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Music educator says center is for everyone

Nothing makes Alejandro Sabre angrier than when someone calls the Gallo Center for the Arts a "playground for the rich."

Sabre, a pianist who is on the center's board, said he and his colleagues are working hard to make sure everyone has access to the new downtown Modesto venue opening in September.

"It's not a for-profit entity," he said. "It is here to serve you."

The director of Modesto Junior College's piano and music-theory programs, Sabre spearheaded the center's Latino Arts Initiative, which is working to build Latino audiences and assisting with the center's arts education program.

He got involved with the center because he wants to expose more people to the arts.

"Part of it was representing my people," said the 40-year-old Mexico City native. "I thought they needed a stronger voice. I know the power of the arts."

The child of pianists, Sabre grew up surrounded by music and constantly was taken to concerts. His grandfather was bolero composer José Sabre Marroquin, who wrote the Spanish-language hit "Nocturnal" and other popular songs in the 1930s and 1940s.

Sabre moved to the United States at 22 to further his education. He earned a master's degree in music from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and a doctoral degree from the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music in New York.

He landed in Modesto in 1998 and helped organize a fundraiser concert for the arts center a few years later. That led to an invitation to join the board.

"It was an honor to be invited," he said.

Through the Latino Arts Initiative, he wants to set up a fourto five-person Latino advisory panel that would report to the main arts center board. The group would serve as a sounding board about programming and as a liaison with the Latino community. Sabre especially wants to recruit someone from the Crows Landing neighborhood, where many Latinos live.

"We want people who are really involved with the community, who are interested in the cause," he said.

Explained his plans

Last month, Sabre explained his plans to about 300 Latino leaders who toured the center and attended a reception at the Mistlin Gallery. Working in cooperation with the Hispanic Leadership Council and El Concilio, he urged people to get involved so they can share their culture with the community.

Sabre worked hard to make sure the center got a diverse lineup of Latino artists. While he loves mariachi, he didn't want that to be the only musical genre represented. Latino classical musicians and orchestras will be part of the center's schedule, which will be announced this month.

He is excited that the arts education program will include special performances for schoolchildren and public lectures for all.

Sabre said the biggest misconception about the center is that people don't understand why it continues to solicit donations and why the Gallos don't just pay for it all. First of all, he said, the center has nothing to do with E.&J. Gallo Winery — it is a separate nonprofit organization. Secondly, the Gallo family has contributed significantly, giving $10 million for an endowment, the single largest donation.

"This is something they wanted to do from the kindness of their hearts," he said.

The Gallo Center for the Arts, at 10th and I streets in Modesto, will hold its grand opening Sept. 27. The center has two theaters: the 1,251-seat Mary Stuart Rogers Theater and the 444-seat Foster Family Theater. To learn more, see or call 338-2100.