Mark McDermott

Arts campus launches on Aviation

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by Mark McDermott

Students Brandon Brushwyler, Maxine Finster, Ford Finster and Grace Abbott with piano teacher Emily Baum. Photos by Mark McDermott

At any given moment within a sprawling collection of buildings along Aviation Boulevard, art is happening.

A toddler, only months old, shakes a maraca, finding his first groove, at Music Rhapsody. Downstairs at Emily’s Piano Studio, a six-year old pianist learns scales or perhaps performs a happy show tune in a group lesson. Next door at Hollywood Jumpstart, an aspiring ten-year-old actor and model has a professional headshot taken in preparation for his first audition with an agent. At the far end of the building, a dozen dancers are learning steps the Willie Wonka ballet at the Pacific Dance Center.

Welcome to the Redondo Performing Arts Campus, the newly formed partnership of four businesses within the Redondo Plaza, which has made the 1600 block of Aviation an emerging artistic hub for kids.

“Acting, modeling, piano, dance, rhythm – they all complement one another,” said Emily Baum, the owner Emily’s Piano Studio. “It makes sense we are all here together.”

The campus launches this weekend with an open house Saturday from noon to 3 p.m.

Baum, who is known simply as Miss Emily by students and parents alike, is the newest arrival. Her move from Pier Plaza in Hermosa to the Redondo Plaza in February helped spark the joining of artistic and entrepreneurial forces that became the Redondo Performing Arts Campus. All four businesses help fill the growing void created by cuts to arts education in public schools.

“I’m with like-minded entrepreneurs and in a better space for the children,” said Miss Emily. “The camaraderie is great. It’s sunny and it feels warm and everyone is happy. It’s like a whole new chapter, a whole new group of cuties.”

Like-minded entrepreneurs Linden McPherson, Lynn Kleiner, Emily Baum, and Jill De Forest are hosting an open house at the Redondo Performing Arts Campus this Saturday afternoon.

Her next door neighbor, Jill De Forest of Hollywood Jumpstart, relocated last year from Raleigh Studios. She has three children who were all childhood actors. Ss she found herself traversing everywhere from Hollywood to Orange County for photos, lessons, workshops, agents, and auditions, she had a better idea.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there were a one stop location for parents to get all these things done at one time?’” recalled De Forest, who began her business in 2006. “That was my vision for Jumpstart.”

Linden McPherson, a former professional dancer who owns the Pacific Dance Center, arrived nine years ago. Her dancing students range from small children to adults and form the Pacific Dance Company for performances at Redondo Union High School twice a year.

“I am really lucky,” she said. “I love what I do. I am truly blessed.”

McPherson said the plaza offers a unique combination of space and location.

“It’s sort of the center, the heart, of the South Bay,” she said. “Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo, it’s all right here. Plus, it’s not easy to find a big enough space for what we do.”

Music Rhapsody is the longest tenured business at the campus. Owner Lynn Kleiner has been teaching a unique brand of music education called the Orff approach for 27 years and has been at the plaza 13 years. Orff is based on the natural inclinations of all children for music and creativity. Kleiner’s books, instruments, and CDs are well-known and highly regarded internationally (her music kits have won the prized Oppenheim Award) and she has become a teacher of other teachers.

A joyously musical world comes to life for parents and kids at Musical Rhapsody.

“You can sing before you talk,” she said. “You can dance before you walk. The babies show us every day.”

Parent Wendy Finster brings her daughter Maxine to the Arts Campus for dance lessons and son Ford for piano lessons. The Finster family car is filled with hurrahs every time they pull into the plaza parking lot.

“They are always excited to come here and have fun,” Finster said. “That means so much to me, as a parent….And  I just think music and dance appreciation are two of the most important gifts you can give your children.”

The Redondo Performing Arts Campus is located at 1603 Aviation Blvd. ER

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