Holly Burke

Students and members of the community alike often take the facilities Cal Poly offers for granted. The Foundation for the Performing Arts Center, San Luis Obispo Symphony and San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival will host a benefit concert on Saturday for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), which was uprooted by Hurricane Katrina.

The Heart n’ Soul Benefit Concert at the Christopher Cohan Center is one of the few venues the LPO has been able to book since the disaster.

“The (LPO musicians) were displaced to 30 different states. Eighteen members had their home destroyed. All were displaced,” said Val Gross, an LPO violist. “Playing opportunities have been helpful. It makes us able to go on with our lives, to a certain extent.”

Though the building the LPO was based out of was flooded, their ninth-floor office remained untouched. However, equipment was still damaged and structural damage forced them to relocate to Baton Rouge. Due to the conditions, the members have had to work countless hours to keep the orchestra running.

After the hurricane, members of the LPO and the staff tried to contact their colleagues. Everyone was affected in some way. Other musicians around the nation were concerned as well.

Randy Brion, the executive director of the Foundation for the Performing Arts, cited a New York Times article that explained how all musicians have two degrees of separation (or less) to musicians affected by the hurricane. The Foundation for the Performing Arts Center, San Luis Obispo Symphony and San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival took action.

Coincidentally, Saturday at the Christopher Cohan Center was not booked, an unusual occurrence for the center.

“We want people in the community to realize how lucky we are to have the Christopher Cohan Center,” Brion said. “There is no better way than to support (an orchestra) without their own.”

The concert will feature a mix of classics, jazz and traditional New Orleans music. It is the LPO’s only West Coast appearance. It will also feature some of San Luis Obispo’s leading musicians.

On March 1, the LPO will return to New Orleans where they will be play at Loyola University New Orleans, Tulane University and at a large local church. The LPO will perform the full spring concert season.

“I have to say, when I left New Orleans I never thought that would happen,” Gross said.

There are now 15 to 20 musicians living in New Orleans full time. Most will return for the season, but some have had to take yearlong contracts with orchestras in other cities.

The concert is Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Christopher Cohan Center. Tickets are available at the Performing Arts Center box office or online at www.pacslo.org.

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