« Previous | Culture Monster Home | Next »

L.A. County High School for the Arts has celebrity lineup to celebrate its 25th anniversary

April 6, 2010 |  6:00 am

BarryManilow These may be tough times for maintaining excellence in public education, given the condition of the California state government that's primarily responsible for funding it, but that's not stopping the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts from celebrating its past and present in a rare high-profile event.

The specialized public high school, housed in borrowed quarters at Cal State Los Angeles, will take over some prime downtown arts real estate on April 17 -- the Ahmanson Theatre -- to celebrate its 25th anniversary in elite company, and to boost the private fundraising it counts on even in the best of times.

The headliner is Barry Manilow -- who got his own schooling in Brooklyn but was one of the earliest supporters of L.A.'s answer to the kind of arts high school chronicled in the film and television series "Fame." At the school, students audition for spots, and those who succeed are accepted into a regimen that includes a daily menu of academic courses, followed by studio work in visual art, music, dance or theater.

Also on the Ahmanson bill are Natalie Cole, Bob Newhart and Monica Mancini (the singing daughter of composer Henry Mancini), with the arts high school's jazz ensemble and chorus providing backup. Among the non-performing stars expected to be on hand making presentations are Marilyn Horne, Frank Gehry and John Williams. Video greetings will be extended by Plácido Domingo, Quincy Jones, Janet Jackson and Michael Feinstein, among others.

Singer Josh Groban, a 1999 graduate of the arts high school, will be among the presenters; other well-known alumni include actress Jenna Elfman, longtime Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater member Matthew Rushing, visual artist Kehinde Wiley and "High School Musical" cast member Corbin Bleu.

GinnyMancini.jopg The evening's honorees, for contributions to the school and to the arts, are Manilow, who has been a supporter from nearly the beginning, having appeared at the first graduation ceremony in 1987; Dr. Ed Kantor, a Beverly Hills ear, nose and throat specialist known for treating performers; Ginny Mancini, widow of the late film composer; and philanthropist Flora Thornton, naming donor to USC's Thornton School of Music. 

"Artistic young people need that extra push," said Ginny Mancini, whose friendship with philanthropist Caroline Ahmanson drew her into the arts high school's orbit in 1994, when the school shared in the proceeds of a 70th birthday tribute concert for Henry Mancini at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion shortly before his death. Ahmanson, who died in 2005, was instrumental in securing state funding for the arts high school and the use of facilities at Cal State L.A.

Tickets are $100 to $2,500, and available through the Ahmanson box office, (213) 628-2772. John Jackson, executive director of the private nonprofit foundation that raises money to augment the school's public funding, said the hope is to net $400,000 for its programs in what figures to be a difficult year for state funding of education.

The state's budget woes also have contributed to delays in groundbreaking for a new, $24-million facility for the high school on the Cal State campus, Jackson said. The foundation has secured donations of $1.25 million to equip a 300-seat theater that's part of the project, and $500,000 for a 500-seat outdoor amphitheater, both to be built when construction on the 40,000-square-foot high school building goes forward.

Since last fall, the county arts high school has had new, high-profile company in the "Fame" game -- the Los Angeles Unified School District's fledgling, 1,100-student downtown arts campus, known as Central Los Angeles High School No. 9. The new arts academy, which cost $232 million to build, draws 70% of its students from in and around downtown L.A., unlike the established one, which auditions students from all over Los Angeles County. With just 160 spots open for the county arts school's next freshman class, and 850 students who auditioned for them, Jackson said, "there's incredible need out there" for additional arts training programs.  "We're all colleagues, we all reach out to one another and call one another. Some people use the word 'competing.' It's just not a word I intend to use."

-- Mike Boehm


A good year for Los Angeles arts students

Photo of Barry Manilow by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times; photo of  Ginny Mancini by Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (7)

Sounds like a waste of money to me, at least it isn't in building a ridiculously overpriced Disneyland for kiddies downtown like LAUSD did. Artists will be artists no matter what, and having real life experience's rather than in a gilded ghetto for exhibitionist artsiness, will make for better artists. In creative art, character counts, and adversity builds character. This is like the pop music industry grabbing kids early, and making sure they never truly develop, just putty for producers, who now control entertainment. Cannon fodder, to be discarded for the next tiny thing.

And make no mistake, these are all performers, not artists. Enterainment is not art, and performers are a dime a dozen, just go into any restaurant in the Westside and WeHo. We dont need more, just keeps the payscale down as it is always supply and demand. Let the entertainment industry pay for their own, they got way too much already. Stop using "art" as a cover. You are not artists, you are of the lowest common denominator, not the highest.

art collegia delenda est

The previous poster probably auditioned for and didn't get into LACHSA. haha!!

