A popular, acclaimed series of Saturday night jazz and ethnic performances at the San Juan Capistrano Regional Library will end Aug. 7 unless librarian Jose Aponte can raise about $20,000 in private money to keep it alive.
The series is slated for elimination as part of the county's budget cutting. Aponte doesn't disagree with the decision.
"These are really tough times for libraries," he said. "The county librarian has been very supportive of our series, but when it comes down to tough choices, our business is keeping the door open so people can get books."
So he has launched a fund-raising effort of his own. "We're doing a letter-writing campaign," he said. "We're going after the $1, $2 and $5 donations, and we're going after the big bucks.
"I'm down and bleeding, and it's late in the fight, but I think we are going to surprise everybody. Maybe we will win this one in the 12th round."
The series costs about $15,000 a year. Aponte is attempting to raise that much for next year and another $3,000 to $5,000 to complete this year's series. "We are a lean organization," he said. "There is no fat on this baby." Admission to the concerts is only $3, which Aponte feels makes them attractive to senior citizens and others on fixed or limited incomes, and members of the minority communities.
"We get a good representation of the diversity of Orange County," he said. "You see people from, say, Rancho Santa Margarita sitting next to their gardeners, who may be sitting next to their grandmothers."
San Juan Capistrano City Councilman Jeff Vasquez said the city would like to help but has its own economic problems.
"But just because the economy is down," he added, "we don't want to kill programs that add another dimension to the community. One of the unique things this series does is promote cultural diversity, a positive attitude of accepting and appreciating other cultures. If this doesn't continue, it will be really missed."
Now in its fourth year, the San Juan Capistrano Multicultural Performance and Visual Arts Series continues to draw capacity crowds to the library courtyard. The list of performers has included Brazilian samba musician Dori Kayami, Latin jazz saxophonist Justo Almario from Colombia, and classical and jazz pianist Marcos Ariel from Brazil. Last year, a performance by Mexican bass player Abe Laboriel was picked by The Times Orange County as one of the top 10 jazz concerts of the year.