Arroyo December 2021

Page 1

December 2021

Fine living in the greater Pasadena area






01_Cover.indd 1

11/24/21 3:58 PM

05-TOC.indd 2

11/24/21 3:57 PM

HartmanBaldwin has worked closely with homeowners to improve, preserve, and protect the character of our neighborhoods. Our finely tuned design/build process minimizes stress involved with home building and maximizes more appealing opportunities – for building trust, having fun and bringing your ideas to life. CSLB 653340

Photo By Chad Mellon

05-TOC.indd 3

11/24/21 3:57 PM

05-TOC.indd 4

11/24/21 3:57 PM




06 06 Living Her Dream

Nadia Chung crowned 2022 Rose Queen —By Annika Tomlin

10 The Bloom is Back

Rose Parade inspires others to ‘Dream. Believe. Achieve.’ —By Luke Netzley

18 A Local Legend Lives

John Nese sells roughly 750 soda varieties —By Frier McCollister

24 Slaying Design

FIDM student inspired by Mortal Kombat —By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

26 A Familiar Face

Marti Farley returns as president of the Pasadena Showcase House —By Luke Netzley

28 Local Hero

Pasadena designer Karen Steinberg fights homelessness with decor —By Luke Netzley

30 Performing with Passion

Jess Casinelli builds her career with covers —By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

34 Vroman’s Live

Bookstore boasts stellar lineup for December —By Arroyo Staff

38 The Pursuit of a Dream

George Ko finds solace as a professional pianist —By Luke Netzley


Tickets for the 2022 Rose Parade and Its events


22 CULINARY CUPBOARD Winter blues meet sunny citrus


fine living in the greater pasadena area

EXECUTIVE EDITOR Christina Fuoco-Karasinski ART DIRECTOR Stephanie Torres CONTRIBUTOR Frier McCollister PHOTOGRAPHERS Luis Chavez, Chris Mortenson, Tina Turnbow, Sarah Stone ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Lisa Chase, Catherine Holloway, Michael Lamb OFFICE MANAGER Ann Turrietta

TIMES MEDIA GROUP PRESIDENT Steve Strickbine V.P. OF OPERATIONS Michael Hiatt ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Zac Reynolds CONTACT US EDITORIAL PHONE (626) 584-1500 FAX (626) 795-0149 MAILING ADDRESS PO Box 1349, South Pasadena, CA 91031

The ONLY Official Seating Company of the Tournament of Roses ®


©2021 Times Media Group All rights reserved.

12.21 | ARROYO | 5

05-TOC.indd 5

11/24/21 3:57 PM


2022 Royal Court from left, Jeannine Briggs, John Marshall Fundamental High School; Abigail Griffith, Pasadena High School; Nadia Chung, LA Cañada High School; Jaeda Walden, LA Cañada; Swetha Somasundaram, Arcadia High School; Ava Feldman, South Pasadena High School; McKenzie Street, Flintridge Sacred Heart.


NADIA CHUNG CROWNED 2022 ROSE QUEEN a Cañada High School senior Nadia Chung dreamed of becoming the Rose Queen. For the next year, she’ll lead the Royal Court as she was selected the 2022 Rose Queen. Chung was crowned as the 103rd Rose Queen along with fellow seniors Jeannine Briggs (John Marshall Fundamental High School), Abigail Griffith (Pasadena High School), Jaeda Walden (La Cañada High School), Swetha Somasundaram (Arcadia High School), Ava Feldman (South Pasadena High School) and McKenzie Street (Flintridge Sacred Heart) rounding out the court. “It was always a big dream for me, especially growing up in Pasadena meeting all of the Royal Court when I was younger,” Chung says. Since she was 3, she looked up to the women, calling them role models. “This year’s theme particularly made me want to try out for this Royal Court because ‘Dream. Believe. Achieve.’ is honestly so encompassing of everything that I personally believe in and try to live by,” she says. “Everybody on the court is a real optimist and we are all people that

are really positive. The message of this theme made me know that I wanted to try out.” Chung says she was impressed by the professionalism of the young women. “It didn’t feel like a competition,” she says. “As you went through each interview — at least for me — I loved getting to talk to each of the girls that I met. “For instance, I was No. 39 and No. 37 was McKenzie Street, who is on the Royal Court, and No. 34 is Jaeda Walden. As we waited in line for all of our interviews, we got to know each other extremely well and I felt really connected to my city because I was surrounded by inspiring young ladies all around me when I was going through those interviews.” Each interview lasted roughly 15 seconds. Contestants had to be quick on their feet to present a well thought out answer. Chung worked through the process by “determining what about me is really important to who I am.” “I think the hardest part was having the confidence initially and also trusting myself,” Chung says. She was surprised each time she advanced continued on page 8

Photo by Michelle Mishina for Pasadena Tournament of Roses



6 | ARROYO | 12.21

06-Pas TournamentRoses.indd 6

11/24/21 3:37 PM

We Are Buying

Watches, Jewelry, Diamonds Rubies, Sapphires, Emeralds Gold, Platinum and Silver Bring Your

We Buy

Vintage & Modern Jewelry

American Coins & Paper Money

Sterling Silverware & Tea Sets and Trays

Old Pasadena Memorabilia

Wrist Watches & Pocket Watches

Rare Books & Documents

Free verbal appraisals and fair, competitive offers on your items. The value of old, broken or out of fashion jewelry adds up faster than you think. Clean up that jewery box! Get rid of unused inherited items and things from past relationships. Trade in old pieces for new designers we carry in our store like Pomellato, Pasquale Bruni, Ginette NY, Dinh Van, Persee and Le Gramme. Place Vendome Jewelers 48 Hugus Alley Pasadena CA 91103 Located in Old Town Pasadena in the One Colorado Courtyard

Please call for a private appointment. 626-577-7001

Department of Justice Secondhand Dealer License #001583, City of Pasadena Permit #11436642 12.21 | ARROYO | 7

06-Pas TournamentRoses.indd 7

11/24/21 3:37 PM

ment,” Chung says. “I’ve had a lot of fun with my troop over the years and then these more individual projects have allowed me to find what my specific interests are and how I would like to help my community to become more engaged in politics and using their vote as a way to voice their opinions.”

continued from page 6

through the competition. “After my first round, I thought I was out,” Chung says with a laugh. “The second round, I thought I was out and then most definitely when we were lined up as the 29 finalists, I didn’t think my name was going to be called. “I say, for many of us on the Royal Court, as much as it was surreal, we also took time to realize that everything that we have done and all the people who have supported us have led us up to this moment. That is not just chance or luck but rather intentional selection and that we are here for a reason.” During the crowning ceremony, Chung was not initially aware she was Rose Queen until the announcer started saying her middle name. Her first reaction was shock, then happiness followed by “a lot of gratitude.” “I do feel really grateful to have this opportunity to help represent Pasadena and spread that sort of joy and positivity,” Chung says. “But I also will say I felt happy because I know that the girls on the 2022 Royal Court are going to be my best friends for life.” As the Rose Queen, Chung will immerse herself in the Tournament of Roses organization through volunteerism; develop public speaking and etiquette skills while boosting her self-confidence and receive a $7,500 scholarship. “We actually have 100 events that we are going to (as the Royal Court) from the day after we were announced up until even after the Rose Parade,” Chung says. The Royal Court has already attended engagements at Huntington Hospital and USC’s Cancer Center. “I know that we are also going to be going to different elementary schools and talking about reading and literacy since our theme is about celebrating education,” Chung says. She is particularly looking forward to helping the Girl Scouts with its cookie kickoff. “This is my 13th year (as a Girl Scout) and I’m currently finishing up my Gold Award, which is an initiative to help promote voter registration and voter preregistration within youth and to create more civic engage-

