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The Beckman YOLA Center for Music Education

Free Music Education for kids in Los Angeles got a boost recently with the opening of the Beckman YOLA Center in Inglewood. Designed by Frank Gehry in a building that had a former life as a Bank, the Beckman Center is a state-of-the-art performance and teaching venue.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic has a long history of supporting music education for LA Kids through their wonderful Youth Orchestra Los Angeles Program (YOLA), and for the first time this program will have a permanent home at the Beckman YOLA Center in Inglewood.

Opening ceremonies for the Beckman YOLA Center were held in October, attended by LA Phil Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, Architect Frank Gehry, LA Phil Chief Executive Officer Chad Smith, Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr., and LA Phil trustees Judith and Thomas Beckmen, for whom the Center has been named.

Violin player in the LA Phil's Youth Orchestra Los Angeles at opening of Beckman YOLA Center
a Violin player in the LA Phil’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles at opening of Beckman YOLA Center

Music Education for Los Angeles Kids

The LA Phil’s YOLA program is the brainchild of Gustavo Dudamel, Music & Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and was inspired by Venezuela’s revolutionary El Sistema, which he was a part of when he was a child growing up there.

The LA Phil and its community partners provide free instruments, intensive music training, and academic support to more than 1500 YOLA musicians ages 5 to 18 throughout Southern California. Music study is accompanied by performances as well. In fact, YOLA’s young musicians have been able to perform all over the world, including of course right here at home in two of the LA Phil’s iconic venues: the Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Classroom with 4 cellos at The Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center at Inglewood, photo by Joshua White
Classroom with 4 cellos at The Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center at Inglewood, photo by Joshua White, used with permission

The Beckman YOLA Center in Inglewood

The Los Angeles Philharmonic commissioned architect Frank Gehry to design the permanent home for YOLA in Inglewood, transforming a former Security First National Bank building into a 25,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility that will expand the existing YOLA program to serve up to an additional 500 students annually from the surrounding community.

The design for the Beckmen YOLA Center includes flexible spaces for teaching, rehearsals, and performances. Fun fact: the height and stage of the Edgerton Foundation Performance Hall is equal to the size of Walt Disney Concert Hall. It was created from an ingeniously simple idea Frank Gehry had, to get rid of the floor.

By removing the first floor of the building within the performance space, the architect was able to open up a 2-story concert hall, with amazing acoustics, and the possibilities are huge. With seating for up to 272 people, the performance hall is sure to be the setting of many memorable concerts to come.

The 45-foot-tall ceiling height in the performance space was designed to ensure a large acoustical volume in any of the possible configurations, creating space for rich acoustic envelopment to develop. Famed acoustician Dr. Yasuhisa Toyota, Founder and President of Nagata Acoustics America, designed the performance hall at the Beckman YOLA Center, and also collaborated on Walt Disney Concert Hall.

“To the kids of Inglewood, I say, “LET IT RIP!” This is your building, and I hope you use every inch of it to experiment and to further your creative explorations. It was a joy for me to make, and I hope that it is a joy for you to use,” said Architect Frank Gehry.

a view of the performance space of the Beckman YOLA Center from the stage floor with a xylophone in the foreground
a view of the performance space of the Beckman YOLA Center from the stage floor

Related: Afterschool and Enrichment Classes in Los Angeles

The LA Philharmonic’s Mission to Educate the Youth of Los Angeles

LA Phil Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel said, “We knew that this would be an unparalleled building for a youth orchestra, being designed by Frank Gehry, that would inspire students to embrace and explore their musical talents. To be here and perform with students today, to officially open the doors of the BYC, is what brings the building to life. Being here with our community and seeing how music can transform a physical space into a home, is why I am a passionate supporter of YOLA and helping to develop the next generation of musicians.”

Now the fifth YOLA site, the Beckmen YOLA Center represents a milestone in the evolution of the now 15-year-old Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) program, which serves 1,500 K-12 students. The first class of YOLA at Inglewood began classes in September 2021 and consists of 126 students spanning Grades 1-5, more than 80% of whom reside in Inglewood. The Center also provides the program with its first performance space and is equipped to support a variety of distance learning and professional development opportunities.

Related: 9 Things to do in Inglewood with Kids

Exterior of The Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center at Inglewood, photo by Joshua White
Exterior of The Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center at Inglewood, photo by Joshua White, used with permission

About the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Under the leadership of Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, the LA Phil offers live performances, media initiatives, and learning programs that inspire and strengthen communities in Los Angeles and beyond. The Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra is the foundation of the LA Phil’s offerings, which also include a multi-genre, multidisciplinary presenting program and such youth development programs as YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles). Performances are offered on three historic stages: Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and The Ford Theater, as well as through a variety of media platforms. In all of its endeavors, the LA Phil seeks to enrich the lives of individuals and communities through musical, artistic, and learning experiences that resonate in our world today.

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