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Central Los Angeles : Musical Institute Reaches to New Level

August 19, 1995

On the heels of a community block party, the venerable Institute of Musical Arts in the Crenshaw district is ready to take its act to another level.

The institute, a sprawling complex at 54th Street and 10th Avenue, was built with the same name in 1922 as a music hall in an area then known as Chesterfield Square. It was turned into a recording studio in the 1960s, fell into disuse in the '70s and was reclaimed four years ago by local musician and recording engineer Randy Woodard.

Under Woodard, the institute has become a multifaceted training center for those interested in learning all aspects of the music business, from performance to production to marketing.

"We're looking to get black people out of the $5-a-gig music mentality," said Woodard, who has sunk tens of thousands of dollars into restoring the institute and outfitting it with state-of-the-art equipment.

"We have a very rich history in music as performers, but that's about it," he said. "Historically, we haven't controlled the business sides, which is why we haven't controlled our own product."

To keep the history of black music alive, Woodard founded the nonprofit Foundation for the Preservation of Endangered Musical Arts, which curates the documents, recordings and many other black music artifacts Woodard discovered in the building.

The endeavor is in the spirit of bringing together the diverse elements that make up the music and fine arts industry, Woodard says. While African Americans have traditionally taken center stage as musicians and performers, Woodard notes that they rarely get involved with studio production and technology.

Woodard says he already has a similar musical institute under construction on York Street in Kingston, Jamaica.

"It's in the heart of the ghetto," he says enthusiastically. "Right where it should be."

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