A free community celebration in honor of local music educator and musical theatre producer Lile O. Cruse will take place at the Rio Theatre 1205 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz on Sunday, October 28 at 6 p.m.
The beloved local music man, who passed away in August, was an outstanding visionary, not only as a music director and founder of Cabrillo Stage in 1981, but also as the founder of the jazz program at Cabrillo College. Lile Cruse was a legend — to his students, his colleagues, and all who worked with him. His influence over the decades has been substantial — changing the lives of countless performers and musicians and setting them on their career paths.
“Maestro — A Musical Celebration in Honor of Lile O. Cruse” produced in association with Michele Rivard will be a 90-minute musical celebration hosted by Broadway veteran Janie Scott, and feature performers both local and from around the country, including Natalie Ballenger (star of the national touring company of West Side Story), Chelsea Morgan Stock (star of the Broadway musical The Little Mermaid), Aimee Puentes (of the SF Opera), well known jazz scat singer Janie Finwall Roberts, and such favorite locals as Cabrillo’s Kathryn Adkins, Andrew Ceglio, Tony Panighetti, and many more. Musicians Michael McGushin and Daniel Goldsmith and his trio will also perform.
The performance will be followed by time to share fond memories and enjoy refreshments until 9:30 p.m. The all-ages event is free thanks to Cruse’s widow, music educator Michele Rivard, to bring Lile’s friends, family, and the arts community together to celebrate his life and work.
Lile was hired at Cabrillo College in 1970 as Director of Bands and soon became chair of the Performing Arts division. He started the now renowned Jazz Program at the college and hired Ray Brown. He taught a list of jazz luminaries such as Donny McCaslin (saxophonist and David Bowie’s band leader and collaborator on his multi-Grammy winning album Black Star) and Tim Jackson (owner of Kuumbwa Jazz Center), trumpeters Bill Theurer and Rebecca Coupe Franks, and Paul Contos, saxophonist and educator at the Monterey Jazz Festival, to name just a few.
Lile loved musical theatre, and in 1981 he created Cabrillo Stage — a professional musical theatre company, taking residency at the college. With his outstanding leadership and vision for Broadway-caliber productions, Cabrillo Stage became one of the top annual performance events in the county — and a stepping stone for many performers who went on to find Broadway success. Audiences loved seeing Lile’s full-pit orchestra with each production, which performed both classic and contemporary musicals.
Although Lile retired from the college and Cabrillo Stage in 2003, he returned several times to guest conduct the pit orchestra. Lile left his mark on many performers, who felt he was a father figure (they called him Pappy among many other nicknames) and credited him for changing their lives — mostly because he believed in giving people a chance (and venue) to spread their wings and fly. Friends and colleagues recall his generosity, humor, creative drive, and the magical twinkle in his eye.
For more information or to volunteer, see the Facebook event, ‘Maestro – A Musical Celebration Honoring Lile O. Cruse’ (facebook.com/events/2160857057479375) or contact Jana Marcus at firstname.lastname@example.org