A fresh sound bound for Downtown
By Will Bowen
Something is stirring down in Logan Heights and the big boys in the arts are all involved. The seedling activity centers on the old Weber’s Bread Factory at 1955 Julian Ave., just a couple of blocks north of the Coronado Bay Bridge and Chicano Park.
“The building itself dates to 1896, but it has been added onto over the years,” stated new owner and mastermind architect Jim Brown. “It was a bread factory until seven and a half years ago. We are fixing it up to be a center for the arts.”
The building, painted yellow and white with blue trim, and featuring large windows, lantern lights and a small French balcony, is called “Bread & Salt” after its bakery heritage.
Athenaeum Music and Arts Library in La Jolla hired architect Bob Palmer to redesign the portion of the building they have rented for art classes.
“[It was] built in an eclectic Spanish revival style, but today might be called postmodern because of the way it blurs several genres of architectural style,” Palmer said.
Ken Goldman, the Athenaeum’s chief art instructor, said that he loves the building’s high ceiling, good light, and its history.
“I like that they have saved some of the old bakery equipment to retain historical flavor,” said Cornelia Feye, education director for Athenaeum’s School of the Arts.
There are already a couple of small art galleries, a business office and a radio station in the building. The San Diego Museum of Art has plans to move in, and this spring, Camarada will be putting on tango and bossa nova dinner shows.
Another new occupant of the building is Bonnie Wright, founder and director of Fresh Sound, a new music venue designed to bring the most innovative performers of experimental new music, contemporary classical and avant-garde jazz to San Diego.
Wright said she was immediately attracted to the building.
“It has this amazing potential, but it is not quite there yet, and that’s what makes it fun,” she said.
Wright has produced over 180 new music concerts since 1997, all held at the Spruce Street Forum, a venue she fashioned at her late father’s interior design building in Bankers Hill. She recently decided to close that space and look for a new one because renovations and bringing the building up to code were becoming too costly.
San Diego music critic Robert Bush, who described the Weber building’s new interior as “funky industrial chic,” has attended almost all of Wright’s shows at Spruce Street Forum.
“Bonnie is doing very important work for the creative music scene,” Bush said. “She is a very important person for the city. You get to see people at her concerts that you would otherwise never see. I have never been disappointed by one of her shows. In fact, they have been some of best performances that I have ever seen.”
Steve Schick, UC San Diego distinguished professor of music and recent inductee to the Percussionists Hall of Fame, agrees.
“For almost 20 years Bonnie Wright has offered exciting and uncompromising music to San Diego,” he said. “Without her the city would be a much poorer place.”
Wright has already produced a couple of concerts at the Weber building and has plans to bring in some of the world’s best percussionists, many who worked with or studied under Schick, for a series of events taking place between January and June.
The aim of her percussion series is to honor professor Schick, as well as all the people that have been associated with UCSD percussion. The concerts are also meant to recognize San Diego as a top breeding ground for worldwide percussion, due to Schick’s mentoring.
“Putting on concerts gives my life purpose,” Wright said. “I want to continue to stay pure to my vision of bringing music to San Diego that otherwise would not be heard. Normally you would have to go to Los Angeles or New York to hear the type of music I am presenting.
“I am not out to make money,” she continued. “I am here to give musicians a platform to perform. In general, I am not going to hire local talent but will reach out to people from outside San Diego. What I present will be cross genre.”
Wright said that one of her favorite works of new music is “Music for 18 Musicians” by Steve Reich.
“Reich’s music moves me to tears,” she said. “In it, I see a sense of beauty. You never know what will move you like that. Once I was at the [Metropolitan] Museum of Art in New York. After looking all day at some of the world’s great art, I ran across a very small painting by Van Gogh. As I looked at it, I just burst into tears.”
Wright said she hopes that those who attend her upcoming percussion series will have the same type of experience.
“I hope that they find some beauty or truth, which will move them,” she said. “But I will be satisfied if my concerts simply expand their conception of what music is or they realize why San Diego is so famous for percussion. Even if they don’t like what they hear, I promise them that what they hear will be of the highest quality.”
Wright’s upcoming percussion series kicks off Jan. 15 at 7:30 p.m. with a performance of “Timbre,” composed by Michael Gordon and performed by Red Fish Blue Fish, the UCSD-based percussion ensemble founded by Schick. The performance will consist of six percussionists each playing on one of six wooden plants arranged in a hexagon.
The second event in the concert series will feature Ross Karre on Feb. 6. Karre, who is a former student of Schick and a current member of the International Contemporary Ensemble, will perform an improvisation piece that takes off from Alvin Lucier’s “Opera With Objects,” Fritz Hauser’s “Schraffur” (written for small solo gong) and Natacha Diels’ “Economy of Means” (a piece for micro drum set).
On Feb. 18, the Jean-Charles Francois Trio will be flying in from Lyon, France, to perform. This trio features clarinet, electric guitar, and percussion. Francois was the percussion instructor at UCSD before Schick took the helm.
Aiyun Huang and Eric Derr will team up March 20 for a show featuring both solo work and a duet. Huang teaches at McGill University in Canada and Derr is currently based out of Philadelphia. Both are former Schick students. Brian Archinal, another former Schick student, will give a solo concert on April 9. Archinal is flying in from Basel, Switzerland, with Ensemble Nikel, who will be at UCSD to give workshops.
The concluding concert of the series will be May 1 and feature Kjel Nordeson from Stockholm, Sweden. Nordeson, who has been a touring professional for many years, is finishing up his Ph.D. at UCSD. He will perform an improvisation based on Donotoni’s “Omar”, Zenakas’ “Rebounds B” and Bach’s “Prelude in E Minor”.
For more information about Bread and Salt, the new experimental center for the arts, follow them on Facebook. For further information about the percussion series, visit freshsoundmusic.com or email Bonnie at firstname.lastname@example.org.