Always learning Chung takes part in a slew of extracurricular activities at La Cañada as she looks forward to graduating next year. “At school, I am currently the president of speech and debate and mock trial,” Chung says. “Those are some of my favorite activities because they gave me a voice and then amplified my voice to give me the confidence to actually learn about things outside of just my own perspective. When I am doing a speech, I get to have the opportunity to listen to other people and listen as much as I’m speaking and in that I have been able to get a lot better perspective of the people in our world and have more empathy.” Chung said throughout high school she met “incredibly inspiring people” who continue to mentor her. Girls in higher grades helped her find success and she hopes to pay it forward. “For college I actually just started my applications and I turned in a few now,” Chung says about her future plans. “It is a really interesting process to be going through. It is definitely not an easy one, but I think what is making me still want to go through this process and what is making me excited is that every application that I turn in I am one step closer to my aspirations in terms of career goals.” Chung hopes to study political science and journalism with the hopes of becoming a civil rights attorney. Embracing the Rose Queen When asked what it meant to her to be Rose Queen, Chung said that “it’s hard to even put into words.” “I think part of it is because the girls that I thought as the Royal Court when I was a little kid, in my mind they were untouchable, unachievable,” Chung says. “I never thought that I would be in that position of becoming that role model that they were to me and people that I looked up to on a daily basis who I knew were beacons of positivity, of happiness, of intelligence, of poise, of serving. “Being in that position now, I feel really honored and grateful but I also feel the responsibility because I want to be a good role model for all of those young kids and also be somebody that helps to uplift Pasadena and really foster and live the them that we are doing this year.” Following the COVID-19 rollercoaster, Chung hopes the Royal Court’s community engagements will show the “the lack of connection that we had (during the pandemic) is not permanent.” “I hope that it can remind us how important it is to be connected and that anybody really can pursue their dreams,” Chung says. “I think during COVID there were people who had to put their dreams on hold, and I know that coming out of it what we need is confidence and a lot of belief in one another in order to know that we still can pursue those dreams.” As tradition, the Royal Court will attend the Rose Parade New Year’s Day and the Rose Bowl game. Chung says she will wear Tadashi Shoji at the events. “Our gowns were actually very generously given to us by Tadashi and so we are all going to be wearing the gowns that we were wearing for coronation day,” she says. “That means that the court will be wearing the midnight blue gorgeous floor length gown and I’ll be wearing the white dress that I wore.” With the appearances, Chung hopes the women’s bond shines through. “I think it is really important to me and for others to know how much the girls and I have really formed a sisterhood and how important we are to each other and how much we love each other.”

8 | ARROYO | 12.21

06-Pas TournamentRoses.indd 8

11/24/21 3:37 PM

12.21 | ARROYO | 9

06-Pas TournamentRoses.indd 9

11/24/21 3:37 PM



Dr. Robert B. Miller, president and chairman of the board for the 2022 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association

he Tournament of Roses is America’s New Year’s Day celebration, drawing hundreds of thousands of people from around the world each year. After being canceled last year due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the world-renowned parade and football game return to Pasadena. “Every January 1, our community, our country, and the world gets to celebrate new beginnings, and this year we’re going to be celebrating healthy new beginnings,” says Dr. Robert B. Miller, president and chairman of the board for the 2022 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, “It is a signature piece of our culture and our community. This is an American tradition, and we feel strongly about our responsibility to bring that to the world every year.” This will be the 133rd Rose Parade and the 108th Rose Bowl Game. Parade spectators can expect elaborate floral floats, every inch of which must be covered with flowers or any other natural materials, as well as equestrians displays and a variety of musical performances. In January 2020, the Rose Bowl Game saw a crowd of over 92,000 in the stadium alone while the parade was viewed by more than 40 million people domestically and another 15 to 25 million internationally. In January 2021, the parade was silenced. “Public health and safety as well as making wise financial decisions, not only for the association but for all those who we work with, were the two paramount focuses that we had,” Miller explains. “As we worked through that process, David Eads, our CEO, and I discussed the need to bring in well-known and well-experienced public health and safety experts to help us with these decisions.” The decision to cancel the 2021 parade was informed by data points and guidance from a survey of over 100 LA County public health professionals as well as a Keck School of Medicine study that was commissioned by Miller and Eads. It was the first time that the event had been canceled since the outbreak of World War II in 1942. This year the association once again engaged the support of the Keck School and a host of public health professionals. The survey’s result determined that the event could go ahead given that it adheres to the local and state coronavirus guidelines. “Primarily thanks to the vaccines and the great work of all the healthcare workers that got us through this, there was a sense that we would be out of the dark and into the light in a much more significant way in the spring of ’21, summer of ’21, and fall of ’21 leading into our parade,” Miller explains. “All of our normal parade preparations have been altered in a very significant way to make certain that we do everything we can to adhere to the LA County and the city of Pasadena public health requirements, as well as recommendations to maintain as healthy a public space as possible for all of our events during that week. I’m proud to say that, through the incredible efforts of our staff, our volunteer leadership, and our volunteers, we are well on way of doing all of that.” Miller had been a volunteer at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association for 38 years before accepting his leadership position this continued on page 12

Photo courtesy of Pasadena Tournament of Roses



10 | ARROYO | 12.21

10-Rose Parade.indd 10

11/24/21 3:40 PM


Stop Fighting With Your Sliding Door




as soon as the lights come up!” — LA WEEKLY

Charles Dickens’

A CHRISTMAS CAROL Adapted for the Stage by

Geoff Elliott

DECEMBER 3-23 WITH AN ALL-NEW MUSICAL SCORE! Groups 10+ call 626.356.3121

BUY TICKETS TODAY | 626.356.3100

3352 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107 Pictured: Alan Blumenfeld. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

• Roller Replacement • Track & Header Repair • New Locks & Handles • Aluminum, Vinyl & Wooden Doors Whether your job requires a rebuild or replacement parts you will love our performance and professionalism.

Up to 20% off when you mention this ad. (888) 881-2007 12.21 | ARROYO | 11

10-Rose Parade.indd 11

11/24/21 3:40 PM

An equestrian display at the Tournament of Roses

A Puerto Rican band performs at the Rose Parade.

