The soundtrack to North Hollywood's new emergence as a cultural center continues tonight as The Academy hosts the chamber music of the Sterling Consort, in the latest concert of the "Music Under the Stars" series.
The four-event series, which will conclude Oct. 9 with Saturday Night Bath, emerged during the summer months after local organizers sought a convenient venue for a free series of concerts. And The Academy's wide central plaza, with its lights, large fountain and statues of Jack Benny, Lucille Ball and Johnny Carson, had just seemed perfect for the nighttime performances, said Joan DeBruin, acting director of the Lankershim Arts Center, which books the talent.
"It was incredible," DeBruin said of the free concert series' first performance by the Norm Johnson Jazz Quartet on Aug. 28. "The night was balmy and it was as though you were in Hawaii. There were older couples that were dancing to the music. We had over 200 people, which was incredible for a first-evening event. We expect the numbers to climb each evening we do this."
DeBruin had already been talking with residents about creating a free concert series in the area when Carmen Kane, of the Community Redevelopment Agency, and Jim Mahfet, director of the Universal City-North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, suggested approaching The Academy.
Completed in mid-1991, The Academy business and entertainment center is at the corner of Lankershim Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue, and is home to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and several other tenants.
It had been during a trade show last year at the new center when Mahfet envisioned other possibilities for the Hall of Fame Plaza. "At night when the sun goes down and you're hearing the music and the lights are coming up and the fountain is on you go: 'God this is nice.' It's really a pleasant atmosphere," Mahfet said.
So far, DeBruin said, audiences have ranged in age from young couples to seniors.
The organizers were primarily interested in bringing instrumental groups to the venue, though striving for "a kind of potpourri," DeBruin said. The series' second performance, on Sept. 11, was by the Latin jazz act the Llanes. The series finale is a jazz quartet, Saturday Night Bath, that features musicians Howie Rich and Abe Most.
"We basically selected the best groups we could find in order to open the series," DeBruin added. "The Chamber of Commerce has expressed hopes that we will continue to work on this series in the future, as an annual event."
"But this is just a start," Mahfet insisted. "Without a doubt we will be doing more."
To that end, the chamber has established a committee to oversee the creation of other entertainment programs for the area, including more musical events at The Academy. "Our imaginations are big enough," Mahfet said, "and I can assure you we will have some things next year."
DeBruin suggested that the "Under the Stars" series, and other musical events like it, will only add to the growing emergence of North Hollywood as a regular center for entertainment. "There are so many new arts venues opening up in that area that you can go to after a performance at The Academy," she said. "People are being drawn into the area, and it's getting to be more like Old Pasadena. It's very exciting, as I think it is to the people who live in the area."
Where and When
What: "Music Under the Stars" concert series.
Location: The Academy, North Hollywood Business and Entertainment Center, Hall of Fame Plaza, 5200 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.
Hours: From 7-9 p.m. tonight, the Sterling Consort; on Oct. 9, Saturday Night Bath.
Call: (818) 508-5155 or (818) 352-5285.