End of Musical Era
From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 26
By Kirt Ramirez
For the first time in 31 years, Long Beach City College did not have its annual holiday concert in December, leaving many members of the community disappointed.
The cancellation of the Christmas tradition is yet another aspect of the continued fallout from LBCC’s dropping of 11 vocational programs, approved almost a year ago by the college’s Board of Trustees.
“It’s very sad and unnecessary in my opinion,” said professional singer Kris Shelton, 55. “It was the best vocal jazz program in the area.”
LBCC’s festive concert was eliminated, as it connected to the Commercial Music’s eradicated Audio Production and Music Production programs.
“It is confusing and disturbing,” she said. “And I still don’t understand what was behind it. I never got a satisfactory explanation.”
Dorothy Allen, 80, sang in the concert for years and expressed sadness that the merry custom is no more.
“So many people were just shocked,” she said. “It was a lot of years of a lot of fun.”
Veteran instructor Tom Dustman directed the show in which students from his various classes performed. December 2012 was the last time the holiday concert would happen.
In past years, the fall semester would wrap up with stage performances and the public would show up. A packed audience of residents, seniors, students and the like would fill the Greek-style auditorium.
The recital’s first half would feature standards and popular music. Then after an intermission, Dustman and the singing group would return in holiday attire and sing Christmas songs to the joyful multitudes.
At the end, performers would march offstage into the audience to the beat of a Hanukkah song or two. The clapping crowd created a party-like atmosphere.
Those celebrations are now history.
Dustman, who came to LBCC in 1982 after teaching at Bellflower High School, recalled the holiday concert:
“This was the first December in 31 years there was not a Jazz/Pop Vocal Holiday Concert at Long Beach City College. It was a wonderful tradition and over the years it became very popular. It was one of my favorite times of the year.
“Those of us who participated were lucky. Because we started singing Christmas songs in September, we had a long holiday season! Those were great times.
“One of the things that stand out in my memory was how warm and friendly the lobby felt. I know that’s weird, but that’s where the audience and the performers would mingle and visit both before and after the concerts.
“I always saw so many former students then. It was a wonderful homecoming of sorts. Of course the concert was special too; I mean after all, that’s why everybody was there, for the music. It was such a pleasure performing all those songs for appreciative audiences.
“Then, at the very end of the concert, all of the groups who performed that night went down into the auditorium isles and surrounded the audience singing a medley of holiday favorites. It was always an emotionally magical moment. I miss that.”
Dustman, who began his LBCC career directing the chamber orchestra and several beginning choirs, went on to start the popular Evening Jazz Choir and Studio Singers group.
He also taught The History of Rock and Roll, Professional Solo Voice, Record Production and Studio Performance classes over the years.
A top-notch professional, very kind, yet stern, Dustman helped train countless numbers of students for show business in this, the entertainment capital of the world.
However, when LBCC’s Board of Trustees voted last January to eliminate 11 programs, Dustman’s classes were included. After his courses were dissolved, Dustman decided to retire.
Other Commercial Music veterans, who, like Dustman, could have been reassigned to something else after having their classes canceled, chose to retire too, including Tim Parsch, who specialized in sound recording.
“My job was dissolved,” Parsch said, who worked at LBCC for 36 years.
“They’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment and they just canceled all the classes that used the facilities,” he said. “All the equipment from the recording program is sitting idle.”
Parsch said there are seven recording studios and hundreds of pieces of equipment that are not being used. “It’s a shame.”
Maurice Love, who taught commercial music theory, commercial keyboard and other music technology classes, retired this month after sticking around for a semester after his classes were canceled in May, and teaching a class he had never taught before.
“It’s sad. I’m not angry. It is what it is,” Love said, who worked at LBCC for 32 years. “I’m saddened by it. What we taught there was of viable use to the students and community, especially in the Los Angeles area.”
Veteran commercial music instructor and jazz director Wayne Brashear also retired due to program discontinuance, even though he also could have stayed on in a different capacity.
Instructor Nancy Allen, who taught recording classes and arrived in the late 1970s, is the only commercial music veteran left and has accepted a new job in the TV/Radio department.
The only full-time commercial music faculty member to be directly laid off was Charles Gutierrez. The others left indirectly.
In addition, four part-time faculty members were laid off, according to a college spokesman.
Two classified lab technicians were let go as well.
Veteran instructor George Shaw retired just before the programs were eliminated.
“I knew it was going to be canceled. I decided to retire because I was at that point in my career. I felt the wind change,” he said.
“Thirty-five years ago is when I came to LBCC and started that (commercial music) program – that was the start of it. I don’t think there’s anything else left now,” he added about the world-famous recording curriculum, which offered program certificates. “For the most part, it’s done.”