Concerts sound the message: 'Hold Fast to Dreams' | January 15, 2020 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Arts & Entertainment - January 15, 2020

Concerts sound the message: 'Hold Fast to Dreams'

Spirituals, jazz, blues, popular, and concert music on the program for two afternoons of celebration

Musicians and guest artists of the African American Composer Initiative will present benefit concerts dedicated to the rich heritage of music by African American composers at Eastside College Preparatory School on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 25 and 26. The concerts are set for 3 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at the East Palo Alto school.

All proceeds benefit Eastside College Prep.

Co-founded by Menlo Park pianist, Josephine Gandolfi, Judge LaDoris Cordell of Palo Alto, and Deanne Tucker of Los Altos, the African American Composer Initiative (AACI) has hosted these popular January benefit concerts for 11 consecutive years. Performances feature vocal and instrumental music in a broad range of styles: spirituals, jazz, blues, popular, and concert music.

Composers featured in the concerts, titled "Hold Fast to Dreams," will include Valerie Capers, William Grant Still, Florence Price, Mary Lou Williams, Duke Ellington, John Robinson, Adolphus Hailstork, Jeremiah Evans, Charles Lloyd Jr. and Kenny Dorham.

Performing on the program are soprano Yolanda Rhodes; tenor Othello Jefferson; pianists/vocalists LaDoris Cordell and Deanne Tucker; The Picasso Ensemble with pianist Josephine Gandolfi, violinist Susan C. Brown, cellist Victoria Ehrlich; clarinetist Carol Somersille; percussionist Jim Kassis; trumpeter John Worley; trombonist John Monroe; flutist Stephanie McNab; and saxophonists Oscar Pangilinan and Tod Dickow.

Featured guest artists are Valerie Capers, piano, and John Robinson, bass. The Eastside Choir, directed by Jansen Verplank, will also perform.

The AACI has performed the music of 40 African American composers, commissioned over 15 new compositions, released three CDs , and established an eagerly anticipated annual community event, drawing audiences from San Francisco, Oakland, the Peninsula, San Jose and beyond to East Palo Alto to share in these musical celebrations.

The special guest artists, jazz greats Valerie Capers and John Robinson, return to the Eastside stage in their roles as performers, composers, and arrangers. They will collaborate with AACI performers as a jazz trio and a larger jazz ensemble.

Eastside College Preparatory School was founded over 20 years ago by principal Chris Bischof and Helen Kim. To date, every Eastside Prep graduate has gone on to attend a four-year college.

The school is housed on a 1.6-acre campus in East Palo Alto and has a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center. In addition to its academic offerings, the school has an arts program that includes visual art, photography, music, dance, and drama.

With fiscal sponsorship from the InterMusic SF, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the service of chamber music in California, AACI is able to raise tax-deductible support to cover the costs of concerts, guest artists, and commissions.

A reception for audience and performers will follow the Sunday performance.

Eastside College Preparatory school is located at 1041 Myrtle St. in East Palo Alto. On-campus parking is available.

Tickets are $20 general, $10 senior, and $5 student. They can be purchased online through Brown Paper Tickets at

For more information about AACI, visit

For venue information, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. only, call 650-688-0850 (no ticket sales).


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