one I call the Colección Avaliana.
All of this was made possible my a modest carousel in an overlooked corner at Samara Musical.
By O. Ian Ávalos
Harmonie, not harmony
Matrix rows all sounded at once.
Vocalion vocal vox,
Prepared piano pounded
Rung rondeña tuned:
“Re”, “la”, “re”, “fa sostenido”, “si”, “mi”
Rung sustained to a fade.
Feb. 17, 2009
The Santa Ana College Foundation along with SAC Fine & Performing Arts will hold a benefit concert and fundraiser for the purchase of a Steinway concert grand piano. Details below.
Santa Ana College Music presents another semester of free music performances at Fine Arts Hall (Art Building Room C-104) on Tuesdays at 5 pm and Fridays at 12:30 pm. In addition to these, this semester the Fine & Performing Arts Division will host theatre, dance and more arts events at the SAC Santora Arts Gallery downtown.
Campus parking is free for students with a valid permit and $2 for visitors.
Tuesday Performances at 5 pm in Fine Arts Hall (C-104)
Jazz Menagerie at the Santora Arts Center
Omar Avalos, Flamenco guitarist
Hoang Nguyen, Pianist
Michael Briones, Trombonist
Judy Huang, Pianist
Kayoko Adachi, Violinist
Santa Ana College Big Band
Friday Performances at 12:30 pm
Omar Avalos, Flamenco guitarist
Arash Kamalian: Improvisation in Persian Classical Music
Hoang Nguyen, Pianist
Judy Huang, Pianist
Denali Guitar Duo
David F. Lopez, Clarinetist
Melody Versoza, Soprano
Fellow Santa Ana born and bred artist Francisco “Frank” Saucedo and I discuss matters concerning the formation of the Santa Ana Arts & Culture Commission on the latest Arte Santa Ana Podcast. Listen through the following links and on iTunes.
Omar Ávalos Gallegos
Associate Music Instructor,
Santa Ana College
Principal Musician, UC Irvine
Co-Founder, Arte Santa Ana
Latino Health Access, United Artists of Santa Ana and Francisco B. Saucedo presented the first of three mural workshops on the night of Monday, November 4th at The Spectrum apartments near Fourth and French streets.
The first workshop consisted of a history of mural painting given by Sandra Sarmiento, followed by a presentation by Frank Saucedo and a group activity for the youngsters in attendance.
Three groups were made and each one brainstormed about what they wanted to see on their mural, always keeping in my mind what they want the mural to say about them. Their mural is meant to be reflective of their experience, and what stories they want to convey beyond their community.
The workshop instructor Frank Saucedo painted four murals at Willard Intermediate from 2011-2012, each one with a collegiate theme. Saucedo shared his experience and stressed three points to realizing the mural project, which were planning, fundraising and execution. Saucedo explained to the youth that the planning stage would be the most difficult due to the needed synthesis of many ideas.
The workshops continue with a presentation by Matt Southgate, who runs the Studio del Sótano gallery in the Santora, and who painted the mural in thebasement there.
The workshops will culminate with a presentation by celebrated lecturer on Mexican art history Gregorio Luke on November 15 at Green Heart Park on 4th street, next to the Spectrum apartments. Luke ran the Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) in Long Beach, where he made famous his Murals Under the Stars series, in which he taught on Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siquieros and others. While at MoLAA, he worked in conjuction with Enrique Arturo Diemecke, conductor of the Long Beach Symphony and former Director of the Mexico City Philharmonic, to present the music of Mexican composer Manuel M. Ponce. Luke also presented at the Pacific Symphony Orchestra’s 2007 festival concert dedicated to Mexican composers.
The Santora has always been a source of inspiration for my creative process. She’s a beauty. I even titled one of my guitar compostions La Santora. One of my earliest recollections of going to the Santora dates back to ’97 or ’98, when the Neutral Grounds coffee shop was still there. That now is Lola Gaspar. It was a friend and neighbor, José Guadalupe Núñez, who told me about the place and invited me there. They had outdoor open mics on Thursday nights. I returned at one point on a weekly basis, and performed a classical guitar piece every week.
When I started going to the Santora, there was no Memphis. Instead there was a beauty salon, one that bookstore owner Rubén Martínez used to own. That’s what he told me. Across from Memphis there was no Gypsy Den, nor a Grand Central Art Center. What was in place was an abandoned building with grafitti visible from its broken windows. There was no Chiarini fountain, or lofts on Sycamore. Instead, everyone had the enjoyment of free parking on evenings in the large lot that it was.
