San Pedro Music Festival Returns

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Windy Barnes Farrell, an international performing artist who is based in San Pedro, poses upstairs at the Warner Grand Theatre. Photo by Arturo Garcia Ayala

Festival Highlights a Soulful Tribute to Stevie Wonder

The San Pedro Music Festival always honors musicians, Windy Barnes Farrell noted, because they are the key to the state of people’s consciousness.

“Musicians make people feel happy,” she said. “They make people embrace a sad moment or whatever we’re feeling, there’s music that can accompany that feeling. That’s a huge job that we have as musicians, to have that kind of responsibility to bring peace and happiness to the world. We were without it for a while and bad as it was, hopefully it caused people to really think about it. What would the world be like if we just did not have music?  It would be bad, right?”

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It’s been three years since the last San Pedro Music Festival. Dealt with the pandemic and subsequent shutdown, the event returns July 31 at the Warner Grand Theatre, with a focus to give back to the community. 

Windy Barnes Farrell, the woman at its helm, spoke to Random Lengths News about her plans for the festival, including a couple surprises.

Windy has three goals for the music festival, which is now a nonprofit, the first being connecting to people’s consciousness.

The second goal is to bring the community together. Windy said because this community is so diverse, she wants the music to reflect this demographic. 

“So we have something that everyone can enjoy,” said Windy. “It’s an eclectic fest because of that. I’m very particular about saying it’s a music fest, which does not mean it’s just jazz. It’s just music, and good music at that.”

However, Windy’s main goal is to help families that have been impacted by gun and gang violence — and their loss, in particular — with funeral costs, food and grief counseling. 

The lineup features Windy Barnes and Stevie Wonder’s backing band, Wonderlove, rendering songs by Stevie Wonder, which Windy was a part of, Resurrection Road, The Habits, Wild Bunch, Sunny Daye, Andre Washington, Heru Yahli, band-leader and conga player Victor Orlando and Fun-Ja-La — playing funk, jazz and Latin, Josie Aiello, and trumpeter Tatiana Tate.

The repertoire of these artists range from alternative pop, country, genre-bending bands that blend pop, R&B, hip-hop to funk, jazz and latin big band. This grouping of San Pedro solo artists, bands and singer-songwriters, provide “soul music for the soul.” Some have appeared alongside Jennifer Lopez, Kanye West and Faith Evans and have performed with the Inspirational Voices of Free! under the direction of Windy Barnes Farrell — an international performing artist who has toured extensively with Stevie Wonder, Julio Iglesias and Michael Bolton.

Hosting the event is actress and comedian Roz Ryan, who has worked for productions in film, television and Broadway for more than 40 years. Ryan’s first role on Broadway was in Ain’t Misbehavin’, a Fats Waller-influenced musical revue that debuted in 1978.

SPMF is also introducing something new, showing videos of artists who Windy would have loved to have present. She said either she couldn’t afford them or they passed away. These include Celia Cruz, Pavarotti and James Brown doing a duet together, Prince, Misty Copeland and artist Miguel, who is from San Pedro, and an all-female Mariachi band.  

“We’re trying to spotlight San Pedro talent because there’s a lot of gems here that people aren’t aware of,” Windy said. “People don’t have to go all over the place to find talent. You can find talent right here.”

Another very special part of the festival will be the “Artist Memoriam,” for artists who died between 2020 to 2022. Windy said these videos will be life-sized, with beautiful music behind it featuring the five most iconic artists who have passed away and who have impacted, especially, the African American community: Prince, James Brown, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin. 

“It starts with them,” Windy said. “No matter what year they [died] they just left a hole that was too much.”

Windy Barnes Farrell in the inside of the Warner Grand Theatre. Photo by Arturo Garcia Ayala

Nonprofit and the Heal 

My Family program

Windy has long had a passion for families impacted by gun violence. She was reared in Chicago’s Southside in the neighborhood of Englewood — also known today as Chicago’s murder capital. Windy’s life was touched by street violence directly and indirectly in her youth by her two older brothers who led double lives as gang leaders out in the streets on the one hand, and meek and obedient sons at home on the other. The line separating the two lives fell apart when the police repeatedly raided the family home in search of weapons and ammunition. Windy said she had at times hid these weapons for her brothers.

“By the time I was about 13, I had lost about six close friends to gun violence,” Windy said. “As a kid it’s overwhelming to learn that your friend is dead. And then [it happens to] another and another.”

She said when she thinks back, she believes she had buried those thoughts associated with gangs.

“You hear the word gang, you know what a gun is and what murder is way too early. That still bothers me to this day.”

Windy founded Windy City Entertainment Incorporated with the intention of financing youth programs in Chicago — designed to instill a sense of identity and purpose, including trips to  Africa to counter the violence and the killing taking place in her hometown. Her thoughts soon turned to the question of what resources and relationships could she pull together to address the issue and see a direct impact? 

The answer caused her to turn her attention to where she lives now and collaborating with leaders working on the issue in her own neighborhood: Justice for Murdered Children and Parents of Murdered Children. 

“I know that once I [get] involved, there’s no turning back,” she said. “It’s a heavy thing to do and I’m very sensitive. When I see things, it’s overwhelming sometimes. I’ve been preparing for this family [I’m] going to meet.” 

Justice For Murdered Children acts as advocates in court for murdered children. The organization speaks to office holders to change policy and to acquire monetary awards for the victim’s families. The organization connects Windy’s nonprofit with families of homicide victims to further help them in areas around grief counseling and more. Parents of Murdered Children Inc. offers ongoing emotional support, education, awareness and advocacy to all survivors of homicide victims. It does not give money. Through collaboration with Windy’s nonprofit, this is where her “Heal My Family” program comes in to provide financial assistance.

Additionally, Windy just received two proclamations; one from Sen. Stephen Bradford for Windy City Entertainment and one from Supervisor Janice Hahn for Windy’s participation in the Juneteenth celebration at the Korean Bell, which she noted was the first time the Korean Bell had rung for Juneteenth. She said being a part of that initial program was epic, from having her nonprofit recognized and being associated with that Juneteenth celebration.

“Music touches people,” Windy said. “This is just what I want to do so much for this community. It’s a special gift from Supervisor Hahn and myself. There will be something for the kids to see. It’s for all ages. There are so many layers to this. I’m really excited about the whole thing.” 

The event also includes vendors, music sales, tee shirts commemorating the second annual festival and possible live stream of parts of the festival. The San Pedro Legends Car Club will present their cars in front of the theater so people can take pictures while they’re not on the purple — not red — carpet.  There will be a food truck or two during intermission so people can meet and mingle and stretch out, as it’s a five-hour event.

San Pedro Music Festival will have a VIP reception from 3 to 4 p.m. for a $50 entry fee, which includes entertainment with a singer and pianist, food and signature wines (Windy’s own label), a silent auction featuring works unseen by anybody from Windy’s granddaughter Jaylynn. VIPs have balcony seating, perfect for stretching out and the whole event will be set up for social distancing.

Masks are strongly encouraged and bring your vaccination cards. 

San Pedro Music Festival

Time: 4 to 9 p.m., July 31

Cost: Free

Details: sanpedromusicfestival.com

Venue: Warner Grand Theater, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro

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