Ojai’s Living Treasure: Candace Delbo
Candace Delbo is one of six among Ojai citizens to receive this year’s prestigious Rotary Club award as one of Ojai’s Living Treasures. Her many contributions to our community fall in the genre of artistic expression – specifically music, and children.
Delbo, an accomplished vocalist and performer whose successful musical career spans several decades, is responsible for introducing numerous musical and choral programs to elementary, Jr. and senior high school students in the Ojai Valley, including the outreach program, SING.
This Treasure’s origin to community service began in 1993 when Delvo’s daughter, Lara, along with over 200 other children, participated in Ojai’s first Young American’s Workshop, a four day musical program that introduced elementary school children to performance art and musical theater.
Delbo describes the event, seated at the mahogany dining room table, in her home, surrounded by piles of photos of children -on stage and in performances – that she has orchestrated over the years. Happy faces smiling, buckets of bright-eyed children who beam delight.
“The huge program culminates in a performance. Parents were weeping, including me, it was so unbelievable (to see) what these kids could do.”
Given Delbo’s professional background as primary vocalist for The New Cordettes – a well-known female quartet with such hits as Lollipop, and Mr. Sandman, the musical program peaked her interest.
“At that time there were no choral programs for kids. After the final performance, the director of the Young American Program turned to the audience and said he had never worked with such an enthusiastic, cooperative, and talented bunch of kids in such a small community, and he couldn’t believe that there were no programs for kids at the elementary level.”
“At that moment, the director turned to the audience, and pointed saying, ‘When I come back, I want to know that that got fixed!’ Delbo’s eyes shine as she recalls the event. “I swear he was looking and pointing at me, out of all the people there.” The following day, Delbo went directly to the Mira Monte School and knocked on principal Larry Hartman’s door.
Recounting the story, memories pull at Delbo’s heartstrings, and she pauses for a moment, to compose. “I told him: I’m a singer, I’ve never directed, but I think, certainly I could put something together for the kids here,” if given the chance.
That began Delbo’s career as an Ojai Treasure, followed by numerous other projects and activities, all of which are centered on connecting students and adults to the world of music. Delbo has served on the Ojai Music Festival’s BRAVO board, and currently directs an a cappella group “The Grace Notes,” scheduled to perform in the gazebo in Libbey Park this Sunday, as part of the Ojai Music Festival. When asked how she felt after hearing of her Treasure award, Delbo stated, “Receiving this award has made me think long and hard about what I could be doing going forward. Going back to Sanford Drucker’s original intent for this program, which was to identify the value of each and every human being – to acknowledge – and then inspire people to keep on going, doing good things.”
Delbo lives in Ojai with her husband Ken, a well-known accomplished percussionist. They have 3 children, Sara, Lolly and Walker.
(Footnote: If Delbo is a no show during the Sunday performance, it’s because her daughter Sara is giving birth to her new grandchild, due any minute.)