A float celebrates first responders at the Rose Parade.

year. Though his passion and commitment for the Tournament of Roses is tremendous, Miller insists that the mega-event is nowhere near a singleperson endeavor. “This is the endeavor of our 935 volunteers, our great staff, and thousands of other people who bring the parade together,” Miller says. “There are over 6 to 7,000 people in our parade every year, and behind those 6 to 7,000 people are thousands of others who work on our floats, who work with our bands, and who work with our equestrian units. It’s an amazing endeavor, an amazing tradition, and I could not be more blessed to be a part of it.” The theme for this year’s parade, “Dream. Believe. Achieve,” was inspired by Miller’s background in education as a community college educator, administrator and consultant for 44 years before he retired as vice chancellor for finance and resource development for the Los Angeles Community College District, the largest community college district in the country. “If you have a dream and you believe in your ability, you can achieve anything,” Miller explains. “Education is the single greatest determiner of social and economic mobility. It’s the great equalizer, and supporting the needs of underrepresented, first-generation, low-income students has become a very significant part of the community college mission.” The parade’s theme not only shines light upon the inspirational work that educators do around the nation to ensure that quality public education is accessible to all, but also celebrates the scientists, first responders, health care professionals, and essential workers who have worked to save lives and fight for a return to normalcy. “Without the scientists who’ve developed the vaccines and the first responders, healthcare professionals, and essential workers who’ve gotten us through this time, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today and there certainly wouldn’t be a parade going down the street on January 1, 2022,” Miller says. “Now that we are able to bring it back, we have the ultimate responsibility to bring it back as strongly and as positively as we have ever done in the past. And hopefully we’ll take it a notch or two above this year.” The Rose Parade WHEN: 8 a.m. Saturday, January 1 WHERE: Begins at the corner of Green Street and Orange Grove Boulevard. The parade travels north on Orange Grove at a 2.5-mile-perhour pace and then turns east onto Colorado Boulevard. Near the end of the route, the parade turns north onto Sierra Madre Boulevard and concludes at Villa Street. COST: Reserved tickets start at $60, depending on area INFO:

Photos courtesy of Pasadena Tournament of Roses

continued from page 10

12 | ARROYO | 12.21

10-Rose Parade.indd 12

11/24/21 3:40 PM

Discover Aldik Home Los Angeles’ Most Magical Christmas Store For 70 Years

Hurry In to SAVE

40% Off

LA’s Best Artificial Christmas Trees!

7651 Sepulveda Blvd. Van Nuys, CA

10-Rose Parade.indd 13


h o m e - (818) 988-5970 12.21 | ARROYO | 13

11/24/21 3:40 PM




Photo submitted



ith Pasadena Humane, helping animals is not just about adoption. Animal lovers can contribute in other ways. The holiday season is a great time to consider it, according to Dia DuVernet, Pasadena Humane’s president and chief executive officer. “Consider fostering animals,” she says. “It’s the perfect time to get the animals out of the shelter and into a home for the holidays. We love for people to adopt animals. But around the holidays, make sure you have plenty of time at home to help a new animal or pet adjust.” Gift givers who are uncomfortable surprising someone with an animal can do the next best thing: make an adoption appointment so the whole family can be involved in choosing a pet. “You could give animals as gifts for the holidays. Research that has been done says it tends to work well,” DuVernet says. “There were concerns at one point that animals given as gifts were often returned to the shelter. Now we see there’s no harm in giving an animal as a gift.” 14 | ARROYO | 12.21

14-PasHumane.indd 14

11/24/21 3:31 PM


12.21 | ARROYO | 15

14-PasHumane.indd 15

11/24/21 3:32 PM


Sara Muriello with Tula

Photos submitted

Dia DuVernet

Pasadena Humane is a donor-supported, nonprofit organization that provides animal care and services for homeless and owned animals in the Greater Los Angeles Area. For more than 117 years, it has promoted compassion and care for all animals through lifesaving programs and services to the community that support the human-animal bond and keep pets healthy and safe. In 2020, Pasadena Humane had a combined 91.5% live release rate for dogs, cats and critters and saved 100% of healthy and safe animals. With the supply chain issues this holiday season, some gifts may not be available for loved ones. DuVernet has an idea. “You might not be able to buy the items you’re looking for,” she says. “Instead, give a donation to the shelter in honor of someone as a holiday gift. Get a nice card and notate a donation has been made in their honor. They could feel good about having helped a shelter.” The shelter could use a little help with supplies as well. Patrons are invited to look at Pasadena Humane’s wishlist on Amazon and/ or the pet supplies for sale at the shelter shop. Its greatest needs are towels, dry and wet cat food, dog and cat toys, dog and cat treats, cat litter, dog beds, and “miracle nipples” and kitten milk replacement. “You can order items for off our wish list on Amazon,” she said. “Even better, order items from our shelter shop which has lots of wonderful pet supplies. If you order them from our shelter shop, the items can go to the shelter animals and all the proceeds support the shelter, too.” Since she came onboard with Pasadena Humane in June 2019, DuVernet has been impressed with the community’s support, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve been open as an essential business since day one,” she said. “We have animal control officers in the community and taking care of the animals in our shelter. “During the pandemic, a lot of families stepped up to foster animals in their homes. We had very generous support from our community. We also learned, with the animals, that it worked really well for them to be in foster homes until they were ready for adoption. Then they could move easiest into adoptive homes.” Without visitors to the shelter, the animals thrived in the quiet, she added. “With less human traffic, they were able to sleep more,” she said. “That really helped to reduce stress and illness in the animals. “We were doing adoptions by appointment so we could personalize the adoption experience. We staggered the times, but we’re going to continue with that appointment-based adoption system.”

16 | ARROYO | 12.21

14-PasHumane.indd 16

11/24/21 3:32 PM

smooth moves GET YOUR FIRST WAX

From our exclusive Comfort Wax® to our specially trained experts, we’re so confident you’ll love your experience that we’ll give you your first bikini line, underarm, ear, nose or brow wax FREE.*


Pasadena – South Lake Ave | (626) 449-5000 Pasadena – HastingsRanch | (626) 466-9070

*First Wax Free offer: First-time guests only. Valid only for select services. Additional terms may apply. Participation may vary; please visit for general terms and conditions. European Wax Center locations are individually owned and operated. © 2021 EWC Franchise, LLC. All rights reserved. European Wax Center® is a registered trademark.

12.21 | ARROYO | 17

14-PasHumane.indd 17

11/24/21 3:32 PM

BUSINESS John Nese, 78, surrounds himself with his favorite sweet — soda — at his Galco’s Soda Pop Stop.

