Director Suzanne Gindin and embers of the Boyle Heights Community Youth Orchestra rehearse at the Hollywood HIgh Scool Auditorium. Photo by Antonio Mejías-Rentas.

The Boyle Heights Community Youth Orchestra keeps making beautiful music, despite its financial limitations.

“It’s amazing. It’s scary, we exist on a shoestring,” said Suzanne Gindin, the orchestra’s founder and director. “But they keep coming and we keep teaching them. And it keeps getting better and better.”

Gindin spoke at a rehearsal for a benefit concert this weekend in which the youth orchestra will perform with singers Aloe Blacc and Maya Jupiter and the band Quetzal. The concert, to be held Sunday, November 15, at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, will raise funds for the after-school program that provides free or low cost musical education to children in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles.

A 2014 story by Boyle Heights Beat reporter Melissa Martínez told how the BHCYO is modeled after the Venezuelan “El Sistema” program, aimed at changing the lives of children in low-income neighborhoods.

Gindin said there are currently about 45 area children enrolled in the program, about double the amount last year. The orchestra meets twice a week at the historic Breed Street Shul, but Gindin said the orchestra may soon outgrow that space. The group sometimes rehearses at the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory.

Parents of participating children are asked to pay a $30 fee for each student enrolled, but Gindin said no one is turned away if they are unable to pay.

“It’s fabulous,” said Lucinda Mendieta, who accompanied her daughters Daisy, 10, and Ariana, 8, to the rehearsal. “It’s all free, they lend us the instruments, it’s great for those of us who don’t have the means.”

Mendieta said she has seen a positive change in her daughters –who play violin and flute– since they joined the BHCYO. “They’re very enthusiastic about learning the music, they’re very happy.”

Sunday’s fundraiser is underwritten by the Los Angeles family law firm Phillips Lerner through its Adopt-A-Center program. It is being produced by Activarte, a Los Angeles-based organization focused on supporting arts that inspire social change.

The benefit concert’s repertoire includes popular songs such as “Imagine” and “Lean on Me,” a classical selection, and pieces by Aloe Blacc, Maya Jupiter and Quetzal.

Besides raising funds for the orchestra, Gindin hopes that the concert at the Westwood campus will provide a new showcase for the BHYCO.

“What I’m hoping that this does is give us the exposure that people want to come perform with us,” she said. I’ve already invited members of the LA Philharmonic to come and perform with us, and to continue the collaboration is really rewarding for both of us.”

The BHYCO, she said, is one of several arts organizations that make Boyle Heights unique.

“We’re one of the few neighborhoods in Los Angeles that is supporting a youth orchestra”, she said. “Boyle Heights has so much to be proud of with its musical heritage, and this is one more way that we can cause the community to shine.”

Photo above: Suzanne Gindin rehearses with members of the Boyle Heights Community Youth Orchestra. All photos by Antonio Mejías-Rentas.

The Benefit Concert and Reception will be held Nov. 15, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, Charles E. Young Drive North, Los Angeles, CA 90095. Ticket prices range from $25 for seniors and children (5-17) to $75 for adults. Family packages are available. Tickets can be purchased here.

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Antonio Mejías-Rentas

Antonio Mejías-Rentas is a Senior Editor at Boyle Heights Beat, where he mentors teenage journalists, manages the organization’s website and covers local issues. A veteran bilingual journalist, he's...

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