Sounds of Cultura (SOC): Phoenix Symphony CALA Festival

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Jim Ward, Interim President and CEO for the Phoenix Symphony discusses their the Symphony’s participation in the first bi-annual Celebracion Artistica de las Americas (CALA) festival with special performances by Doc Severinsen and the San Miguel Five. He’ll also talk about this and other celebrating the musical offerings of our regional Latino community as well as symphony efforts to connect with cultures in our diverse communities.

José Cárdenas: In Sounds of Cultura, SOC, "Celebracion Artistica De Las Americas" known as Cala, launched its inaugural Cala festival to coincide with Hispanic heritage month. It's a celebration of Latino arts and culture. The Phoenix symphony is taking part in the Cala with a special concert with me to talk about what they're doing is Jim Ward, interim president and CEO of the Phoenix symphony.
Josè Càrdenas: Jim thanks so much for being on our show.
Jim Ward: Thank you José.
Josè Càrdenas: Let's talk first a little bit about the symphony. It had some difficult times, but things cement to be on the right course.

Jim Ward: Absolutely. We had a fairly tumultuous time given the economy, when I came aboard we had to do a lot of triage to keep the music alive in our community. And part of that included renegotiating a contract with our musicians who had taken a 19% pay cut two years ago and were due for a restoration of their salary, although we just couldn't handle that at this point in the trajectory of the symphony. Our musicians agreed to sacrifice that restoration, for the sake of the community. And we've had a glorious opening with Beethoven's 9th, it was sold out, and we're excited about the Cala festival. It was due to our musicians making the sacrifice to keep music alive for Phoenix.

Josè Càrdenas: So we're on a pretty good trajectory right now.

Jim Ward: We've stabilized our finances, and it's a tough economy out there, so I -- we're not quite out of the woods. But I think with the support of the community we can definitely get there. And I urge anyone if I can make an aside, that whether you enjoy symphonic music or not, please come down and support us and support those musicians who sacrificed their salary in order to keep that music alive. And I think with the support of the community we'll make it out of the woods.

Josè Càrdenas: And your reference to community is important, because the more tradition, more established arts like the symphony, like the opera and so forth, one of the problems they're having is the aging of their traditional client base.

Jim Ward: That's true. There's a natural aging that does occur, though people that age into it as well. But I think one of the things that we feel very strongly about is the Phoenix similar foreign I is that would are serving our community. We have a mission to help revitalize Arizona. And to do something unique with what we have, which is unique, which is music, to revitalize our community. But in order to do that we need to reflect the community that we serve. I'm not sure we've done a very good job of that in the past number of years, which is why we got very interested in becoming a part of the Cala festival.

Josè Càrdenas: Give us a few words about the festival itself and then the specific role that the symphony is playing.

Jim Ward: The Cala festival is a celebration of our Hispanic heritage here in our community. And it's a multi-month project and collaboration amongst a number of different and varying arts organizations in our community. We happen to be one of the lead-offs in this. I met with Myra of the Cala festival and different folks and began to explore the possibility of joining in and being a part of it. And yes have come up with I think a very exciting program.

Josè Càrdenas: And let's talk about that. It's Doc Severinsen, who's had a long-time relationship with the Phoenix symphony but he hasn't been here in years.

Jim Ward: That's right. He was our resident pops conductor for many years, but retired about five years ago, and he hasn't been back since. So we're very excited to bring him back, but Doc's not coming back alone.

Josè Càrdenas: We had a picture of him on the screen with his new companion.

Jim Ward: Absolutely. The San Miguel Five. Some great, great jazz fusion Hispanic Latin musicians that are regionally very well known in Mexico and have toured quite extensively and we're glad that we can bring them to our metropolitan area for people to enjoy.

Josè Càrdenas: It's a very interesting story as to how this all came about. I understand Doc Severinsen is retired, officially, to Mexico, living in ---, one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. In Central Mexico. And that's how he melts these guys. Tell us the story.

Jim Ward: Doc I think, with all due respect he's in his 80s, and I think he had retired to live a great life, and it's a beautiful area down there. And literally bumped into these guys. And when music is in your blood it's tough to walk away from. I think Doc became excited about jamming with these folks, and one thing led to another, and here we are. With a great opportunity to see this group.

Josè Càrdenas: Tell us a little bit about the group itself.

Jim Ward: Well, the San Migel Five is a group of five artists that I think have cobbled together a very unique sound. Made up of the roots of the tradition, of San Migel, where they're from, but layered on with other Hispanic influences, and then fused again with a jazz feeling that is very unique. And you don't hear that very often. I've been very successful with that sound, and then you layer on top of that of course Doc Severinsen and what he can do with his virtuosity as a trumpet player, and I think you've got a winning combination.

Josè Càrdenas: The San Migel five toured around Mexico, and in the United States Doc Severinsen and the group have played at places like Carnegie hall and other major venues. How did you get them here?

Jim Ward: Well, look, I think in collaboration with the Cala festival we approached them and they're very eager to spread the kind of unique musical sound they have. And coming to our community, which is clearly laced with great Hispanic culture, it seemed to be a natural thing for them to do, and they're very excited to be here.

Josè Càrdenas: We've got on the screen the performance dates. Any recommendations to people, get your tickets early or anything else you can tell people about the performances coming up this weekend?

Jim Ward: Absolutely. They're going to be with us Friday and Saturday night, Friday's performance is 7:30, Saturday is at 8:00. We do have tickets. So -- but they're going fast, so please contact the symphony at our box office or go to our website at and you, purchase tickets right on the website as well.

Josè Càrdenas: We don't have too much time left, I do want to talk more about the symphony's efforts to make outreach to the Hispanic community. Why is that important?

Jim Ward: Listen, it is a community in which we live in. And success comes when you reflect that community. The Hispanic audience is extremely important to the economic base of our state, and certainly culturally as well. But it's not just the Hispanic audience. We have -- we reach out to different constituencies in our community. We certainly through our education program reach into title one schools and we bring them to our symphony hall. We go on to the reservation with our one nation program where we help retention of high school kids through playing instruments. We celebrate music with Rosie's house, with disadvantaged kids. So there are many things we do to try to service our community, and this is yet another one.

Josè Càrdenas: On that note, Jim ward, interim president of the Phoenix symphony. Thank you so much for joining us.

Jim Ward: Thank you.

Josè Càrdenas: That's our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte," I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening.

Jim Ward:Interim President, CEO of the Phoenix Symphony;

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