INGLEWOOD — The community gathered Oct. 16 to officially open the Judith and Thomas L. Beckman Youth Orchestra Los Angeles Center to an enthusiastic crowd.
The program began with “Fanfare,” a music selection to mark the event, which has been three years in the making.
“I am honored, elated, and overjoyed to welcome you to the Beckman YOLA Center in the city of Inglewood,” said Chad Smith, CEO of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra. “I love looking down the street and seeing the banners along La Brea Avenue.”
Located at 105 S. La Brea Ave., the site was previously a bank and stem research facility before it was transformed into the grand music center designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, who donated 100% of his services to the project.
Inglewood Mayor James Butts Jr. provided remarks on how this center will make the city a hub for the cultural arts.
“When I began working in Inglewood in the police department, this bank was where I deposited my paychecks,” Butts said. “Never would I have imagined it would now be the cultural hub of Inglewood.”
Smith spoke of the mayor’s vision for the space to be in the heart of Inglewood, and less than a block from Market Street.
The city had a goal of enrolling 51% of Inglewood students into the classes, which the center already has exceeded.
“There are 130 students in the first class, in this building, and 81% of the incoming class are Inglewood residents,” Smith said.
Once the center becomes fully operational, 500 children will experience the space.
Smith thanked the many supporters who made the new facility possible.
“Judith and Thomas Beckmen’s gift allowed for the purchase of the building and their commitment to this community is impactful,” said Smith. “Louise and Brad Everton, Margaret Morgan, and Frank Gehry’s contributions will not go unnoticed.”
Youth Orchestra Los Angeles currently serves around 1,300 students, ages 5 to 18, at four sites throughout Los Angeles County. The completely free after-school program offers its students instruments, intensive training and personal mentorship in the hopes of making music education more attainable for students in low-income areas.
The Youth Orchestra program began in 2007 at the behest of LA Philharmonic Music and Art Director Gustavo Dudamel.
“An orchestra is a community,” said Dudamel. “In the moment of playing together, you have to interact in a way to create harmony. It’s not only to be a good musician, it’s to be a better citizen.”
Gehry designed the Edgerton Foundation Performance Hall to match the dimensions and acoustics of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, which he also also designed.
“My simple idea was to lower the floor and raise the ceiling so we got the volume, so when the kids start playing, they feel it, and it gives it more meaning,” Gehry said.
“It was extremely important that this building was for the community of Inglewood,” Smith said. “We are so grateful to be here. We’re so grateful to serve the community.”
A sentiment echoed by the mayor.
“We anticipated this opening more than the Super Bowl,” Butts said.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.