Professional artists as well as California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) students, faculty and alumni are working together to create original music and performances for the institute’s annual World Music Festival.
Focused on music percussion from around the world, the three-day festival is expected to be CalArts’ biggest one yet with the addition of a second Latin Percussion (LP) stage, vendors, food trucks and more.
“I would say the festival really has its grounding in the different programs that we have here at the school that go back decades,” said CalArts MFA student Alexander Shaw, who is the student producer for the festival and playing in three ensembles. “What’s interesting about this year is that the capacity of the festival has essentially doubled… It’s really offering us an opportunity to grow this bridge with the community in a different kind of way.”
Presented by The Herb Alpert School of Music, the DW Music Foundation (DWMF) and LP, the World Music Festival involves hundreds of students from various CalArts schools to bring the public 15 free outdoor concerts from April 27 to April 29.
“This is always a real highlight of the year every single year. It always has been something that everyone anticipates and really looks forward to and people come back for it,” said Santa Clarita resident and CalArts School of Music faculty David Roitstein, who also leads the CalArts Salsa Band. “I still get really excited about it and love it because it’s not the same every year. It’s constantly changing.”
This year, the World Music Festival will include performances from LP artists, CalArts alumni, CalArts students and CalArts’ Brazilian Drumming Ensemble, Gamelan Kyai Doro Dasih, World Percussion Ensemble, Salsa Band, Indian Ensemble, Persian Ensemble and Tabla Ensemble, to name a few.
“What’s so special about this is it’s embracing this collaborative spirit,” Shaw said. “It’s free, it’s family-oriented. We want it to feel like CalArts is opening its doors and really getting a chance to showcase all the talent that we have here and all the talent we’re able to attract on a professional level.”
Since the beginning of the school year, the festival’s performers have been practicing and creating new pieces, and the event’s organizers have been working out the logistics of the event.
“I’ve spent all year preparing,” Shaw said. “There was a lot of growth in the festival in terms of its reach and in terms of its logistics and infrastructure.”
This expansion to a second stage is allowing the organizer’s to increase the “festival feel” and host more programming around Latin music.
“We’re basically doubling the capacity of performances this year to feature a lot more student ensembles and also some LP artists,” Shaw said.” We’re going to be able to ping-pong the audience back and forth between the stages.”
During the weekend, audiences can expect to watch dances and hear music from countries and cultures from around the world that are performed by artists of all backgrounds.
“This is definitely a big culminating event in many ways,” Shaw said. “My sense is everybody wants to bring a freshness, every ensemble wants to bring something new to the table.”
The World Music Festival also features CalArts students from all areas of study to perform with ensembles they have practiced with all year long.
“Musically, a lot of people come to CalArts with a specific area of expertise but the World Music Festival expands that for everyone,” Roitstein said. “We have people from all over the institute in the ensembles… We have dance majors, actors, filmmakers, animators, artists who are dancing in African Ensemble or are playing percussion or singing.”
One of these ensembles is the CalArts Salsa Band, led by Roitstein and Joey de Leon.
“We started that band 25 years ago, maybe more and it’s so much fun,” Roitstein said. “Every September I start over with a whole new band with people who have not been exposed to that kind of music.”
The festival will also feature the newly formed Brazilian Drumming Ensemble, directed by Shaw and Marcelo Bucater, who will help open the festival with the Hands On’Semble, LP artists and Taiko, West African, Brazilian and Afro-Cuban drummers.
“For some people this really is the very first time to perform on stage for a large audience and for others this is a different twist in what they’re used to doing,” Shaw said.
This year the festival’s organizers are hoping to get more of the Santa Clarita Valley community and Southern California community involved in the festival’s performances throughout the weekend.
“It’s been really intentional to shift the perception of the festival from a more internal CalArts event and make it more of a destination for us, so people know this is place to go in Southern California every year,” Shaw said. “For us, it’s thinking about how we can continue to encourage these open doors for the community.”.;
They also hope the community will stop by the campus to watch the international stars perform in a relaxed, personal way.
“I’ve been here since 1981 and when we moved here there were fewer than 25,000 people in this valley. I’ve found over the years that a lot of the time people in Santa Clarita don’t know how much is available here, that’s available all the time and usually for free and always open to everybody,” Roitstein said. “The World Music Festival is probably the most likely opportunity for people to come and check CalArts out.”
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