GALCO’S SODA POP STOP: A LOCAL LEGEND LIVES JOHN NESE SELLS ROUGHLY 750 DIFFERENT SODA VARIETIES f there is one place that typifies Highland Park’s generationally diverse and eccentric nature, it just might be Galco’s Soda Pop Stop. The store has been a reliably quirky neighborhood fixture on York Boulevard since 1955. John Nese, 78, represents the second generation of ownership at that location. Galco’s Soda Pop Stop was founded in 1896 as an Italian grocery store. For those locals who are somehow unfamiliar with Galco’s, its shelves are crammed with bottles of obscure vintage sodas from around the world, as well as an impressively eclectic and refined selection of craft beers, wine and sake. There’s also a case of nostalgic candy brands and a small section of toys. The one-time deli case serves as a space to make its legendary Blockbuster sandwiches. Come to Galco’s for an Italian deli sub, a Green River soda, a Pez dispenser and a kite. “It was always an Italian grocery,” says Nese at a shaded table in the store’s secluded back patio. “It was originally founded by a man by the name of Gallioti. He took in a partner, who then took my father in as a partner. I think it was ’43. (We’ve been) at this location since 1955. Before that, we were on Castellar and Ord, which was the center of Little Italy in Los Angeles. “Before that, we were on Alpine and North Broadway and before that, they were out on Pico and before that I don’t know.” In 1955, the business was divided due to differences in opinion between Nese’s father and a partner. “When I was 8 or 9 years old, I asked my father if I could go to work with him,” Nese says. “He brought me to work with him every day, one summer vacation. I thought it was a pretty good deal. I got a Blockbuster (sandwich) to eat, and I got a Dad’s root beer to drink because we never had any sodas. You only had ice water and Kool-Aid. I thought it was a pretty good deal.” Nese grew up in Pasadena and graduated from John Muir High School. Afterward, he enrolled in a six-month stint in the Army and then attended Pasadena City College before graduating from USC with a degree in history. Upon graduation, Nese intended to return to the family’s store, despite his father’s advice to work for a larger corporate firm. “I came back to the store,” Nese says. “My father just looked at me with this nonplussed look on his face and he says, ‘You’re a damn fool. Go for the money because you’re not going to make any money here. You’re going to make a living and that’s going to be it.’ And I says, ‘Oh, OK.’” With his father, Nese operated Galco’s successfully as a neighborhood grocery store and deli. “We did pretty well up through the late ’90s,” he says. “The big chain stores bought the distribution channels of the little stores and closed them down. Regular groceries were costing more. In a five-year period, all the little grocery stores disappeared. I’m looking at this and I’m going, ‘What are we going to do?’ Most everybody got out of the business over a five-, seven-year period.” Galco’s was in desperate need of a pivot. When craft beer took hold,

Photo by Chris Mortenson



18 | ARROYO | 12.21

18-Galco.indd 18

11/24/21 3:34 PM

Photos by Chris Mortenson

Nese started stocking it. “I thought about it. Craft beers were a big deal, and everybody was buying it,” Nese says. “If I do craft beers, you have to be 21. But if I do soda pops, too, if you have the money in your pocket and you can reach the counter, I have just doubled the size of our audience. “I told my father we were going to start featuring soda pops.” His skeptical father promptly approached the store’s young clerk, Gail Coffin, and advised her to look for alternate employment. Suffice it to say, Coffin still works at Galco’s. “When I went for the change, I thought about it. ‘How can you lose? You’re going broke anyway. How do you lose? All you can do is win. You can’t do any worse,’” Nese recalls. He started with a small section of vintage sodas. “I had 200 to 250 sodas and I had a nice little compact section. When I got to 400, the question became, ‘Where are you getting them? Where are you finding them?’ I didn’t know they existed anymore.” Nese stocks about 750 varieties. In 2000, Nese’s daughter, Noelle, started to help with publicity. It marked a dramatic turning point for Galco’s. “She stopped by and says, ‘Dad, what you’re doing is really great but if people don’t know, it really doesn’t do any good.’ “She says, ‘I’m going to write Sunset Magazine a letter. I’m sending one to Huell Howser, also.’” Howser is the late popular TV host of “Visiting with Huell Howser” on PBS. The show featured Galco’s later that year. Before the segment aired, Howser stopped by and warned Nese to fully stock his store. “‘You’re going to be busier than you’ve ever been in your life,’” Nese recalled Howser saying. “The shelves were stocked. I had extra inventory and (after the show aired) that night it was empty. Just like that. There were two lines and they went all the way to the back of the store. It took people about 45 minutes to get checked out. “Syndicated coverage in The Los Angeles Times followed. We were getting all these people from overseas. That story ran nine months, all over the country,” Nese says. An escorted, personal tour from Nese is the best way to fully appreci-

18-Galco.indd 19

continued on page 20

12.21 | ARROYO | 19

11/24/21 3:34 PM

continued from page 19

Thanks for voting us Best Yoga program 12 times! Thanks for recommending us Best Pilates & Best Workout "We are so grateful to our incredible community for your support the last 23 years. We are open for studio classes to those fully vaccinated. We cant wait to see you soon!

• • • 626.304.9642 • 2089 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91107

ate the store’s depth and breadth. “Mead is the first alcoholic beverage that man produced,” Nese says, pointing to an array of Danish meads in unique ceramic bottles, including Viking Blod, with an ABV of 19%. Louis de Sacy Grand Cru is $44.99. Pinot di pinot brut from Italy is two for $15. “The original champagne of beer,” Belgian DeuS Brut de Flandres, is $39.99. Galco’s is the only source for the beer in Southern California. He also stocks the oldest beers brewed in Europe: Uerige Altbier from Dusseldorf ($7.99 a bottle) and Weltenburger Kloster, a dark lager from the oldest abbey brewery in Germany, at $16.99 for a six pack. Galco’s also has one of the largest and most diverse selections of sake in Southern California. “We have sake that no one else has,” Nese noted, pointing to a bottle of Kenbishi ($49.99) from the oldest sake brewery in Japan. He then showed off bottles of Yuzu Omoi, Taiten Shiragiku, and an unusual bottle of sparkling Sorah ($89). On the lighter side, there is Swedish Kristian Royale strawberry apple soda (two for $10); Armenian Artfood fruit-infused spring water ($5.29); and Vichy Catalan Roman spring water. These sophisticated international beverages share shelf space with a mind-boggling array of sodas from around the world. On the store’s website, they are grouped into more than 15 categories including brews & sarsaparillas (29 varieties); colas (25); root beers (58); ginger beers and ales (34) and cream sodas (49). The “Something Different” category is stocked with another 100 different brands. Nese is stocking up for the holidays with Scandinavian Christmas soda and Austrian Samichlaus ale at $28.99 for a four pack. “It’s brewed one day a year on Dec. 6, Santa Claus’ birthday, and then aged for 10 months,” Nese noted. He also has cases up front of Fiasconaro Tradizionale Panettone ($23.99). In addition to the dizzying array of craft beers and international sodas, Galco’s stocks a case of Old Tyme Candies, including: an impressive collection of Pez dispensers; Mallo Cups; Charleston Chews; Goo Goo Clusters; and candy and bubble gum cigarettes. In the back, guests can mix their own sodas from a selection of 100 syrup flavors. The “Retro Toy Corner” of vintage toys sits next to the candy case, all innovations suggested by Noelle. The Blockbuster sandwiches were dubbed such after champion boxer, Rocky Marciano, sampled the store’s Italian sub and exclaimed, “Wow! This is a real blockbuster!” The original with meat and cheese only, features dry and cotta salami, mortadella, and ham with provolone and pickles, on an 8-inch roll for $6.99. The other Blockbusters include, the Italian combo; roast beef; pastrami; ham; turkey; three-cheese vegetarian; and tuna or chicken salad, all of which come with lettuce and tomatoes. They are available on an 8-inch roll ($7.99) or a full footlong ($12.99). The fresh sourdough rolls are supplied by Frisco Bread Company on Avenue 43. Galco’s did not close during the pandemic lockdowns. “We stayed open. We kept everybody working,” he says. “At the very beginning, there was a big dip (in sales). But it was interesting because there’s not a whole lot to do when you’re locked up. So, they’d come and buy sodas,” Nese says. When asked if he had a message for the local community, Nese joked, “We need two lanes of traffic in both directions on York Boulevard.” Nese is the grandfather of two teenage twin boys. Is there any thought of retirement and succession for him at Galco’s? “I’ll go as long as I can. We’ve been here forever.” Galco’s Soda Pop Stop 5702 York Boulevard, Los Angeles 323-255-7115,