Upon spending so much time in the downtown area and the Santora, I got invited to perform here and there. I brought flamenco dancing to the Santora and the Gypsy Den, and I wanted to do more all for the Santora’s sake. I conceived of a “Santora Camerata,” which would’ve been a chamber music ensemble.
Eventually I was invited to be a Santora gallerist because of the many ideas and projects that I had in mind. I helped run (pouring $$$ into) Suites K and B for awhile with Moisés Camacho, et altri. I did much brainstorming at the gallery with Camacho and was invited to some artists’ meetings, from before they formed AVAASA (Artist’s Village Arts Association of Santa Ana). Some of these AVAASA members formed out of a split with a pre-existing “Santora Arts Guild.”
Some of the suggestions I made to Camacho I remember as clear as water. I clearly remember suggesting that the artists needed a liason with the city, a commissioner type, and an arts commission. These ideas later appeared on a manifesto written and made public by Alicia Rojas, an artist sharing Studio del Sótano at the Santora at the time, which was used as a rallying cry to unite artists and to engage city government.
There were some definite high points while there. World-reknowned composer Arturo Márquez visited the gallery a few times. His brother, Jorge Márquez, was an attorney in Santa Ana who had his practice up Main street near Librería Martínez. Jorge lived across the Santora and was drawn to the area because of his appreciation for the arts. He met Joseph Hawa, a longtime upstairs gallerist at the Santora, and formed a friendship with him and then Camacho. Hawa used to tell me about a guy who’s brother was a world-famous composer. I finally got a chance to meet the Márquez’s at the gallery. Arturo came with his daughter Lily.
Another high point was a music recital that I did with local Persian classical musician Arash Kamalian. Arash, who is a tarist and setarist, is a localgem, a real hidden treasure. And he lives downtown at the Townsquare condos on the other side of Birch Park. We did a fusion of flamenco and Persian music that night.
That night, Laguna-based artist Hugo Rivera sketched us:
Here’s a sample of our music during a rehearsal:
The beginning of the end
One of the challenges I noticed at the Santora was how it was to be conveyed, or presented beyond its galleries. What was the Santora supposed to be? What is a fine arts complex or not?
The Santora, to me and to other artists, was viewed as a fine arts complex. Santa Ana College has a gallery there dealing with the subject of fine art. Unfortunately, there were artists in the Santora that failed to tow a line between what is fine, and what is not.
One event involved a punk rock fest complete with tables setup all over the Santora. It involed the absolute loudest and noisiest music I ever heard there, and worse, it involved a scandal involving the groping of a minor, who happened to be drinking alcohol.
That was the beginning of the end for me.
There were no controls in place. There was absolutely no leadership, nor any careful thought placed. An artist, who I will not name, pondered whether he should call the event off at 10 pm, or not. He should’ve called it off but instead allowed it to proceed. I awoke the next morning to hear of the scandals that took place the night prior.
At times the Santora, and specifically Suite B, was an anything goes type of place. You’d have a fine art exhibit crashed by a trio of neon-suited “musicians” with toy drums and instruments, and that was supposed to be ok, because anything goes, and one has to be zen-like and flow like water. BS. It was an insult to anyone with good taste. It was chaos. Luckily, those types are long-gone and out of Santa Ana.
I’ve always been one to argue for making order out of chaos. It may seem impossible to put “free-thinking” artists in order, but it’s not. Other cities have artistic order in the forms of commissions, councils, departments etc.
Eventually I left the Santora due to double standards and mismanagement, or that “anything goes” approach to “management.” And that’s another problem; the failure of some artists to see their galleries as businesses, but that’s an entirely different issue.
There were many good times at the Santora, more often that not. But I can’t say that I desire to be part of what it has become. An occasional dinner at Memphis, which is still my favorite downtown spot, is more than enough.
Art is tied to politics. Some of the greatest works of art have messages tied to all kinds of political topics including social justice, economic disparity, economic policies and history, just to name very few topics.
Politics are not only present in visual art, where they perhaps are most evident, but also in musical art. Politics occur when an orchestra conductor or a philharmonic society that he or she serves decides what music gets programmed.
Politics occur at music venues that deny a type of genre to be performed, or at movie houses that won’t show certain film genres, or at museums that won’t display visual art forms that they don’t see fit.
These two things, art and politics, are inseparable. That’s the way it works and always will.
With regards to the controversy over a proposed Santa Ana mural
A grand-scale project, like painting a mural, obviously has to go through a public approval and process of some sort. This wouldn’t be just any mural, it would be the largest publicly visible one ever painted in Santa Ana. Do you know that the City of Los Angeles even has a Mural Ordinance? In fact, Los Angeles even has aDepartment of Cultural Affairs and literature concerning mural processes including issues, rights & responsibilities.
