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Winter 2020 News

Levitt San Jose Update: Unanimous Approval of EIR

Recently, we marked a major milestone in our journey towards a music stage at St. James Park with the City Council's unanimous approval of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed project that would revitalize St. James Park, including the development of the proposed Levitt Pavilion.  Also approved was the Historic Preservation Permit (HP permit) required for the development of the Levitt Pavilion.

Although the EIR was approved unanimously by the City Council, the Sainte Claire Historic Preservation Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the EIR. They also appealed the approval of the HP Permit but the City Council denied the appeal. The Foundation has concerns regarding impacts to the Historic District and possible impacts from sound during pavilion performances.

Friends of Levitt Pavilion remains committed to our mission of providing 50 free family-friendly concerts in the near future. We will continue to keep you updated on our journey. 

Board Spotlight: Fil Maresca

We're happy to put a spotlight on our new Board Chair, Fil Maresca, one of the founding members of the Levitt Board.  

Fil is an event planner, comic book collector, former night club owner and public space programmer. Levitt won’t be his first turnaround story either — as the owner of F/X in the SoFA District, he transformed a former adult theater into an iconic entertainment destination for live alternative music, hosting bands such as No Doubt, SmashMouth and hundreds of others.

Fil, where does your interest in creating a music pavilion in St. James Park come from?
I spent 20 years in the night club business, and 25 more in outdoor festival and concert production. Some of my favorite events were produced in St. James Park. I believe it is our most beautiful urban landscape but is highly underutilized.

I have watched the park suffer through light rail construction,  numerous rehabilitation projects, and plenty of failed “Master Plans”. A Levitt Pavilion is a proven model throughout the country. Not only are the parks successfully transformed, but the immediate surrounding area becomes full of new life and community. 
 
How does the Levitt Pavilion performance venue differ from what San Jose has already been doing?
 It is a completely different model than traditional for-profit concert venues, or city park facilities. Our local non-profit produces shows – with support from a national foundation - in our own venue that are free and family-friendly, all year long. We are dedicated to Building Community through Music, by exposing the community to diverse cultural programming chosen for its excellence, not for its ticket sales

Tell us more about your background and interest in music. Do you yourself play an instrument or DJ music? 
I have never been a professional musician; failed attempts at an early age with piano and baritone saxophone told me I was a better listener than player. However I DO now host a regular 80s Bingo Night – both live and virtually – where I spin actual vinyl.

I have been around a diverse array of musicians and artists all my adult life. I recognize and enjoy talent in all forms, and LOVE developing talent. I believe there is an expansive wealth of talent right here in our community, and our Levitt will be a showcase for them.

Do you believe that the civic leadership in San Jose is ready to accept and embrace a Levitt Pavilion at this time? If not, what other work needs to be done? If so, can you elaborate on this?
YES, I do believe they are ready, but need coaxing. Most people think of outdoor concerts as loud, crowded, drinking festivals. It is what we have seen, and what we are used to. Levitt is NOT that. We are a cultural destination – not unlike a museum or a film festival – where the community goes to experience musical artists in fine form, in a comfortable family friendly environment, and with little to no barriers to attendance. But we still need to get that message out to the greater San Jose communities, who stand to benefit most from this accessibility.

Live music brings people together for a shared experience that cannot be captured any other way. This park was made for live music, and Levitt will absolutely make that happen. I, for one, cannot wait.

When do you foresee the pavilion construction actually breaking ground?
We are envisioning a window of opportunity in the construction trades in late '21 and early '22. If we can get started then, we have a much stronger chance of hitting our budget. I believe in taking advantage of opportunities like that. 

Tommy Aguilar Joins Levitt San Jose Board

The Friends of Levitt Pavilion San Jose is happy to welcome Tommy Aguilar as the newest member of the Board. 

Thomas Ramon Aguilar, and his sobriquet Chale Brown, is an artist, curator, and DJ based out of San José. Since 2001 he's presented and promoted artists, DJs, and musicians from all over the globe under the moniker Universal Grammar (UG).  Since 2007 he's worked with San Jose Jazz to curate performances on the Jazz Beyond Stage at the annual SummerFest and Winterfest. He's also co-founder of groundbreaking culture hubs Sonido Clash and POW! WOW! San José.

He is an alum of the National Association for Latino Arts and Culture’s (NALAC) Leadership Institute, as well as the Multicultural Artists Leadership Institute (MALI) in San José, and was a Fellow in the American Leadership Forum, Silicon Valley Chapter's class of 2015.

"The production of music events in San José is one of the most difficult art forms to create a sustainable model for.  Universal Grammar's work has thrived without having a home venue and has transcended generational audiences, the key to staying relevant.  However, overall, a scene does not thrive if it doesn't have the ability to cultivate and grow.  Venues play a role in that cultivation.  I see Levitt as a long term solution to that problem in San José. I am ecstatic to do the hard work ahead to help the dream become a reality.

Welcome, Tommy! 

Local Music Spotlight: Jackie Gage

Levitt San Jose is thrilled to highlight Jackie Gage as our December musical artist.

Bandsintown writes about Jackie, “There's an intimate and hushed feeling present in her live concerts. It's as if she's reading your heart, sharing personal memories of love and loss – at times vulnerable, and equally sweet and sincere. It's an uplifting experience that's not to miss.

Jackie is a San Jose native and speaks fondly of her many performances at SOFA festivals, The Art Boutiki, San Jose Jazz festivals and more. Regarding Levitt San Jose and our mission, Jackie says, “Music can touch people in unexpected ways so the idea of building community through music is inspiring.” 

Jackie's goals for 2021 include recording her new album in January, releasing it with a major label and getting back to live performances. In addition, Levitt San Jose looks forward to showcasing Jackie in our next virtual concert in 2021, giving you a taste of the quality performances to expect from us. Until then, enjoy, "A Secret Place," a vibrant and beautiful piece about San Jose. 
 
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