Cafe Zoe

Fourth graders from Willow Oaks School took to the streets on Wednesday, May 29, walking together to Café Zoë where they performed compositions they’d written with members of Quinteto Latino.

Classical musician, Quinteto Latino founder, and Menlo Park resident Armando Castellano has been working with the school children and their music teacher for the past eight weeks.

“Working with the kids, we build a project together,” he explained. “The kids write a piece of music that they will perform with one of the members of the quintet. My goal is for the outcome to reflect the students’ identities and their ideas.”

Armando’s work with students is arranged through Stanford Live. “My focus is on public schools in the Ravenswood School District,” he said. “I augment the curriculum and work with the music teachers. In the case of Willow Oaks, it happens to be just around the corner form my house!”

Quinteto Latino’s five musicians — Diane Grubbe (flute), Kyle Bruckmann (oboe – pictured above with kids), Leslie Targoda (clarinet – substituting today was Rafael Maldonado), Shawn Jones (bassoon) and Armando (pictured below) on French Horn — also performed today.

“The quintet works on three different levels — performance, advocacy and education,” Armando explained.  “We do concerts and tour and individually we perfume with other chamber ensembles all over the world.

“My work with Willow Oaks is an example of the educating we do. We work hard to find and mentor people of color.

“Finally, we advocate for Latino composers. The Quintet only performs music by Latin composers. We see issues of diversity in classical music that we seek to over come.”

Wednesday’s concert came about “because Armando is a great friend and supporter of the Cafe,” according to Zoë Sharkey, the Café’s namesake and daughter of owner Kathleen Daly. “I’m hoping this becomes a yearly event,” she added.

Armando offered a number of reflections about the day, among them: “[The kids] wrote music about themselves, performed by themselves and with a professional musician. They got to hang out at a coffee shop with their friends, and they felt welcomed and honored after working hard. They learned that professional classical musicians can be diverse, and have names like them, and look like them, and perform with them, super powerful!”

Photos by Robb Most (c) 2019

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