Valley Music Hall of Fame shifts from dream to reality with Fulton 55 kickoff

For Debi Ruud and her fellow board members working to make the proposed non-profit Valley Music Hall of Fame a reality, there’s one overriding reason why it’s needed.

Pictured above: Back row from left: Fred Martinez, John Alden, Ron Flores, Larry Gittens. Front row from left: Ray Settle, Debi Ruud, Janice Fleming, Don Priest.

“There is a HUGE musical legacy in this valley,” says Ruud, a well-known professional vocalist and owner of Fresno Music Academy & Arts. “The list is long and we don’t think the general population is aware of it. We want our community to know about the musical history here.”

In an article for the Fresno Flyer, board president Don Priest notes that impressive legacy:

Think of folks like Country stars Bob Wills and Jack Hannah. Westside Blues greats Harmonica Slim and Hosea Leavy. Legendary Jazz players Don Weed and George Roessler. Opera giant Audra MacDonald, Rock impresarios Jim & Bill Bixler. Or venues like The Wild Blue & The Hacienda Hotel, Zapp’s Park, and so many more iconic names and places.

The campaign for the Valley Music Hall of Fame gets a grand kickoff on Saturday, March 30, in a musical extravaganza at Fulton 55 that includes everything from accordions to Fresno Philharmonic musicians. It’ll be a must-see event.

I caught up with Ruud to ask about the evening and her hopes for the future.

Q: Have you visited any musical “halls of fame” in other cities? If so, what are some memories?


A: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland two years ago. It was very fun. It would take ALL day to go through the entire museum, so much to see. The coolest thing was that Astrid Plane from “Animotion” was IN the Hall of Fame as a “one hit wonder.” Astrid is a dear friend and teacher at Fresno Music Academy & Arts.

Q: Give us a preview of who might be among the first crop of honorees.

A: Audra McDonald, Sons of the San Joaquin, Dick Contino … just to name a few.

Q: Are you planning a brick-and-mortar version of the museum, or will this be a virtual hall?

A: We definitely foresee brick-and-mortar version in our future. I’m certain that it will be several years down the road, but yes, we most definitely envision that!

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Q: I could see a physical location as becoming a tourist attraction. What do you think?

A: Yes! Part of our vision is “help” make Fresno’s kind-of “crappy,” if you will, reputation change. Fresno is a great city and there is no reason why we should be looked at so negatively. We have a lot of amazing people in our community doing great things. I can see one of Audra’s costumes in the museum … one of John Clifton’s suits… one of Dick Contino’s accordions … I don’t know, one of Steve Perry’s (“Journey”) Platinum albums …

Q: Some artists everyone can agree on. But do you think there will be arguments down the road about who belongs in the hall? What will the nomination/selection process be like?

A: The nomination process will be very methodical and professional. We have worked hard to make sure that the process is fair and unbiased. We have modeled our organization after the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in New York. Their method of nomination works. We have forms that people will fill out and submit. The board will be a part of the nominating process for this first go around but after that, the board will NOT be a part of the final selections. We will have a separate committee for that to make sure there is no conflict of interest.

Q: A project like this takes a lot of planning and preparation. Besides you, who else has been behind the scenes making this happen?

A: The board has nine people on it. They are, Don Priest, president; Don Fischer, vice president;, Ray Settle, treasurer; Debi Ruud, secretary. The remaining five board members are,John Alden, Janice Fleming, Ronald Flores, Larry Gittens and Fred Martinez. Our board is full of folks who have a deep and diverse involvement musically in our community.

Q: Tell us about the kickoff event on Saturday, March 30, at Fulton 55.

A: Our main goal for this event is to get people in the doors so that we can let them know what we are all about. This event will be full of amazing music: The Tower Quartet, a group of young musicians who have played with the Fresno Philharmonic, Patrick Contreras on his “electric” violin, The Davis Aus Trio, some great jazz, Debi Ruud and the Lost Souls, ‘60s and ‘70s classic soul and R&B, and finally, we are going to honor the late Dick Contino with some fabulous accordion music by Larry Lindberg and Evo Blustein. There may be a few other surprises.

Q: Fast forward 10 years. Give us a “tour” of the new museum from your imagination from the perspective of a 10-year-old visiting for the first time.

A: There will be beautiful costumes, photographs, instruments and as much cool memorabilia that we can get our hands on. Hopefully a 10 year old coming in would leave asking his or her parents for some music lessons!

Q: Anything else you’d like to say?

A: I am very humbled to have been asked to be a part of such an important organization. I am in this for the long haul so I’m very hopeful and excited to see where we can go with this. We have dreams of creating outreach programs to “change the world” using music as the main ingredient for change. We will be looking for donors and sponsors to help us accomplish these goals.

Show info

Valley Music Hall of Fame kickoff, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 30, Fulton 55. Admission is free, with donations accepted at the door.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (1)

  • Steph

    OhMyGosh YES!!

    Steve Ono and Eddie Gordon. Barry McGuire. Bruce Conti. Sarah Uriarte Berry. Sons of the San Joaquin. George Augspurger and Jeff Hall (of Maximus). Ross Bagdasarian (ie David Seville from Alvin and The Chipmunks!). Cherilyn Sarkisian (she can’t deny us). Old Roddy Rockabilly Jackson. Planet Asia.

    That’s just a start! Great conductors, composers, musical theatre stars, touring bands, overseas monsters (The Mofo Party Band sells huge in Poland of all places).

    I love this idea. A mid-sized museum for our mid-sized town with some giant sized talents. Debi Ruud is my hero.


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