Concert soprano soloist, conductor, composer, studio vocalist for film and television, and professional ensemble singer Zanaida Robles opened up the 2nd year anniversary of Chocolate Storytime leading guests in a stirring rendition of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”accompanied by Ms. Betty J. Ford on the piano. Afterwards, she encouraged young people to follow their dreams and spoke of her relationship with Ms. Ford and the importance of having an encouraging mentor.
Robles performs throughout the United States and in Europe, New Zealand and Australia and sings with a growing list of orchestra conductors including Charles Dutoit, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Pierre Boulez, John Mauceri, Leonard Slatkin, Gustavo Dudamel, Jeffrey Kahane and Michael Tilson Thomas. Robles is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions and holds a Doctor of Music Arts degree from the USC Thornton School of Music, a Master of Music degree from CSU Northridge, and a Bachelor of Music degree from CSU Long Beach.
Robles has prepared choirs for performances with such artists as Josh Groban, Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald and Wayne Brady. She conducted the USC Thornton University Chorus for two years and served for five years as Director of Classical Choirs at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), and is currently enjoying her fourth season as the Artistic Director of the San Gabriel Valley Choral Company in Monrovia, CA. She has performed background vocals for various artists including the Rolling Stones, Andrea Bocelli, and Juanes. She has also worked as a singer and pianist on the hit Fox Television series “Glee.” Her film credits include “Tinkerbell: Pirate Fairy,” “Godzilla,” “Minions,” and “Creed.”
Featured storytime readers were all special members of the community. The first reader was Joan Reid, former 36-year librarian veteran of Jefferson Elementary School. She is very active in the Martin Luther King Community Coalition as the project coordinator of the “Day On, Not Off” campus beautification day and the coordinator of the African American memorabilia booth at the annual MLK Celebration event. Ms. Reid read the book, “Happy in Our Skin” by Fran Manushkin and Lauren Tobia. Next was Ms. Lupita Barajas, lead story time reader for Léeme un Cuento, the library’s Spanish language storytime. She read a library favorite, “Pickin’ Peas,” by Margaret Read MacDonald and Pat Cummings, a contemporary twist on the Brer Rabbit folktales. Lydia Breen, artist and community garden advocate, read “The Secret Olivia Told Me,” by N. Joy and Nancy Devard. She also brought in hula hoops for the kids to enjoy.
Entertainment included eight-year old, San Rafael Elementary School student, Alicia Randall, who played “First Minuet in G” by J.S. Bach. Adorable five-year-old, Imani Bowser, sang a sweet rendition of “Jesus Loves Me,” as her mom, Natasha, helped her along. Middle school student and granddaughter of Joan Reid, Sasha Shorter, shared a moving poem about gratitude.
Special thanks goes to Lilia Hernandez, Director of the Armory Center’s Community Programs, who coordinated the styrofoam linocut print making activity headed by artist, Heather Hillard. Kids and adults enjoyed creating art with using brayers, styrofone, paint, and pencils. Ms. Betty J. Ford, Chocolate Storytime program coordinator, organized the entertainment and provided a beautiful array of chocolate and other goodies around the theme of love.