While no one really needs to tell me that our communities in the Conejo Valley and Malibu are really special, the past several weeks have been a cultural epiphany for me. The commute to Hollywood or downtown L.A. for quality music and theater has always been a point of frustration for us. However, the combined power and quality of New West Symphony, Pacific Festival Ballet, 5-Star Theatricals and the Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts at Pepperdine University makes that drive almost entirely unnecessary. As Al Pacino said in the film, “Donnie Brasco,” ”Fugedd about it!” The driving, that is!

New West Symphony and 5-Star Theatricals blew me away this weekend with the start of their free Summer season ”Pop Up” performances. A Broadway-quality Sondheim review at The Lakes in T.O. had me singing in my car all the way home. The next evening, New West Symphony presented a sunset performance by the remarkable and supremely talented Leah Zeger. She’s a jazz diva and for good measure also a jazz and classical violinist. How’s that for a quality evening at Northwood Park? Oh, and let’s not forget the thrilling Pacific Festival Ballet’s original production of “Camelot” and their upcoming “Wizard of Oz.”

Next up is 5-Star Theatrical’s production of the iconic musical, “West Side Story.” I am writing this July 1, and as the quality of their productions has risen to new heights, I can hardly wait to see their next show. “When you’re a Jet, You’re a Jet all the way!!” And….more? Yes! New West Symphony presented “Titanic LIVE” at Cal Lutheran University. It was a symphony performance of the James Horner score set against a huge outdoor screening of the film. Last and certainly not least, Pepperdine’s Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts hosted the prestigious Parkening International Guitar Competition. The competition was founded in 2006 at Pepperdine by preeminent classical guitarist and Distinguished Professor of Music Christopher Parkening, who wanted to establish a litmus where the best classical guitarists around the world could compete. This takes place in Malibu … not New York or D.C. Right in our own backyard!

Enjoy the rest of your Summer. I hope you bought tickets to “West Side Story.” Better yet, check with all of the arts programs for their Pop Up schedules and more. Look up their 2019-2020 seasons and subscribe. Enrich your lives. Have your children and grandchildren experience something much richer, fulfilling and positive than violent video games on their X-Box.