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5th annual RVA East End Festival set for September 24th

The event, canceled for the past two years due to the pandemic, celebrates music and the arts and supports Richmond Public Schools in the East End.

Trevor Dickerson

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Organizers of the RVA East End Festival have announced that the fifth celebration of music and the arts supporting Richmond Public Schools in the East End is scheduled for Saturday, September 24th, from noon until 9:00 pm at Henry Marsh Elementary School, 813 N. 28th St. in Richmond. The festival has been on hiatus for two years due to the pandemic.

Co-chairs of the festival are James “Saxsmo” Gates and Marilyn Heckstall.

James “Saxsmo” Gates is one of Richmond’s premier musicians. A talented saxophonist, he has played in the U.S. and abroad with notable artists including Dizzy Gillespie, The Temptations, Roberta Flack, Marvin Gaye and many others. He is the director/coordinator of the Dr. Billy Taylor Jazz Studies Program in the Department of Music at Virginia State University.

Marilyn Heckstall is the former pastor of Asbury Church Hill United Methodist Church in Richmond and most recently served as pastor of Saint Paul United Methodist Church in Roanoke. She has served as chair of the RVA East End Festival since 2017.

“Mark your calendars now because our fifth RVA East End Festival will be a special occasion to celebrate the artistic excellence of RPS students and the amazing talent in our community,” said Saxsmo Gates. “Music and the arts have been pivotal in my life. I want our students to have the same chances as I did to unlock their creative potential and even discover career pathways.”

“This event is a communitywide investment of love in our children because it creates opportunities for them to succeed,” added Marilyn Heckstall.

Since 2016, the RVA East End Festival has raised over $400,000 to support music, visual arts and performing arts programs at eight elementary, middle and high schools in the East End communities of the Richmond Public Schools system. The free family event will feature performances by local professionals including members of the Richmond Symphony, as well as some of RVA’s most talented youth musicians, dancers and visual artists.

Volunteers are being sought for the festival; learn more and sign up here.

Cheryl Burke, who serves on the School Board for Richmond Public Schools, noted that past proceeds from the festival have been used by the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation to acquire or repair musical instruments and to create a dance studio at Armstrong High School, as well as to purchase choral risers, concert attire and visual art supplies such as pottery kilns. “The festival’s financial goal for 2022 is $100,000 to be used for a variety of purchases to benefit music, performing arts and visual art programs at our wonderful East End schools,” she said.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.