For 23 years the Central Coast Sax Quartet has been an essential piece of the Gilroy Garlic Festival experience. Each year, without fail, they stroll through the festival grounds, delighting visitors and providing local flavor to the festival’s music scene. This year, the Garlic Festival is looking to end its nearly quarter century history with the group by “going in a new direction” for their musical lineup.
Community members have been driven to social media to express their distaste. “There are some traditions you don’t mess with. It hurts the integrity of what the festival is meant to be.“ stated Ryan Romero, former Chair of Entertainment for the Garlic Festival. Many more expressed that this decision alone would lead them to forgo the festival altogether this year.
Each member of the quartet is deeply ingrained in the community as well as the history of the Garlic Festival itself. Creighton Yip, on alto sax, is a retired band director who is a 39 year veteran of the Gilroy Unified School District. Les Pierce, on tenor sax, and Steve Chambers, on Baritone sax, have years of experience teaching private music lessons in Gilroy that have bolstered the talents of many of Gilroy’s aspiring young musicians over the years. Ray Berndt, on soprano sax, has made many positive contributions to youth music programs in the area. The quartet itself has provided entertainment at the festival as long as even some of the most seasoned Garlic Festival attendees and volunteers can recall.
The Gilroy Garlic Festival’s stated mission is to “support the community projects, charitable groups and
service organizations of Gilroy”. It’s deviation from this mission has never been so clear. While growth and change is inevitable, moving away from groups that have supported the community so greatly is against everything the festival should stand for. On a personal note, I cannot imagine going to the festival without hearing the amazing sound of this saxophone quartet, the members of which have shaped my knowledge and lifelong love for music.
Please contact the Deanna Franklin, the 2015 Garlic Festival President, directly at [email protected] to express your thoughts on this decision.