20 | ARROYO | 12.21

18-Galco.indd 20

11/24/21 3:34 PM

Experience exquisite fine dining at its best. PRIVATE DINING VENUES AVAILABLE Where a traditional American steakhouse meets a global palate. A world of refined influences find their way into each unique, yet familiar dish. Where comfort crosses into new and exciting offerings for a meal that makes a long lasting impression with perfected dishes and unforgettable experiences.


12.21 | ARROYO | 21

18-Galco.indd 21

11/24/21 3:34 PM





ometimes when I tell people I made a blueberry tart, they assume it’s a tart filled with custard topped with fresh blueberries and oranges. Please don’t misunderstand. That type of tart is fabulous and delicious. But what I mean when I say “blueberry orange tart” is that it’s a celebration of the fruit itself; the blueberry the star of the show. It is indeed a dramatic and vibrant showstopper in color and flavor. The acidity of the orange lifts the richness of the blueberries, elevating the tart as a bright and sunny contrast to the traditional blueberry cobblers baking in many kitchens this winter. BLUEBERRY ORANGE TART ACTIVE TIME: 45 MINUTES | TOTAL TIME: 1 HOUR, 45 MINUTES YIELDS: 6 SERVINGS




Photos by Luis Chavez


22 | ARROYO | 12.21

20-CulinaryCupboard.indd 22

11/24/21 3:35 PM

39 S. El Molino Avenue Pasadena, CA

LIVE THEATER IS BACK — bolder and better than ever. Give the gift of Membership to the theater lovers in your life! Starting at just $100, Members enjoy ticketing flexibility, options, and the greatest that Pasadena Playhouse has to offer. UPCOMING SHOWS:



MAR 23 - APR 24



12.21 | ARROYO | 23

20-CulinaryCupboard.indd 23

11/24/21 3:35 PM


Fabian Renteria designed clothes inspired by the story of Kitana from “Mortal Kombat” for his first fashion collection in Los Angeles.


Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising student Fabian Renteria presents a collection of his work at the FIDM Debut Show.

s a child growing up in Glendale, Arizona, Fabian Renteria sketched T-shirts and dresses. It was prophetic, as recently he introduced his first fashion collection in Los Angeles as part of the annual FIDM Debut Show. Presented by the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, the event spotlights the work of FIDM students graduating from the advanced fashion design program Renteria was one of nine students selected for the prestigious show in 2021. “It was very exciting and even more nerve wracking,” says Renteria, who graduated from Deer Valley High School in Arizona in 2014. The heavy vinyl line was inspired by Mortal Kombat, with a “futuristic warrior” look to it. The red in his collection represents the bloodshed. “I honestly felt it would have been silly if it was Mortal Kombat and that’s it,” he says. “I was going deeper into what it means. For the actual story, these characters’ stories are entangled about

Photos submitted



24 | ARROYO | 12.21

22-Fabian Renteria.indd 24

11/24/21 3:36 PM

Photos submitted

Fabian Renteria’s collection was inspired by Kitana’s wardrobe while seeking revenge for the death of her mother in “Mortal Kombat.” He pulled colors from the undead warriors including black, white, gray and gold, adding red and a shattered glass print and chunky zippers to incorporate the look of hardware.

what they’re fighting for. One story in particular stood out, that of Kitana, the princess of her native land who never knew her true identity. As a child, her mother, Sindel, allegedly died by suicide. Kitana joined Raiden to find the truth and to make peace with all the realms. The collection represents her and her revenge wardrobe. “I wanted to pull color from the undead warriors—black, white, gray and gold,” he says. “I decided to use red and the print was shattered glass, with chunky zippers to add a hardware aspect to it.” The Texas-born Renteria is somewhat following in the footsteps of his artist father. “He would always be drawing, too,” he says. “One day, we were at a restaurant, and they had paper on the table with crayons. I asked my dad, ‘How do I draw a body?’ He definitely knew how. “He showed me with a crayon. I drew a dress on her and that’s what sparked it for me. Oddly enough, we had a really old sewing machine on a shelf in the laundry room. I asked my mom about it. One day, I pulled it down. I tried to thread it and I got it to work.” While he was in Glendale, he lived close to Walmart at 59th Avenue and Bell Road. Before it was a Supercenter, it boasted a large fabric section. “My first project was a vinyl cape,” he says. “It wasn’t good at all. I kept with it, and I would sew on the weekends after coming home from school. I fell in love with it, honestly. It was fun.” He moved to Alhambra in 2018 to attend FIDM. Next year, Renteria is headed to Rome for a study abroad program. He will focus on fit and pattern making. It ends with another fashion show. “I get to do another collection,” he says. “I definitely want to start developing my brand more. I want to start selling my work on a website. I want to delve into the DIY more and start my own business.”

One of the elements that Fabian Renteria used in several pieces of his collection was a shattered glass print. 12.21 | ARROYO | 25

22-Fabian Renteria.indd 25

11/24/21 3:36 PM





Marti Farley will serve as the 2021-2022 president for the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts.

hrough combining her love for the musical arts with her passion for helping others, Pasadena’s Marti Farley has found her dream role as 2021/22 president for the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts. This is her second go-around with the leadership role since joining the all-volunteer, nonprofit organization 24 years ago. Farley was born and raised in Houston, then moved to San Francisco in her early twenties before eventually settling in Los Angeles, where she raised her three children and still resides today with her husband, John. Farley joined the Showcase House in 1997 after retiring as the budget director for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Submitted photo



