I walked into what once was a warehouse in south-central Sacramento one recent evening — and discovered what is now called Beatnik Studios.
The reclaimed brick building is the scene of a wide array of artistic endeavors in Sacramento’s burgeoning art scene. Photo and graphic murals on the red-brick walls extend 25 to 30 feet to ceilings holding many skylights above the mixed-used venue established in 2008 by a group of Sacramento photographers.
In the center were several rows of seats facing four chairs and music stands for a string quartet.
It was in this environment that Tracy native Dan Paulson was busy greeting arrivals and making last-minute adjustments for a concert by the Rimsky Korsakov String Quartet from St. Petersburg, Russia, and Vox Musica, a Sacramento all-women’s choral group.
Dan, who is choral-music director at Sacramento City College, had arranged for the string group composed of graduates of the St. Petersburg Music Conservatory to perform in Sacramento, and he is also director of Vox Musica, which joined the Russians in one of their three selections.
Dan told me he was acquainted with members of the string quartet that came to Sacramento for a rest stop on a West Coast concert tour.
“They suggested we work out a concert here,” Dan reported. “I said, ‘Sure, let’s do it,’ and here we are.”
In the front row in one of the sections of folding chairs were Dan’s parents, lifelong Tracyites Rich and Sandy Paulson. They were there to watch their son in action while he organized the concert and directed Vox Musica in its participation in the program with a world-renowned string quartet.
Joan and I were also there with the Paulsons. It didn’t take long for us to see that Dan, a 1995 graduate of Tracy High, is becoming an increasingly important participant in the active arts world in Sacramento.
I’ve never been a particularly avid fan of music played by string quartets, but I must say I enjoyed the concert that night, marveling at the musicianship of the two violinists, a violist and a cellist.
When 11 vocalists of Vox Musica joined the quartet for one selection, I could hear the finely meshed sounds of the group as Dan stood in the back row providing direction with only facial expressions and limited hand movements.
Decades ago, Mel Jacobson, Tracy’s greatest promoter of classical music, attempted, with only limited success, to breathe an appreciation of string-quartet music into me. He would have been proud of me that night in the Beatnik Studios.
For Dan Paulson, interest in vocal music and theater came early in his life, according to his parents.
“Even as an elementary school student, Dan showed an interest in music and the theater,” his father said. “Sandy and I both were involved in music, so it was part of our family’s tradition.”
Dan continued to develop his talents as a vocalist in Tracy High choir and music-theater performances and then at Sacramento State, where he received a bachelor’s degree in voice performance. He then earned a master’s in choral conducting from Cal State Los Angeles and now spends summers in New York City as a doctoral student in music education at Teachers College of Columbia University.
When not organizing and directing at the Beatnik Studios, Paulson directs the choral groups at Sac City College, plans concerts in various Sacramento-area venues and directs Vox Musica, which he founded in 13 years ago. He has been a featured conductor of the International Festival of New American Music in Sacramento and active in a host of other choral-conducting appearances.
In the near future, he will be conducting Vox Musica in the Holiday Concert of Baroque Music, Dec. 21-23, in Sacramento. You can bet Rich and Sandy will be in the front row of one of the audiences.