Celebration of Music Honors Dream Team of Tucson Musicians
by Teya Vitu
This is the one time a year you can hear long-time, revered Tucson musicians at a single concert spanning the genres from rock, blues, folk and percussion to gospel, jazz, mariachi, country and western, and classical.
“That’s what’s so exciting for people. They will say ‘I have never heard so many genres in one place,’” said Susan French, co-founder of the Tucson Musicians Museum. “Musicians choose their favorite three songs. It’s an opportunity for them to share their music with an audience they may not have reached before.”
The Celebration serves as an induction into the Tucson Musicians Museum with a 20-by-16-inch portrait mounted on the wall at the museum, which is in the 17th Street Market Music Store. So far, 118 musicians have been inducted since the museum’s founding in 2007.
This year’s inductees are percussionist Black Man Clay with the One Heartbeat Band, saxophonist Syd George, guitarist and vocalist Rich Hopkins, mariachi performer Carlos Sandoval, Bobby Kimmell of the acoustic singing ensemble BK Special, accordianist Rosemary Koshnider, trumpeter Amos Lewis, bassist Brian Bromberg, drummer David Bromberg, their dad Howard Bromberg, violinist David Rife, Spanish guitarist Domingo De Grazia, and rocker Ned Sutton.
Just like the Academy Awards, induction into the Tucson Musicians Museum involves a three-hour performance. Here, the inductees themselves are performing.
The Celebration takes place Sunday, Sept. 30, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Leo Rich Theatre. The day and time may sound odd.
“We’re asking them to play for free,” French said. “Fridays and Saturdays are work nights for them. We want it to be for all ages. We want people to bring their families.”
KOLD’s Bud Foster is the MC, as he has been for each of the prior five Celebrations. There will be comedians and a silent auction, and appetizers and drink will be available.
“We have heard so many families (of musicians) say this is like a lifetime achievement award for musicians who never expected anything back,” French said. “They have just put their heart and soul into sharing what they love. It gets to be emotional for some of the people.”
Induction criteria includes being part of the Tucson music scene for at least 25 years and living here for the long haul. The museum sticks with the traditional genres, meaning “no punk, no rap, no DJs.”
“We’re helping bring recognition to veteran musicians who have played for 25 years or more in Tucson and contributed in some way to the community,” French said.
The Leo Rich is a new venue for the celebration, which for the past two years was at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and before that at the Rialto Theatre and Fox Theatre and the Scottish Rite Temple.
“The Leo Rich is better suited for a musical event than a banquet hall,” French said. “We’re happy to be Downtown. I’m a Downtown girl anyway. It’s just going to take more events and more people getting comfortable with Downtown.”
The museum’s mission is to celebrate, perpetuate and preserve Tucson’s unique musical heritage and culture.
“We celebrate by having the annual Celebration of Music and Culture, which is a fundraiser for our mentorship program, which is part of the perpetuation,” she said.
The celebration component got off the ground right away as co-founders French and photographer George Howard staged the first Celebration of Music & Culture concert in 2007.
The physical museum followed in October of 2011 at the 17th Street Market. Right now, it’s pretty much just the portraits with brief bios plus a small stage. French wants to add audio clips and mementos.
But the heart of the museum could well be its mentorship program, which started two years ago with mariachi tutoring.
“We have Ruben Moreno, one of the forerunners of mariachi education,” French said.
This year mentorship started in classical music with Dennis Bourret, who launched Tucson Junior Strings. The mentorship program is for high school students.
“They have taken a tried and true mentoring program and integrated it into the museum,” French said. “We want kids who have proven a certain dedication to music and their instruments. We’re expanding our mentorship program to other genres.”