26 | ARROYO | 12.21

24-Marti Farley.indd 26

11/24/21 3:43 PM

“I originally joined the organization because of its music programs, then I fell in love with the house and everything that’s involved with it,” Farley says. “It’s just so exciting because you go through this learning process having different jobs at the Showcase House. And for this year in particular, it was really important to me to help lead us out of the pandemic and into the new normal.” The Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts has been supporting local music and arts programs since 1948. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of its team of over 200 members, the organization has raised funds for music education, scholarships, concerts, music therapy, and other life-changing programs. In addition to her work with the Showcase House, Farley has volunteered her time to Holy Family Services Adoption and Foster Care, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, and Five Acres, where she is a past president of the San Marino Auxiliary and has served on the board of directors. Her personal love for the arts, though, began when she started taking piano lessons at the age of 8, and she’s been passionate about music since. “It makes me feel very creative,” Farley says. “There are notes on a piece of papers and notations as to how you should play, and for the most part you try and follow that, but then your soul takes over. When you put your heart and soul into a piece, then it’s magical.” The Showcase House for the Arts has nurtured the study and appreciation of music among young performers, like Farley when she was a child, through its annual music programs. Those include The Music Mobile, which has introduced orchestral instruments to more than 125,000 third-grade students; the Instrumental Competition, which has awarded more than $650,000 in monetary prizes to young musicians; and the Youth Concert, which has brought nearly 250,000 fourth graders to Walt Disney Concert Hall for performances presented by Los Angeles Philharmonic. “The performers really get a lot of great input early on in their career,” Farley says. It was this ability to foster creative talent and personal growth in young musicians that initially drew her to the organization, where she became the benefit chair for the Showcase House of Design in 2009 and president in 2011. Farley has not only been a crucial part of the incredible work that the Showcase House for the Arts continues to do each year but has also made lasting connections while working there. “I have made so many friends at the Showcase House, friendships that I’ve had now for 20 years,” she says. “That’s one of the great things about this group is that you end up making lifelong friends and attachments that stay with you.” The Showcase House for the Arts will celebrate the return of the 2022 Showcase House of Design at Oaklawn Manor this April through late May with Farley at the helm. Golden tickets for the 2022 Showcase House of Design are on sale through The event is the organization’s flagship benefit and has helped them give more than $23 million to nonprofits to support the growth of the arts. It’s a mission that Farley has taken to heart since the day she joined. “My hope for the future is that the organization will continue to grow, thrive, and be able to meet the needs of the diverse community that we live in so that we can provide music and art as equitably as possible.”

12.21 | ARROYO | 27

24-Marti Farley.indd 27

11/24/21 3:43 PM




Interior designer and owner of Décor Revolution, Karen Steinberg helped furinsh a single mother of two’s apartment with the help of Pen + Napkin.

t a time when there are over 63,000 people experiencing homelessness across LA County, local heroes like Karen Steinberg are needed. Steinberg is a Pasadena-based interior designer and owner of Décor Revolution with a bachelor’s degree in design from Buffalo State and strong background in residential and textile design. After reading an online post from design blogger Emily Henderson asking interior designers in the LA area to help with free home makeovers for homeless families, Steinberg volunteered and used her talent for designing Accessory Dwelling Units. Steinberg worked with a 28-year-old single mother and her two children who were forced to live out of their car after the mother had to close her jewelry and accessories business during the pandemic. When oppressive heat proved too dangerous to sleep in the car, the mother sought shelter in motels with her family while struggling to keep her children in school. Her savings were quickly depleting. She ended up reaching out to nonprofit Family Promise, which was able to provide her with an apartment, hygiene products, and home goods while she searched for a new job. “She gets an apartment, but it’s empty. All she has is a mattress on the floor and a few items that were donated to her by a church, and that’s where we step in,” Steinberg says. “What we do is fundraise, design, and install everything in about three to four weeks. It’s a whirlwind.” The project was a partnership between Steinberg’s Décor Revolution and community nonprofit Pen + Napkin, who fundraised for the project on their websites and through wish lists on Amazon and Target. They organized the delivery of the furniture to the apartment and completed the entire installation within a two-day window. While the tremendous task of furnishing and personalizing an entire apartment within such a short span of time was grueling, the result was well worth the effort. “She was blown away when she walked in the door,” Steinberg describes about the mother’s reaction to her new home. “She kept saying, ‘I’m going to cry, I’m going to cry.’ She was just so thrilled.” The design team installed new furniture throughout the apartment, including bunk beds for her children, and hung artwork, placed framed family photographs on the shelves, and designed the children’s room around their interests in Batman, dinosaurs and cats. The result demonstrated an intense precision and attention to detail on behalf of Steinberg and Pen + Napkin. “The statistics show that an overwhelming percentage of people without furnished homes end up homeless again versus those who have furnished homes, so it shows you that putting time and love into your space makes a difference,” Steinberg explains. “That’s what we did and now it really feels like a home to her instead of just an apartment.” The project was not only achieved through the hard work and dedication of Steinberg and Pen + Napkin, but also a much larger

Photo by Chris Mortenson



28 | ARROYO | 12.21

28-Karen Steinberg.indd 28

11/24/21 3:41 PM

Photos submitted

group of individuals, including Emily Henderson, Décor Revolution Design Assistant Kateryna Calderon, and photographer Cristopher Nolasco, and companies like Calico, Poly & Bark and Oh Joy! “It was amazing. So many people helped make this project possible,” Steinberg says. “Thank you so much to all the volunteers that worked to do the installation, we couldn’t have done it without them, and to all the people who gave online. The joy on this mom’s face when she saw her new home is due to all of their generosity. They made her dreams come true.” Pen + Napkin

12.21 | ARROYO | 29

28-Karen Steinberg.indd 29

11/24/21 3:41 PM


Pasadena singer-songwriter Jess Casinelli recently wrapped a three-part covers project with her cover of The Foundation’s “Build Me Up Buttercup.”


“He’s the reason I thought music was a career that is achievable,” she says. “It was only until I grew up that I realized it’s much harder than it seems.” At age 16, Casinelli gave guitar and piano another try and taught herself both instruments. She became “obsessed” with writing and practicing two years later. “I packed up and moved to Pasadena (in October 2015) to attend Los Angeles College of Music. LACM is where I met some of my lifelong friends and fellow musicians I am still seeing and working with today. “I’m always looking for musicians to play with, too. I don’t feel I’m the best at the instruments. I use them to accompany my writing and my vocals.” Casinelli says the most difficult part of living in California is being away from her family. “Pasadena is a nice place to live. Going from LA to Pasadena every day, it feels like something homey to come back to every day.”

