Music Students Explore the Legacy of César Chavez with Pacific Symphony’s AXP@Home Program

Over the past year, the arts-X-press team carried on their summer fun traditions by introducing AXP@Home, the remote format of Pacific Symphony’s immersive arts summer camp. With the success of last summer’s virtual camp, AXP@Home has since been expanded through alumni workshops that explore important themes through a different art form each month. 

Starting with the March workshop, however, the AXP@Home staff opened its doors to all middle-school students for the 2021 Spring workshop series as we prepare to welcome new students for our 2021 summer program.

The AXP@Home Spring Workshop, Si Se Puede! — Yes You Can!, provided students a creative safe space to explore dance, musical theater and cultural history. In celebration of César Chavez Day (March 31), Theatre Arts Instructor Deana Occhipinti led our group of new and returning students through an interactive musical theatre adaptation of a children’s book called Harvesting Hope by Kathleen Krull, which describes the inspirational life events of Chavez. Occhipinti wrote this script to be interactive and educational, and to inspire empowerment through storytelling.

Together, Instructor Occhipinti and students collaborated to reflect the spirit of the commemorative holiday through energetic choreography and call-and-response chanting; each time the script mentioned César’s name, students all followed a chant of “Sí, se puede!” with “Yes, it can be done!” 

Occhipinti emphasized how elements of impassioned storytelling can become the driving force for all forms of the arts: “We became part of the story, and there is always a story to be told!” Occhipinti told students. “As you go through life, I encourage you to tell your story, and also become a good audience—learning how to appreciate other people telling their stories.” 

To get the group’s creativity flowing, students and counselors also created chants to reflect what they feel most passionate about in their lives:

  • “Doesn’t having fun matter? Let’s open our creative eye together!” 
  • “We’re marching to justice for our sisters and our mothers. We should have equal rights—so let’s stop the fights!” 
  • “Stand tall—don’t let people discriminate! 

As we look to inspire future leaders in many young artists, we should actively work to provide them a platform to share their experiences and voice what truly matters to them.

The next workshop in the AXP@Home Spring Workshop series, “Blooming in Your Community,” will be a creative expression workshop taking place on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Click here to register! 

Please stay tuned to @artsXpress on Instagram and Facebook for updates on news and content!

Pacific Symphony’s Multi-Talented Joshua Ranz

Hailed in the Los Angeles Times as offering a “stunning rendition” of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, and an “exciting” version of the Copland Clarinet Concerto, Joshua Ranz is equally gifted on clarinet and bass clarinet. Since 1997, he has served as bass clarinet with Pacific Symphony in addition to being principal clarinet of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) as well as principal clarinet of the New West Symphony.

Ranz has played on over 100 soundtracks for such composers as John Williams, Michael Giacchino, James Horner, Randy Newman and many others. Some of the recent films he has played on include Coco, Lady Bird, Star Wars VII, Rogue One and The Incredibles 2. A graduate of Harvard and Yale, he recently joined the faculty of UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music as Lecturer in Clarinet.

As you might imagine, Ranz is a consummate musician with a lot creative energy. In spite of the pandemic, he managed to record his first album, which will be released on April 23. “Three Cello Suites,” from Joshua Ranz and Navona Records is a truly groundbreaking take on Bach’s legendary works. The album features—for the first time ever—three unabridged cello suites by Bach arranged for the bass clarinet by Ranz. He selected Suites 1, 4, and 2 in that order for this recording because, together, they form a cohesive and dynamic whole.

Ranz lends a fresh voice to Bach’s profoundly beautiful music. “Bach’s music transcends any one instrument, and I believe having the opportunity to hear it with a fresh set of ears can be an invigorating way to experience his genius,” says Ranz. “I have discovered that playing and recording the suites on the bass clarinet offers a fluidity and lyricism, giving the music a unique beauty rarely heard in other renditions. Great cellists have told me that they prefer certain movements on the bass clarinet than even on their own instrument.”

In anticipation of the April 23 release of the new album, Pacific Symphony will present an “Album Release Party” on Weds., April 21 at 5 p.m. KUSC radio personality Alan Chapman will join Principal Flute and Symphony Mixer host Ben Smolen for a conversation with Joshua Ranz about his recording project. They’ll play selections from the new release and will give away CDs to members of the audience. You can catch the “Album Release Party” on Facebook.

The “Three Cello Suites” recording will be available on Apple Music/iTunes and Amazon.com beginning April 23. Or you can pre-order the album here.

In addition to the many musical hats Ranz wears, he’s a master of klezmer, an instrumental musical tradition associated with the Ashkenazi Jews of Central and Eastern Europe. His wailing klezmer clarinet plays a starring role on Michael Giocchino’s soundtrack for the Seth Rogan comedy-drama “An American Pickle” (2020).

Ranz will be in conversation with Alan Chapman for a Zoom event entitled “Essential Klezmer” on Thurs., April 15 at 4 p.m. He will be talking about growing up hearing his grandmother speaking Yiddish, and how he began developing his klezmer artistry during childhood, playing clarinet in a klezmer trio with a young violinist friend. He will demonstrate klezmer effects on clarinet to show how that technique differs from playing classical music. Chapman will also provide historical context on klezmer. If you’ve always wondered about how klezmer music is played or you want to experience this side of Ranz’s artistry, be sure to look for this presentation on Pacific Symphony’s Facebook page on April 14.