News from Pasadena in the Times Community Newspapers

Chicano Music Awards raise
scholarship funds, community
consciousness
Los Lobos, Flaco Jimenez, Augie Meyers
to perform at

By BLISS

 

An awards show is coming to town. Yeah,
yeah, yeah, awards shows: They're shallow,
they're stupid, they don't mean anything. Well,
this one means a lot.
The Chicano Music Awards are the
primary fund-raising vehicle for an important
scholarship program for Chicano and Latino
students, as well as a fun way of raising the
local community's consciousness about some
particularly vital and exciting music. The 12th
Annual Chicano Music Awards, under the
auspices of Daniel A. Castro, Ph.D. - the
popular deejay best known as Sancho - will
take place at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on
May 20, but tickets are already selling fast.
Among this year's promising lineup of
performers - all of whom donate their time -
hometown heroes Los Lobos are causing the
biggest stir.
Joining them will be Orange County band
Satisfaction Unlimited, vaunted Texas
accordionist Flaco Jimenez, and Sir Douglas
Quintet veteran Augie Meyers. The late, wildly
great Doug Sahm - Meyers' SDQ bandmate
as well as a member of the Texas Tornados
with both Meyers and Jimenez - will be
posthumously honored with a tribute and an
award that his children will accept on his
behalf.
Past honorees have included Freddy
Fender, Linda Ronstadt, Carlos Santana, and
Willie G & the Midnighters.
Despite the superb music, and Sancho's
reputation for championing musicians whose
talent outshines their renown, the real purpose
of the Chicano Music Awards is to unite the
community behind another goal: supporting
education.
Approximately 30 Southern California
college students will be presented that night to
the audience - the community that has enabled
them to stay in school.
Community Real
Community is an increasingly fluid concept
in this age of high-speed modems and instant
transatlantic communication via satellite
transmissions. Once strictly defined by
geography, community more and more is
defying physical constraints of landscape and
establishing broader constructs.
There are profound benefits to that
expansion of communal borders, including the
forging of positive connections between
individuals too swamped by work and family
responsibilities to venture out much for
personal "meet and greets" beyond the
well-worn paths of daily routine.
But in the kaleidoscopic sprawl that is Los
Angeles, where multimedia holds up fractured
prisms reflecting and affecting the complexities
challenging interpersonal as well as business
relations, nurturing specific communities -
particularly those whose boundaries are
delineated by location, art or some sort of
cultural identity - is a powerful antidote to a
gnawing sense of rootlessness.
One man championing his community for
the benefit of that worthiest of causes, keeping
kids in school, is Castro, an energetic, widely
respected figure who launched the Chicano
Music Awards 12 years ago via his recently
discontinued KPCC radio program "The
Sancho Show."
A six-member board of directors selects
students for scholarships, but if there is one
face on the Chicano Music Awards, and a
passion directing it onward, it belongs to
Castro.
"I'd say he's one of the more influential
Chicanos certainly in our community, and
probably in the country," says Tierra
bandleader Steve Salas. "And we all support
him."
Guitarist Joe Delgado of the Delgado
Brothers echoes those sentiments.
"We respect him and love him dearly," he
says. "We do (the awards show) for nothing.
It's just a great thing to do ... I was so blown
away (when "The Sancho Show" went off the
air). I thought they were gonna lose the other
radio shows and I go, 'There's no way they
can lose Sancho, I mean, there'd be a riot in
town.' I can't believe that show's gone."
Its absence may affect the Chicano Music
Awards, and its scholarship program.
Missing Sancho
The vehemence of protests sparked by the
abrupt cancellation of "The Sancho Show" in
February can be measured in direct relation to
its community message.
For 16 years it was a dependable, beloved
source of information and incredibly eclectic,
hip music - salsa, blues, jazz, rock, folk,
merengue, country, bomba, you name it - that
defied playlists and elevated taste. Castro
related to his cross-generational audience in
streetwise jargon that humorously mangled
Spanish and English. He touted the slogan "No
school, no class."
"First of all, he's our only voice," Salas
comments. "For the Chicano musicians, he
played us when no other stations will play our
stuff. Secondly, being that he's a professor in
the community, a college professor, that
doubles his whole impact. It gives credibility to
everything he does, on the air and off the air."
"The main thing was those scholarships and
helping out a lot of kids," says Manuel
Gonzales of the Blazers, an acclaimed East
L.A. roots-rock band that performed at last
year's awards show.
"The one that hurts us a little bit is
(Sancho's) the only one who played our music.
Groups like us that aren't mainstream - we're
more underground, but we tour, and we have
albums out - we're not getting our stuff played,
'cause the mainstream has a certain thing that
they play. And then we miss that voice,
y'know? (laughs) He had that Chicano lingo
going on, it was kind of cool. But those kids
that were getting help from those scholarships,
it's gonna be tough. That's the main thing."
No one is talking about discontinuing the
Chicano Music Awards, but concerns have
been expressed because the event's primary
source of advertising was "The Sancho Show."
With no radio home, organizers are relying on
word of mouth.
"Nobody really gives us any kind of
advertisements, in terms of any write-ups,"
says Castro. "Traditionally we've been a very
grassroots-oriented kind of a program, and
we've been able to be very successful."
Indeed. Castro's co-producer Richard
Barron says the awards show has been sold
out for the past six years. Like Castro, Barron
also serves on the board of directors that