Jess Casinelli Instagram and Facebook: @yungweirdo.97 Other:

Photo by Chris Mortenson


asadena singer-songwriter Jess Casinelli is all about keeping things fresh. The Stamford, Connecticut, native recently wrapped up a set of covers with the 1968 hit by The Foundations, “Build Me Up Buttercup.” “When I was little, I had a Barbie cassette player,” Casinelli says. “My dad would play the cassettes with me at night so I would fall asleep. That was my favorite song on the cassette. “Once I started gigging around a couple years ago, I started covering it. I made it my own. A picture of my dad is the cover art. He’s playing guitar.” “Build Me Up Buttercup” is the third in a three-part cover project that included “Panic” by The Smiths and “She” by Green Day. Original music is coming in the winter of 2022. “The three songs are very different and my versions sound nothing like the originals,” says Casinelli, who is joined by violinist KatieJacoby of The Who on “Panic.” “I definitely think that being a songwriter helps me cover songs and make them my own, rather than sounding like the artist’s originals.” Casinelli’s father influenced her career choice, as he worked in A&R for Atlantic Records, Sony/Columbia and independent labels. When Casinelli was 10, he left the industry. 30 | ARROYO | 12.21

30-Jess Casinelli.indd 30

11/24/21 3:45 PM

12.21 | ARROYO | 31

30-Jess Casinelli.indd 31

11/24/21 3:45 PM







he renowned bookstore Vroman’s is hosting more top-notch virtual programs throughout December. The “Vroman’s Live” events are held virtually through Crowdcast. Register through All “Vroman’s Presents” events are ticketed and will be held in-person offsite and will have COVID-19 event safety guidelines that need to be followed attend. Anyone with questions is asked to email Lorne M. Buchman discusses “Make to Know: From Spaces of Uncertainty to Creative Discovery” 6 p.m. Thursday, December 2 The creative process is winding. It involves entertaining uncertainty and improvising new paths to knowing. In this book, Lorne M. Buchman, an international leader in art and design education and president of ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, guides readers through stories of a diverse group of artists,

entrepreneurs, innovators, and designers. Including such luminaries as Yves Béhar, Chris Kraus, Zack Snyder, Paula Scher and Frank Gehry and businesses like Apple and Tesla who have changed the world as we know it, Buchman focuses on the revelatory nature of the creative journey itself. Michelangelo is said to have seen the angel in the stone and carved away until he set him free. “Make to Know” is about making as a path to knowing — presenting creativity as a “carving away” toward a revelation, not as a fully formed epiphany gleaned from a mysterious ether. As Buchman reveals throughout this provocative book, uncertainty is the space where discovery happens and where creators can be both playful and imaginative. Vroman’s Local Author Day featuring Robert Smith Robert Smith presents “Journaling Memories” 6 p.m. Monday, December 6 “Journaling Memories” is a self-help workbook process intended to encourage seniors and others to chronicle the most relevant experiences, thoughts and feelings of their life. The process’ central component is to guide the user in recalling and journaling significant aspects of their life. The book guides the user by organizing life milestones and stimulating thought through over 350 questions.

32 | ARROYO | 12.21

32-Vromans.indd 32

11/24/21 3:46 PM

Van Hoang, in conversation with Katie Zhao, discusses “Girl Giant and the Jade War” 5 p.m. Tuesday, December 7 In this sequel to “Girl Giant and the Monkey King,” Thom and her friends set off on a farflung adventure to save the Heavens and the Jade Emperor from certain destruction. Thom Ngoh thought the Monkey King was her friend. He taught her to control her super strength and to stand up for herself. But, really, he was just using her. He tricked her into stealing from the Heavens and releasing him from his 500-year prison. Now the Monkey King is waging a war against the Heavens and Thom must do everything in her power to fix the mess she made. Determined to prevent a war, Thom and her dragon friend, Kha, set off on an adventure across the Heavens to search for allies. But with the stakes higher than ever, the price for help may be more than Thom is willing to pay. This richly woven middle-grade fantasy series is full of humor, magic, and heart, and will appeal to readers who love Roshani Chokshi and Sayantani DasGupta. Kiley Roache & Chloe Gong present “Killer Content” and “Our Violent Ends” 6 p.m. Thursday, December 9 In “Killer Content,” the six teenagers who make up the Lit Lair have it made. A beachfront mansion, millions of followers, stunning good looks, and sponsorship deals worth more money than they ever dreamed. They live together, making videos about their perfect lives. Except it’s not so perfect after one of them turns up dead in the infinity pool. When the group TikTok account starts posting cryptic messages, the police stop looking outside the house for suspects — and start looking straight at them. Everyone in the Lit Lair had reasons why their

lives would have been easier without Sydney Reynolds. But only one of them killed her. Underlined is a line of totally addictive romance, thriller and horror titles coming to you fast and furious each month. In “Our Violent Ends,” the year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution. After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on a mission. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette was guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less. Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right — even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure. Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all. Shanghai is already at a boiling point: The Nationalists are marching in, whispers of civil war brew louder every day, and gangster rule faces complete annihilation. Roma and Juliette must put aside their differences to combat monsters and politics, but they aren’t prepared for the biggest threat of all: protecting their hearts from each other. Matt Coyle, in conversation with Naomi Hirahara, discusses “Last Redemption” 6 p.m. Tuesday, December 14 Will Rick Cahill survive an insidious disease long enough to see his first-born child — or will sadistic killers murder him first? Rick is finally living a settled, happy life. His fiancée, Leah Landingham, is pregnant with their first child and he is doing PI work that pays well and keeps him out of danger. Then a doctor gives him the bad news about the headaches he’s been suffering — CTE, the pro football disease that leads to senility and early death — a secret he keeps from Leah and his best friend Moira MacFarlane. When Moira asks him to monitor her son, Luke — who’s broken a restraining order to stay away from his girlfriend — a simple surveillance explodes into greed, deceit and murder. Luke goes missing, and Rick’s dogged determination compels him to follow clues that lead to the exploration of high finance and DNA cancer research. Ultimately, Rick is forced to battle sadistic killers as he tries to find Luke and stay alive long enough to see the birth of his child. 12.21 | ARROYO | 33

32-Vromans.indd 33

11/24/21 3:46 PM







George Ko is a Pasadena-based concert pianist and classical improviser.

Photo Submitted

t a time when the entire world seemed to come to a halt, the pandemic inspired people everywhere to rearrange the hierarchy of needs used to assess what truly matters to them. Pasadena resident George Ko is no different. He found himself standing at the crossroads of his future. Ko grew up in Orange County as a first generation American in his family. His parents were Taiwanese immigrants who moved to the United States in the ’70s and ’80s, and always stressed the importance of creating and taking the opportunities that life can present. “My mom wanted to be a concert pianist growing up. They were so poor she borrowed chalk and then drew all 88 keys on the floor and just imagined what piano would sound like.”

