Between the annual Yakima and Sunnyside Cinco de Mayo festivals and the Yakima Valley Community College Latin Music Celebration, there will be music and merriment all over the Yakima Valley this weekend.
That’s fitting, said Noe Gutierrez, president of the Yakima-Morelia Sister City Association, one of the prime sponsors and organizers of the five-day YVCC celebration that started Wednesday. Music is a fantastic way to bridge cultural divides.
“It transcends many things,” he said. “Emotions, feeling, excitement — people might not understand the language, but they feel the music. And once they feel the music, they can’t help but move their feet. And then they can shake hands and realize we’re not that different from one another.”
That sort of cultural exchange is the main mission of the Sister City Association. That’s why it has helped foster musical exchanges between Yakima and Morelia for years.
“That’s the whole idea of the sister city,” said David Blink, YVCC’s director of instrumental music and jazz studies.
Blink has visited Morelia several times over the past few years and has coordinated the Latin Music Celebration for the past eight years. In March, he led a delegation of music students from YVCC and Central Washington University that participated in musical outreach at Mexican schools and played public shows.
He also formed the Yakima-Morelia Jazz All Stars, which performed at Morelia’s Jazztival 2014 and which will reform for performances in Yakima over the next few days, including one at the Yakima Cinco de Mayo Fiesta.
“It is a great fusion of the two cultures,” Gutierrez said.
For the time being, the lineup is Blink on trumpet and handpan, Juan Alzate on saxophone, Flavio Meneses Torres on guitar, John Sanders on piano and accordion, Jeff Norwood on bass, Memo Acevedo on drums and Roberto Vizcaino on percussion. But Blink sees the All Stars as one of those jazz outfits that will feature different members over the years under the same band name. They’ll record a CD during this Yakima visit to document the founding lineup, he said.
“I see this group continuing on with different members in future years,” Blink said. “I could also see them going off to other festivals and performing.”
The All Stars, though, are not by any means the only musicians taking part in the Latin Music Celebration. There’s also James and Yesenia Hunter of Yakima, Seattle-based Latin jazz vocalist Carlos Cascante, cambalache musician Cesar Castro, the University of Washington Steel Drum Ensemble and many more. They’ll all be performing publicly and hosting educational workshops from now until Monday.
“We’re impacting the community,” Blink said. “It’s not just the public performances. We’re getting around everywere — Sunnyside, Toppenish, CWU, Yakima.”
It all culminates with a free Grand Finale concert at The Capitol Theatre at 7 p.m. Monday. That show, like all of the Latin Music Celebration performances and workshops, will be about music. But it will also be about more than that; it will be about shared humanity, Blink said.
“We want to make a difference with what we’re doing,” he said.