Upcoming Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club fundraiser to promote science, music education


By Claire Harlin

In terms of acoustics and sound waves, pitch and frequency, music is a science. And not only is it a creative outlet for kids who excel in math and science, but neuroscientists have for years confirmed music’s ability to light up every part of the brain.

“Studies have shown that music is the one activity that’s so complex that you are working every part of the brain,” said renowned local jazz flutist Kirk Johnson. “Moreover, when you play an instrument from a young age, when the brain is developing, you have 25 percent more neuron connections strengthening the highways in the brain.”

Johnson, a lifelong musician, is a firm believer in the academic benefits people can gain from music education and that’s why he’s so passionate about a particular nonprofit organization — FanFaire Foundation — that shares the same sentiment. A group that supports community music programs and budding musicians, the foundation on March 2 is holding one of its biggest fundraising events yet, and Johnson will be one of several prominent headliners. “A Very Special Evening of Jazz,” will be held at the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club, located at 17025 Avenida de Acacias, and will feature a sit-down dinner masterminded by the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club’s new chef Brian Freerksen. Jazz pianist Mikan Zlatkovich, trumpeter Bill Caballero and bassist Bill Andrews will also perform, in addition to the Pizarro Brothers, a homeschooled youth duo from San Diego who, at ages 14 and 11, have risen to the professional ranks.

Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club President Helen DiZio said the mission of FanFaire is close to her heart because there are many scientists in her family, including her two stepdaughters, and this event will mark the third time she has let the nonprofit use her 300-seat venue. Previous events have usually been free concerts to give kids a place to perform. The upcoming jazz event, however, will be the biggest production yet, featuring seasoned musicians in addition to kids and attracting a broader audience. She said she has already sold more than 160 tickets to the dinner-and-music production.

“By providing the venue and resources, we can get kids interested in music, and once they are interested they join together and help each other,” said DiZio. “With that, they can also gain the confidence to play in a concert, and in turn they will study more … Music and academics go hand in hand.”

Dizio added that there are many opportunities and venues for kids who are interested in physical activities like sports, so she enjoys being able to provide a great outlet for kids who love music, math and science.

“Kids in sports have events and everyone goes. It’s a network,” she said. “But science kids don’t always have that … Giving something to help those kids focus, something for them to look up to, that’s what we want to do.”

Zlatkovich ( is well-known in the jazz world and has been playing piano nearly 40 years at popular local venues, but when he heard the March 2 event would benefit kids, he was particularly excited. He said he is also happy, from a musical standpoint, to perform with Johnson, a musician he respects highly but has never had the opportunity to play with.

“We don’t have to be familiar with each other to play good music,” Zlatkovich said.

FanFaire is an all-volunteer organization that provides concerts, lectures and science festival demonstrations to supplement music and science education at schools, equip young minds for the challenges of a technology-based economy and promote interest in music and science.

Launched in 2011, its “KIDS Playing For KIDS” program, which has become its most popular, provides musically gifted children ages 6 to 17 with solo and ensemble performance opportunities at various venues, and released its first CD in 2012.

For more information on FanFaire, visit, and for event opportunities at the RSF Garden Club, visit Tickets ($75) to the upcoming event are available online at

or by calling (858) 756-1554.