You obviously have no idea what you're talking about. Kids who have access to arts programs have a higher rate of graduation and going on to higher education. I personally know many of the children at this school who were ridiculed and bullied in their public school district, simply for having a passion for creativity. Not every child is interested or capable of participating in sports, which is where most public schools funnel most of their money. They are thriving academically and artistically at LACHSA and so many other facilities that recognize this fact. Judging by your hostile and ignorant comment, you were probably raised in artistically sterile environment.

Actually, my mother went to the Philadelpha College of Art with Irving Penn, my father an all American football player, I got both sides, and see the plusses and minuses of both. I grew up around art and so love it, as much as I am irritated by the charlatans posing as artistes.
And the careerists who only want a privileged lifestyle, and not contribute to humanity as a whole. Art now is an industry, not a revelation of who we are, exploring nature and searching for god, as all art that has lasted is.

Art should be pursued in ALL schools, not just one gilded ghetto for those who are not balanced. For that is everything, giving kids choices, opportunites, and experience what is out there waiting for them. No kid, even after college really knows anything, they are simply given background. And those who pick up arts too early, before living it, never become great artists, they get caught in self expression. Which kids need, but mature artists grow out of. Art is expressIVE of humanity, of the whole, the individual means nothing. Art is needed for kids to get through the hormonally and mentally fluctuating years of adolescence, but they are very different beasts.

And sports receive very little, you just havent any skill and no clue. All schools have been cut drastically, a few get shoe company monies to attract great athletes, especially at schools with low enrollment in quiet areas, like Fairfax and Westchester, which produce most of the pro basketball players from So Cal. Here, LB Poly gets NIke and used to from Oakley monies for its track, football and basketball programs. Otherwise they would have little. I have coached, I know, my eldest played at Annapolis and about to go to med school. My youngest is still finding himself, though recruited at Pac 10 schools, he lost interest. It happens.

Sports and arts are both needed, as is a spiritual upbringing. Art reflects mind, Body and soul, and why it is so shallow now. God has been taken away, and few have any physical skills. As Cezanne said, a weak body makes for a weak soul, and therefore no art. As true today as 120 years ago, and we fight the Academy now as he did the Salon. Careerists, and supporters of the effette "elite".

Entertainment is not art, they are yin and yag, but the lowest common denominaor has swalloed the highest, as it makes for an easy sell of worthless MFAs. No one defines art anymore, because it is not in their individual interest too. Though it can be easily. Just click my name below and find out how.

There are many and the best artists in our nation, and even locally, have all been musicians, Eric Dolphy, Billy Higgins, Dexter Gordon all from LA, and many more live here still, like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. Musicians too, like visual artists, never graduate from art schools, a waste of time for the talented and passionate. In the arts, those who can do, those who cant teach. As Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis did leaving Julliard, and hit the road with true masters, Bird and Art Blakey. Apprenticeship the only way to absorb art, mediocrity is not acceptable. And all academies produce standards of mediocrity, and feed the market that art has become once again.

art collegia delenda est
Save the Watts Towers, tear down the sterile Bastilles of art.

I am so proud of Barry Manilow for supporting this! It was an honor to have met him myself, and the arts have always had a special place in my heart as well.

Thank you so much for this article!

Thank you Mr. Manilow for helping young artists develop their talent through your philantropic contributions. You are a kind and giving man and many appreciate what you are doing.

Last month I was honored to attend the LACHSA Gala in LA. Initially I wanted to attend because Barry Manilow was performing and receiving an award, I hate to miss an opportunity to see him. But as I research LACHSA for my initial blog, I was excited to attend and experience the kids. When my oldest was in High school I feel in love with seeing kids showcase their talents. It was easy to spot the ones participating for an easy credit and those who had the fire and drive to pursue the path they loved, they were and are unstoppable.

An a cappella group of students performed on the grounds of The Ahmanson Theatre while we roamed about picking up tickets and waiting for the doors to open. They were a sensational warm up of what was to come.

I was delighted to see Barry arrive, the thrill of his smile and handshake never wears off! Deluged by autograph seekers, and fans, he remained his smiling, amicable self giving the people what they wanted. I noticed he seemed less reserved, less self-effacing than usual, after the show the reason came to me. This show wasn’t about him, he was going outside himself for the kids, he was there to help and whatever it took to make the evening a success, be it singing his heart out, contributing to the fund or posing for a photo op, he was going to do it in a big way, and give it all he’s got.