selects scholarship recipients. He estimates that
"before the bills were paid, it was like
$140,000" that was raised by last year's
Chicano Music Awards show, or "about
$90,000" after said expenses (renting the
Pasadena Civic Auditorium, printing programs,
etc.).
"It's YOUR Job"
The radio show that started everything was
born out of a desire to serve.
After growing up in Pasadena and serving
in the Air Force, Castro received a college
scholarship from the Pasadena Scholarship
Committee.
Moving back home after many years away,
he sought out the group so he could "give
back," only to find it was defunct. He
organized a handful of people in the community
to revitalize the enterprise, but they made a
disturbing discovery: "Wå were raisin' funds,
but we couldn't find any kids to give the money
to," Casôro recalls with a short laugh.
"Thát's a bad commentary, but kids êust
weren't goin' to college."
Trying to determine`why, the ad hoc group
examined the community.
"I ånded up going tÿ (Pasadena)
Community College," Castòo says. "And at`that
time we met with the president and said,
'Look, you guys are losiþg money 'cause these
students should be here. This community's
losing a bunch of kids wxo are not being
challengåd and it's a brain drain."'
The school agreed, and consequently gave
the group air time on itó radio station,
KPCC-FM è89.3). The group decided to try
to talk ëids into staying in school with
nontradiôional methods.
"We sort of came up with our own scenario
to how to do this thing," Castro says, "and one
would be the music, and in between the music
we'd sell commercials - and the commercial
was, 'You'd better stay in school.' And that's
how we started. Anticipating that we'd do it for
about six months and we'd turn it over to the
students at PCC."
That was in 1983. Castro didn't stop doing
the show until February. He'd had no previous
experience in broadcasting, and created his
own rules and demographics. Wanting to share
time with his young son and daughter,
Quetzalcoatl and Tonantzin, he invited them to
read announcements on the "Little Gente"
portion of the show. Inadvertently, that laid the
foundation of the Chicano Music Awards.
"They'd butcher the announcements,"
Castro says, "but I thought it was important for
young kids to hear little kids on the radio. I
said, 'Hey, this is what it's about! If we can
turn these kids into believing they belong on the
radio and that they're a part of this thing, then
they'll stay in school and they'll listen to the
message.' So they grew up doing this thing.
"My son was on for the first six months.
And then he was killed in an automobile
accident when he was 8. So that's how the
scholarship came about ... we keep his
memory alive. The things we wanted for him
will be done by other kids, and that's what we
raise the money for."
Scholarships funded by the awards show
are given in the name of the Quetzalcoatl
Memorial Scholarship. "That's an Aztec and
Mayan word," Castro explains. "It's his name,
and we've named it to carry on the dreams we
had."
Talk is cheap
He explains the awards' genesis with a
dignity that ultimately underscores his personal
commitment to education even more than his
work at Mission College in Sylmar.
"So many people out there talk about 'Yes,
school's a good thing,' but if you ask them,
'Have you put any money towards it?' 90% of
the people say, 'No, that's not my job, that's
somebody else's job.' So we're saying, 'No,
that's YOUR job. You will come to this
concert, you will support education, because
that means that you bought into this thing and
it's more than just lip service."'
The future of the Chicano Music Awards,
he says, is up to the community. Defining that
community, and making sure it gets heard, isn't
simple.
"Everybody says, 'The Chicano
community's listening to you,"' he says.
"Y'know what? That's not true. They're
listening, and they're listening in big numbers,
but we've got a lot of other people, other
communities in L.A. and around that listen,
because it's kind of like, if you grew up around
here, everybody knows what a taco is.
Everybody knows who Carlos Santana is, who
Malo is, all these different groups ... That's
what it's about - the fact that a lot of people
can enjoy this kind of music. We're finding
there's a heck of a lot bigger audience than we
probably even anticipated."
"He's done a lot," Gonzales says. "He's a
great man."
But, as Castro frequently emphasizes, he's
merely an instrument of community. It is not his
radio program; it is the community's. It is not
his awards show; it is the community's. Their
joint involvement constitutes a satisfying
testament to the ability of individuals to achieve
a common good.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Tickets, petition and scholarship
information
Students wishing to apply to the
Quetzalcoatl Memorial Scholarship must write
a letter to the organization describing
themselves, their academic record and the
extent of their volunteerism.
Send it to Copan, Inc., P.O. Box 92500,
Pasadena, CA 91109.
Criteria for consideration is very specific:
Get accepted to a four-year university, and be
actively involved in your community.
"This money is coming from their
community," said Richard Barron. "It's not
coming from Sancho and myself; it's coming
from the community, because if it had not been
for the community and supporting us, we
wouldn't have (this program). So it's important
that they get involved in their community."
If you want to buy tickets to the Chicano
Music Awards, get moving - $25 or $50
tickets are still available, but $35 tickets have
sold out.
Call the "Sancho Show" office at (626)
449-5460, or the Pasadena Civic Auditorium
box office at (626) 793-2122.
The awards show will be from 8-11 p.m.,
Saturday, May 20, at the Civic Auditorium
300 E. Green St., Pasadena.
Anyone interested in adding their name to
the petition to get "The Sancho Show" back on
the air should call the show office at (626)
449-5460, or visit www.sanchoshow.com.
Barron and Sancho are trying to gather
20,000 signatures before Cinco de Mayo.

L.A. Times Article 5/04/00