A shout-out to this year’s inductees for the Valley Music Hall of Fame

The Valley Music Hall of Fame, just three years old and still in its formative years, is inducting the Class of 2022 tonight (Wednesday, Sept. 21) with a dinner and presentation at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater. (Doors open at 6 p.m., and the show starts at 7.)

Your donations to the organization are appreciated, organizers tell me.

I wanted to be sure to give a shout-out to the impressive musicians being honored. I’m listing them here along with their bios posted on the hall of fame website:

Gene Bluestein

Retired professor from Fresno State who brought many well-known folk musicians to perform concerts for the students and to the Fresno community-at-large, including luminaries Pete Seeger, Doc Watson, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. For several summers he created a Folk Institute at CSUF, especially for schoolteachers, so they could learn to include music in the classroom. He also created a program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts which brought nationally known folk artists to CSUF, among them: Bessie Jones from Georgia, Jean Ritchie from Kentucky, Lydia Mendoza from Texas, Dewey Balfa from Louisiana. The artists taught courses in their specialties and were available to local schools, at no charge. He believed music and art were important modes of expression for everyone, not just the most talented in our society.

Ray Camacho

The leader of Ray Camacho and the Teardrops, trumpeter, and multi- instrumentalist whose musical diversity is legendary. He was raised in Mendota, Ca. where he worked in the fields until the age of 17. He graduated from Tranquility High School then moved on to Fresno City College where he supported himself by playing music. Formed in 1960, his band melded rock, soul, Mexican regional music, cumbias, covers, and originals. They began playing high school dances and regional fairs, establishing a reputation for energetic live performances. They played many shows in the East Bay Area, opening for emerging rock and R&B acts such as Santana and Tower of Power. He is best known for the single “Si Si Puede.” Issued in 1970 it became a rallying cry for Latin Americans who resisted the Vietnam War in the early 1970s, and was used in the Disney film, “MacFarland.” During their multi-decade existence, Ray Camacho and The Teardrops recorded 58 LPs/CDs and 75 singles with three gold records, and performed for 1989 Presidential Inauguration of George Bush.

Fresno Musical Club

The Fresno Musical Club was established in 1905 by a group of women who saw the need for classical music concerts in Fresno long before colleges, symphonies, or other cultural arts existed here. These women, all musicians, formed a volunteer group that from 1908 through 1980 sponsored and presented a series of concerts through two world wars, the influenza epidemic and the depression. The management of these sold-out concerts was completely handled by members who volunteered to book artists, engage venues, handle ticket sales and coordinate travel schedules. Through their efforts, folks in Fresno and surrounding communities were able to hear the music of world-class performers, such as Jascha Heifetz, Beverly Sills, Artur Rubenstein, and many other stellar performances. The Fresno Music Club was also strongly involved in a fundraising project in 1962 to enhance the Convention Center Theater with the artwork seen in the Saroyan Theater today.


Allen and Faye Harkins

Allen was a Madera High School teacher, pianist, composer and arraigner of big band music. Faye was a designer, seamstress and choreographer known for teaching majorettes how to do their routines on her front lawn. Together they became known as the ‘Harkins Music Machine’, turning out award winning bands and stunning visual performances. The 1957 Marching Band took First Place in the All-American Band Review. Throughout the years, his Madera High School bands won numerous other prestigious awards. Allen also became known as “The Arranger” in the Valley, arranging much of the music for his bands and for other college bands and high school bands in the area. Upon his retirement from Madera High in 1971 he taught at Fresno State for 10 years and continued arranging and performing with his and other professional bands throughout the valley. His big band performed for the naming and dedication of the “Allen Harkins Amphitheater” in Madera’s Lion’s Town Country Park.

Richard Hagopian

An Armenian-American Oud player who is regarded as one of the most renowned Armenian musicians preserving the folk and classical repertoire from the Ottoman Empire. At 13 he began his study of traditional Armenian music with displaced musicians from the ‘old country’ and quickly learned over 1500 folk songs and soon became an expert in the classical art music of the Ottoman Empire. For decades he has acted as one of the most important collectors of Armenian music, learning tunes and dances from his parents’ and grandparents’ generations and passing this musical heritage on to his children, the community, and audiences through-out the world. He was honored with a Meet the Composer Grant from the New York State Music Council of the Arts in 1990 and has instructed master classes at both the Manhattan School of Music and California State University, Fresno, where he served as Artist in Residence. The New York Times has referred to him as “one of America’s most accomplished folk musicians.”

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2023 class of inductees.

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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)

  • Jackie Ryle

    Thanks for all this wonderful information, Donald. It was a truly wonderful evening with most fitting tributes to all these wonderful individuals and organization! The Board did a stellar job using a community nomination process and creating truly stellar tributes, much to the pleasure of those who were fortunate to be present. We have such wonderful talent here – past, present and future!


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