A moment that will stay with me forever, and reinforced the reason I am so proud and happy to admire Mr. Manilow so very much came while he was with the crowds. A lady and her son approached, (I later learned the young man has many challenges and listening to Barry’s music has helped teach him to speak) the mom spoke quietly to Barry. He listened intently, his full attention on the boy, leaning down to his level as he struggled to speak you witnessed the compassion, the empathy that is Barry. Shaking his hand, patting his back, giving that gorgeous smile, standing for a photo with him before parting. I controlled the lump in my throat (I was next to Barry’s manager and didn’t know how to explain the on set of emotion). It personified the kind, gentle man Barry Manilow is seperate yetl part of the talent he is. I’d wager the fame and fortune doesn’t hold a candle to knowing he’s touched a life.

The kids at LACHSA were jaw dropping. I had to keep reminding myself they were indeed children and not professional musicians, yet! The pieces they played, their ability to accompany is indiscernible. How sad to think these kids could be denied the opportunity to pursue the gifts they’ve been given due to budget cuts, because adults can’t get their acts together and see the forest for the trees. How very fortunate we are as a society to have benefactors who appreciate the importance of Arts in Education

Students opened the show with “I’ve got a feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas Fergie is an alumni). The lyrics were spot on “I've gotta feeling that tonight's gonna be a good night” it was a very good night. The musical theater student’s performance of “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats” from CATS rivaled Broadway. “All of Me” by the LACHSA Jazz Ensemble showcased jazz at its best.

Performances by alumna Julie Adams and alumnus Dominic Domingo – grandson of Placido Domingo – were mesmerizing. I’m not an opera enthusiast by any means, but they could change my mind...

Video tributes to the Honorees were wonderful and informative to the lives of four generous people whose contributions to the Arts often go unseen. Flora L.Thornton, Ginny Mancini (window of Henry Mancini), Dr. Edward Kantor (otolaryngologist to many performers) and of course Barry Manilow. I was delighted during Barry’s tribute to see my friend and band director for Palm Springs High School, Brian Ingelson and many of his students thanking Barry for his generous contribution of instruments to Palm Springs High in 2008. Being from Palm Springs, many kids I know personally have benefited. Thank you Barry!

A beautiful a cappella tribute of “Tis a Gift to be Simple” by Opera star Marilyn Horne to Mrs. Thornton was touching. Performances by Dave Koz, my personal favorite sax player of all time. Natalie Cole, the ever hysterical Bob Newhart and Monica Mancini – beautifully singing two of her late fathers timeless compositions, “Charade” and “Moon River” with Mr. Koz accompanying on sax for “Moon River” were fantastic and a wonderful lead to the grand finale which featured the highlight of my evening – Barry Manilow.

Barry was upbeat, in great voice and obviously thrilled to be part of this wonderful event sharing two of his own compositions “It’s a Miracle” accompanied by The LACHSA Jazz Ensemble and Strings and closing the show with “One Voice” sung with The LACHSA Gospel Choir. Hearing Barry with those kids and watching him direct the choir was goose bump worthy. While speaking Barry shared his goal to keep music in schools in part because as a student music changed his life, everyone can do something, pick up the phone call your local school, see what they need, even a little will help.

A statement by Dr. Ramon Cortines, Superintendent of LA Unified School District struck a cord with me. He said Barry Manilow doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk by providing so much. That’s true of all involved in keeping LACHSA and schools and programs like it alive. I’ve heard the Gala was a huge success. As a parent as a human being I salute these wonderful people and owe them a debt of gratitude. The arts are so much more than music. Dance, photography, technology, drama. Let’s help keep their dreams alive for all our sake. These kids are our kids, our future; we can’t let them down..

I spoke to some of the kids after the show; I had to tell them how terrific they were. Many caught my attention by singing and humming Barry’s songs. Every one of them bubbled with delight at how great it was to perform with and for him. How great his music is, what a nice person he is. I’m happy a whole new generation is learning what so many of us already know.

I didn’t know the exciting evening wasn’t over for me yet and in an abstract way.Barry helped a not so great situation. Driving home on the I10 a front wheel disengaged from my van. As I lost control and careened into bushes the cd player blared Barry’s voice singing “I made it through the rain”. Once stopped and knowing by the grace of God I was alive and unharmed (can’t say that for the van) I had to laugh. Yep Barry, I did make it through the rain and because I’d just left such a wonderful event involving him I was in a good place and able to put the whole incident in perspective. It would have happened anyway and it was truly all worthwhile!


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.