- GH: How does your work on the Global Village intersect
with your work at the Skirball Center? Ive always thought of
the Skirball as a Jewish center, but then I heard of all the different
musiciansPersian and Afghani musiciansthat perform there,
and it suddenly struck me that the idea that the Skirball
The Skirball Center
- YS-R: Im the music programmer at the Skirball, so I
organize the concerts. The Skirball is a Jewish cultural center and
museum and it tries to focus on the Jewish-American experience. All
the exhibits have something to do with Jewish themes: its either
Jewish silversmiths, or the coming at the turn of the century, or
needlework. Sometimes its cross-culturalsomething from
a Japanese artist, paired with something from a Jewish artist and
something from a Native American artist, for example.
- The mission statement of the Skirball is to interpret the Jewish
experience in the United States, and to celebrate the multicultural
community of Los Angeles and of the United States. The Skirball has
a very broad vision, and it broadens all the time. At first it was
primarily Jewish. As we evolved, as we grew, it just redefined itself
or defined itself. Now its really, really defined itself.
We try to do multicultural programming, and not only in music. We
have a lot of lectures and a literature series that bring in lots
of authors, not all of whom are JewishWalter Mosley and Richard
Rodriguez. Various others have appeared. We try to keep to both missions,
which means that we still have to have programming that serves the
Jewish community and the mission statement for reinterpreting the
Jewish experience in the United States, but it is very broad. The
major theme is that we want people to feel good and to have a good
experience. And to feel that theyre not left outside.
- In terms of music
obviously I brought my passion for world
music to the Skirball. We decided that we want the Skirball to become
a home for everyone. The president of the Skirball says, I want
this place to be an oasis where everyone feels welcome, regardless
of their background, culture, and also their class, and age. I want
children to be happy here, I want elderly people to be happy here.
There is something there for each personfor everyone. Thats
why there are a lot of different types of music and cultural programs.
Weve had music from Afghanistan, from Iran. Weve had Lebanese
musician Ali Jihad Racy from UCLA at the center. Weve had classic
and traditional folk music: weve had Israeli musicians, musicians
from Mexico, Africa, and Turkey. Weve had Balinese music from
Nyoman Wenten and his Balinese dance ensemble from Cal Arts. And its
continuing on. Were getting musicians from Madagascar in the
summer, musicians from Mali, and a French Gypsy/Yiddish ensemble.
- We try to do programming thematically as well. Weve done
Sounds of the Silk Road where we had Chinese music. Weve
had a series that was called American Roots that brought
in blues and gospel music. Next year were going to have a fiddle
series called The World on a String. [laughs] So its
going to be world music but from the point of view of the fiddle.
Theres going to be some grassroots American music, but were
thinking also of music from different parts of the world with different
types of violins: Celtic, Klezmer
if I can afford the person that I have my eye on.
- GH: Thats a really interesting lens on something that
we never think aboutsuch a broad theme that we might not observe
the connections because its so broadthat of a bowed string
- YS-R: Theyre ubiquitous, theyre all over. There
is the erhu in Chinese music, and the kemancheh in both
Iran and Turkey. Its all over, played in different ways. They
have the same roots, even the Indian sarangi is a fiddle: its
bowed and its really a fiddle when you think of it.
- Also, I have to make sure that people listening on the radio know
that when I am promoting something at the Skirball that I am also
involved in it. When you are on the public radio, whenever there is
a conflict of interest, you definitely have to declare that. I always
have to mention that. Some people dont know that it is by the
law that I have to do that. So, some people think that Im being
that Im saying, I am this!
And I am that! Believe me, Id rather not mention that
Im involved in them, because I always think, Oh shoot,
I have to again say that this is the third concert that Im promoting
at the Skirball, and I have to say that I work at the Skirball.
But I have to, I have no choice. If I play the music of someone that
Im closely associated with I have to divulge that.
- GH: Thats funny that some people might get that idea.
I get the impression that you are just so excited by the fact that
not only are you going to play some lovely piece of music for us on
the radio, but that youre going to bring this musician Skirball
to perform for us live.
- YS-R: Thats it, too! I want to say, Not only
are you going to hear them on the radio, but believe it or not, theyre
coming to town! They could be coming to play somewhere else
in LA and I would be just as excited. That I will get to work with
them and get to know them on a different level makes it doubly exciting.