34 | ARROYO | 12.21

34-GeorgeKo.indd 34

11/24/21 3:49 PM

Ko began playing the piano as a child, performing in competitions, and attending weekly piano lessons in Pasadena. He hated it at the time and would even run away from his piano bench. As he continued to play, however, he steadily reached prodigy status. By high school, he had been mentored by pianist pedagogue Cosmo Buono, performed in famous venues like Carnegie Hall, playing in the footsteps of the masters, and had finally begun to feel happy playing the piano. “Cosmo Buono was the first piano mentor I’d ever met who talked about mental health in the piano world,” Ko says. “He was an advocate not just for me as a piano player, but me as a person. His business partner Barry Alexander is another one of those kinds of people and I’m indebted to both of them.” After enjoying early success as a young pianist, Ko went on to study economics at Harvard and entered the world of venture capital, taking after his entrepreneurial father. He and two fellow co-founders worked on one of the first Harvard-backed startups and were even featured in the Boston Globe, but it wasn’t meant to be. “It failed spectacularly, and I was depressed. There was a lot riding on us and a lot of pressure to succeed,” Ko says of the experience, “Then I went to listen to a concert, and they were playing my favorite symphony. A light bulb went off in my head and I said, ‘I want to be a musician.’” Ko decided to drop out of school to study music for a year, returning to Los Angeles and conducting privately at the Colburn School and with former music director of the Pasadena Symphony, Jorge Mester. He eventually returned to Harvard and majored in music. After graduation, Ko toured as a classical concert pianist for a year and a half. “I found myself in the classical world, and I was super alone. As a classical pianist, you don’t really have an entourage. When you’re backstage, it’s just you, and the pressure to perform is so high that sometimes you don’t even want people next to you. It just becomes very isolationist, and it’s incredibly competitive.” This pressure and competitiveness became so unbearable that at one point, Ko recounts, there had been several attempts to try and take his concerts away from him and someone even tried to break his hand so that he could not perform. “I wasn’t happy, and I couldn’t make music anymore. It just felt dead, so I left that world.” Ko found solace in the world of media and technology, co-founding a company in Sawtelle with Eric Nakamura, founder of Giant Robot magazine, that supported creatives and artists as well as helped uplift members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. He then went on to work at a robotics startup and took a job at Caltech. The COVID-19 outbreak changed his life and the lives of so many others around the world. During the pandemic, Ko took an introspective look at himself and what he wanted from his life. “I did miss playing the piano, but I knew I didn’t want to play classical anymore. I believe classical musicians are the best cover artists of all time, like people today can play Beethoven better than Beethoven played his own music. That’s the level music has gotten to. You can go to a concert hall and listen to someone play Brahms with the most perfect high-fidelity technique. When you can appreciate it at that level, it’s like, ‘Wow, I’m witnessing magic.’ But then as a creative, I think, ‘It’s not my music. I’m still telling Beethoven or Chopin’s story.’ I wanted to tell my story my way.” continued on page 36 12.21 | ARROYO | 35

34-GeorgeKo.indd 35

11/24/21 3:49 PM

After a short career as a touring classical pianist, George Ko found solace in the world of media and technology eventually leading him back to the piano. continued from page 35

“I want to bring accessibility and show that classic music is meaningful, it’s deep, and it’s fun. And I think one of the most fun things to do is take requests from the audience, like a story or mood, or a song from their favorite Spotify playlist, movie, TV show, or video game, and then improvise it live.” At the age of 29, Ko has toured the west coast of the United States to the east and all the way back across the country again, with a Holiday Residency at Row DTLA planned for December. On February 1, he will travel across the Atlantic for a week-long residency at the Arctic Hideaway in Fleinvær, Norway, where he will also host workshops with guests and composing a new album. While the road to get to this point in his career was not always clearly laid out before him, Ko was brave enough to believe in his passion and purpose, to leave his steady career path and focus instead on the pursuit of what he truly loved. Though the decision at the time was difficult and there were many moments of hardship along the way, Ko can now look back upon what he has achieved so far and smile. He has become a Young Steinway Artist, performed at Carnegie Hall almost a dozen times, given inaugural concerts for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Bowers Museum, and the Fogg Museum, has performed for the Obama family, been awarded the David McCord Prize from Harvard University in recognition of his musical ability, and is a five-time laureate of the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition. “Life is beautiful, even if it’s unpredictable. I don’t know what’s going to happen today, but what I do know is that I can live today and strive to get better every day.” George Ko Instagram: @_georgeko

Photo Submitted

Though he was playing the piano once more, something felt different. It was this change in mindset that began to mold Ko into a classical improvisation pianist. “I always wanted to improvise like a jazz player, to play what was in my head. People forget that until Mahler, so until the late 1800s, almost every classical composer improvised, and no concert was the same. No concert had repeat pieces and if you heard Chopin, Beethoven, or Brahms play at a salon, they always improvised. I desperately wanted that skill.” During the pandemic, Ko’s past colleague Nakamura reached out to him and asked if he would play weekly meditative music on his Instagram profile for the Giant Robot community. Ko agreed, and while he was performing the audience was able to send him song requests. In order to accommodate the requests of the audience, Ko began to improvise his music on the spot. “That training triggered something in my brain. After about two months of doing that, I started noticing that I could begin to auditorily visualize the entire instrumental arrangement to a song in my head and make sense of where it was on the piano.” As this new form of performance gradually became instinct, Ko decided that he was going to record a 12-track album and share the process online. He began performing his music on social media platforms like Instagram and Clubhouse and gradually grew his fan base. “All of these artists I’ve admired my entire life would reach out to me over Instagram, and one even said, ‘We haven’t been able to go to live concerts in so long, so we just put your phone next to a bowl and I had dinner with my husband while watching you play the piano.’” Ko gained a large online following with fans listening from across several continents through his social media accounts, and as parts of the world began to reopen following the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, he started a live, in-person tour. 36 | ARROYO | 12.21

34-GeorgeKo.indd 36

11/24/21 3:49 PM

12.21 | ARROYO | 37

34-GeorgeKo.indd 37

11/24/21 3:49 PM




ven in sunny California, frost can happen. Deciding the best steps for action before the cold hits is the best way to protect from, and mitigate frost damage- But there are steps you can take during and afterwards to keep your landscape safe during the winter.

Before the frost Mulch your plants. Creating an insulating barrier between the cold and roots is your first line of defense. Mulching regulates the temperature of the roots below, and by holding in above-freezing moisture, mitigates root damage. Then cover your plants (if you can.) A protective barrier like frost cloth will insulate heat. Just don’t let the foliage touch the cloth. If you don’t have time to do all your plants, just cover the centerpieces of your landscape design. Finally, water your plants. Well-hydrated plants survive frost conditions better than thirsty plants. During the Frost: Rinse your plants. As strange as it may sound, the water that is

being sprayed on the plants is obviously warmer than the freezing air. Freezing water actually produces a small amount of heat close to the plant and the layer of moisture on the plants is actually is freezing before the leaves & vascular system of the plants freeze. At our nursery, we have overhead sprinklers to turn on during the frost, which is also common practice for many citrus growers. After the frost In the event that one of your plants suffered from wilt or damage, wait before you prune. In fact, wait until Spring in order to trim back any plants or trees that may have become damaged. Dead plant material will provide protection to vital inner layers, and waiting to prune will help you understand how much damage was taken during the freeze, allowing you to better plan for next year. While we don’t usually see temperatures drop that low in California, it’s important to understand the principals of protection and mitigation of cold damage to keep our landscapes looking beautiful year-round. It only takes one severe freeze to cause damage and compromise your hard work.

38 | ARROYO | 12.21

38-Gardenview.indd 38

11/24/21 3:52 PM

12.21 | ARROYO | 39

38-Gardenview.indd 39

11/24/21 3:52 PM

38-Gardenview.indd 40

11/24/21 3:52 PM