State attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Brown dispatched a news release last week touting a $549,000 grant his office had made to the California Arts Council, using some of the money paid by five compact disc distributors and three retailers to settle a price-fixing case in 2002. “The grants support performances and events in 43 of the state’s 58 counties, reaching an estimated audience of 200,000,” according to the release, which quoted Brown as saying, “The Attorney General’s office is proud to be part of providing these cultural events that bring people together to experience all types of music. It’s affordable because of our ability to provide discounted tickets, and these performances are a testament to the incredible richness and diversity of the state’s music.” A link was provided to the arts council’s website, giving a list of the “free and discounted performances,” which include a concert for schoolchildren by a Mexican-American singer in the Napa Valley; the California Autoharp Gathering in Raisin City; traditional Hmong musical performances in Visalia and Merced; the symphony orchestra in San Luis Obispo; and Bryan Fry and His Band at the Mammoth Lakes Art Center.
San Diego, on the other hand, got nothing. Instead, the website lists five performances by the guitar duo Colibrí, staged by a nonprofit outfit by the name of Guitars in the Classroom, with the note “Guitars in the Classroom is based in San Diego: the events on this page take place in Northern California.” Venues of the performances, from late April through the end of this month, include the Reach Academy and [email protected], both elementary schools in Oakland, where Brown used to be mayor and still lives in a residential loft with his wife and political guru, ex–Jack in the Box board member Anne Gust.
Guitars in the Classroom executive director Jessica Baron says her organization, which operates so-called song-based instruction programs nationally, fashioned its application for the grant money to fund concerts by the San Francisco Bay–based Colibrí, targeting English-language learners who attend schools in Oakland and other poor Bay Area neighborhoods. Given the right talent and some more grant money, she says, “We’d love to do something like that in San Diego.” She adds that the group applied for a federal grant earlier this month in conjunction with the San Diego Unified School District. “If we get funding, we will see a lot more going on all throughout San Diego County with GITC.”