The fact that I am instrumental in bringing this person to town gives
me a different level of satisfaction. But I would be just as excited
if I couldnt bring them to the Skirball and that there still
was the opportunity to hear them in LA I definitely have to divulge
if there is any conflict of interest.
- GH: Its interesting that the Skirball is up on a hill
off the 405 freeway, and on another hill just south is the Getty Museum,
which promotes a different kind of community experience for Los Angeles.
- YS-R: Its a different angle. I think that the Getty
is mostly a museum, so its much more exhibit-oriented. There
are public programs,
The J. Paul Getty Museum
- GH: It seems that it is a community center in
the best sense of the word.
- YS-R: We try to bring the arts and the community together
so that its a forum for bothcommunity activity in an artistic
way. Its been extremely gratifying and I am very grateful to
them for trusting me. It did take trust. I was a newcomer when I went
to the Skirball and the Skirball itself was new. In a way, that newness
was its strength. If it had been very established I may not have had
this freedom. They were open to experimentation, but it had to come
with trust. And I do appreciate that fact they put that trust in me.
- GH: Did they have a vision of what they wanted you to do
specifically, or did they say, This is what we want to be: what
do you think that you can do to make it happen?
- YS-R: They had a position called Program Associate when they
hired me. The position was a whole gamut of things: coordinate this
and that, fundraising, publicityeverything was lumped into it.
And I said, You know, I have a passionmy passion is music.
Gradually they said, Thats great. You have this great
background in music; do all the concert programs. As I became
established there, I started doing the series and the concert programs
there and became their music expert. I went to the program director
and said, I want to be called Music Programmer. I want to add
that to my title because everybody knows me in the field of music
and they dont understand what Program Associate means. I really
want that to be established. And he accepted, no problem.
- Now Ive changed my position at the Skirball: I used to be
full-time staff and I asked them if I could work part-time only on
music events from home. Im extremely grateful to them because
they have accommodated me in every sense of the word. It gives me
a little bit of time to do other things, because the Skirball is a
demanding place. Its non-stop. The program department is only
five or six people, thats it. We rotate and take turns so we
dont burn out.
- With KPFK it takes me three hours to air a program and six hours
to program it. Plus I have to listen to things all throughout the
week. Plus the Skirball. Plus I have other interests in life. I realized
that I was beginning to burn out. Thats why I said, Relieve
me of some of the responsibility. I took a paycut as a result,
but it was a give and take. I get to do the things that I really likeI
get to be creative. I get to book the concerts, program them, envision
them, and create themes for future years. I still listen to every
package that is sentI still review those and make an evaluation
of whether they would be a good fit with the Skirball. Sometimes we
dont have the availability of space and budget to do everything
that we would like to do. Otherwise, we would have music everyday.
We have other programs, so its not a performing arts centerthis
is a cultural center with a performing arts component. We have music;
we have lectures, films, exhibits, and a literary series. There has
to be something for everyone.
- GH: What do you see in the future for yourself?
- YS-R: Im still organizing things at the Skirball. Probably
for another few years I will still be doing that. Lets see if
the Global Village is still on KPFK and if Im still there.
I still think that probably in the immediate future this is whats
going to happen. But as Ive said, I have other interests in
life and one of them is Hindu Vedic astrology and I am transitioning
into becoming an astrologer. It will probably be in segments. [laughs]
Theres the Global Village, theres the Skirball,
and theres this other aspect of me that has nothing to do
that will be in the stars that will be in the astral plane looking
into the stars. [laughs]
- GH: They sound very different, but I have a feeling that
they all cross over for you.
- YS-R: Im a Gemini ascendant and they say that Geminis
have this curious mind and want to learn everything. Sometimes I dont
think that I have enough time in one day: if I could become an expert
in the many things that I am interested in, Id be a happy person.
But, I just have to make choices
make choices to just have
a mediocre knowledge of certain things and make the choice of getting
more profound knowledge in just a few fields for lack of time. If
I could live three lives in this one life, I would do it. Im
happy for what I have.
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Williams, Raymond. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.
McClary, Susan. Conventional Wisdom: The Content of Musical Form. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000.
Walsh, Stephen. Tavener, John (Kenneth). New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians v. 18. London: Macmillan Publishers Limited, 1980. 597598.