It turns out that Santa Ana’s Planning and Building Agency has guidelines for Public Art processes. These sections in Chapter 15 are crucial to the development of a public artwork, like a mural.
15.3 PUBLIC ART GUIDELINES
a. Public art associated with
commercial development is
encouraged. It is strongly
encouraged that art should invite
participation and interaction,
add local meaning, interpret the
community by revealing its culture
or history, and/or capture or
reinforce the unique character of
Already, a problem is presented with the recent painting of a mural at Plaza Santa Ana. Based on PBA Chapter 15.1, said mural does not “add local meaning, interpret the community by revealing its culture or history, and/or capture or reinforce the unique character of a place.”
Fairness dictates that the following question be asked of the desingers / owners:How does that design add local meaning, interpret the community by revealing its culture or history, and/or capture or reinforce the unique character of a place?
Also, regard section 15.3.d:
d. Art should be sited to complement
other features, such as a plaza or
architectural components that
acknowledge and respond to the
presence of the art and make the
art an integral part of site
So, again, in fairness, how does that piece complement the plaza? I’ve seen the Workshop for Community Art’s propsed mural sketch and it would not complement the one above the plaza. They don’t complement each other because the one proposed one tells a story and the other one just…?
And this gets me to another mural, one in an alley on the side of the Yost. That mural raises a very valid and serious question that no one has bothered to ask publicly. Again, how does that mural add local meaning, interpret the community by revealing its culture or history, and/or capture or reinforce the unique character of a place?
What is in place is a giant graffiti mural or “bomb” (what the one at Plaza Santa Ana is, in reality) with a giant dragon, which is a symbol of Asian culture. Is it because when people think Santa Ana, they think Asian dragons? Or is that what developers want people to think?
The “re-envisioning” and re-characterization of downtown Santa Ana has been studied and proposed before. Refer to this person’s master’s thesis on ripping out Mexican symbols in downtown Santa Ana called “Identity Design for Downtown Santa Ana.”
So now you see the politics behind this newfound “mural movement” in the downtown.
15.4 CITY REVIEW PROCESS
Developers should contact the City as
early as possible during the design
process to obtain information
regarding inclusion of artwork within a
development proposal and guidelines
for developing a project art plan,
selecting and working with artists and
15.5 WORKING WITH CONSULTANTS
Project developers are strongly
encouraged to work with an art
consultant in the selection of artists
and artwork. An art consultant can
provide expert assistance about artists
who work on public projects.
Budgets, site selection and contract
knowledge will assist the developer in
developing the Public Art Plan.
15.6 SELECTING ARTISTS
Artists selected should be generally
recognized as a professional of serious
intent. Their work should show strong
artistic excellence, the ability to
produce works appropriate to the site,
integration of artworks into the design
of the building or landscape. The
artwork should show recognition of
accessibility, durability, and an
awareness of the issues of security,
maintenance, and safety.
Based on these guidelines, and based on the fact that such a thing as a mural ordinance does exist in other places, I recommend that the City of Santa Ana enact a specific mural ordinance, with a body to oversee projects, and make recommendations.
The process should be opened to interested groups to bid on mural projects (what’s fair) to find the best-qualified muralists with a proven record as accomplished muralists and for them to provide that expertise expected in the Chapter 15 Public Art Guidelines.
Said ordinance would complement and strengthen existing guidelines.
Take for example that in Los Angeles, there’s even curriculum being developed for Judy Baca’s mural La gente del maíz (The People of the Corn). Including curriculum could be part of a new ordinance.
It just seems obvious that prior to painting such an important mural, that it has to be done right, with as much information synthesized from what can be learned from other mural movements. We don’t have to look that far, LA is a perfect model. In LA there’s the Social and Public Art Resource Center – SPARC. How do they work with public entities and with the LA mural ordinance? What can be learned from a community that has more of a history with public art in the form of murals? There is much to be learned from an organization involved with the production of 105 murals since 1988. Again, their work directly engages and involves the City of LA’s Department of Cultural Affairs.
Going forward it makes all the sense in the world to adopt and enact a process, one even guaranteeing conservancy.
What we have now is a rush job and a horse race, all the while disregarding processes and more careful studies of other mural projects. There’s an overwhelming amount of information about each mural out there, complete with the histories they contain and the processes involved in getting them done. They too synthesize public input.
Fairness dictates that neither group competing for a public wall, not WCA or UASA, should be awarded anything until there are mechanisms and systems in place in the form of a mural ordinance and an arts commission.
A project like this can only benefit from more thought put into it.