The LA Phil unveils plans for Frank Gehry-designed youth orchestra center

By Christina Campodonico

Frank Gehry, Gustavo Dudamel, Inglewood Mayor James Butts and LA Phil CEO Simon Woods discuss the future Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center @ Inglewood Photo by Craig T. Mathew / Courtesy of the LA Phil

The Los Angeles Philharmonic is putting down roots in Inglewood.

Last Wednesday, the symphony orchestra (celebrating its centennial this year) unveiled plans for the Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center @ Inglewood, a 25,000-square-foot youth orchestra training and performance facility at 101 S. La Brea Ave., a mile east of where Manchester Boulevard crosses the 405.

The $14.5-million construction project, expected to break ground next spring, will transform a former Security Pacific Bank into a state-of-the-art concert hall (with acoustic design by Disney Hall acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota), practice studio and choir room for YOLA, the LA Phil’s flagship youth orchestra program. The initiative provides free instruments, intensive musical training and academic support to over 1,200 children from underserved communities across L.A.

“It’s a historic day for the LA Phil,” said CEO Simon Woods during Wednesday’s press conference and unveiling, held adjacent to YOLA’s future home. “It’s a day when we plant the seed for a big, beautiful tree that will grow leaves and fruit and provide an enormous amount of inspiration for many years to come.”

The man behind 101 S. La Brea’s forthcoming transformation, architect Frank Gehry, and YOLA’s champion, LA Phil Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, shared their visions for the future of the center, as did Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts.

“The minute a child is taught to play an instrument he or she is no longer poor,” said Dudamel, himself a product of Venezuela’s El Sistema music education program. “This center will give us the ability to touch thousands more lives. … It is a metaphor that says beauty matters. It will function as a building, but it will also act as a catalyst in transforming our children.”

Butts expressed his excitement at the establishment of a new cultural focal point in Inglewood’s Civic Center.

“It’s next to what will be our version of Old Town Pasadena: Market Street, which used to be our main business district. It’s within less than a mile of the sports and entertainment district, and it’s easily accessible by four freeways,” Butts told The Argonaut. “It’s just ready for primetime. … This will definitely be a big step towards revitalization of what used to be downtown Inglewood.”

But “it’s not about gentrification,” said Gehry, whose firm is located just south of Playa Vista in Del Rey, “it’s about inclusivity.”

He later told The Argonaut that his main goal for the center is to inspire young musicians through architecture: “I really wanted to make sure the room acoustics would take a full orchestra … so they would feel the reality of playing a real concert.”

The center has the capacity to serve as many as 500 kids from Inglewood and surrounding neighborhoods, according to the LA Phil. Butts hopes to have at least 300 directly from Inglewood.

“This is more significant than the reopening of The Forum, the migration of the NFL [teams] to Inglewood, the potentiality of an NBA team playing here. It’s far more significant because this speaks to the cultural enrichment and development of our children,” he said.