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AJ Croce is a multitalented musician known for his soulful piano and vocal stylings. The star will grace the stage at Castoro Cellars on Saturday, Aug. 23 for a concert celebrating Salon Roux's fifth year in business in Paso Robles.

Salon Roux throwing musical party for arts

August 22, 2014 - Paso Robles Press, B1

By Hayley Thomas

By all accounts, Paso Robles-based Salon Roux is not your average beauty parlor. It’s a place where you can grab some highlights or a blow-dry, shop their carefully-curated boutique for unique gifts, candles and perfume, and a gathering place where hundreds of locals meet for artful “Third Thursday” trunk shows, demonstrations and frequent appreciation parties.

In true Salon Roux fashion, the business will celebrate its fifth year with a robust concert at Castoro Cellars featuring live tunes by acclaimed musician A.J. Croce and supporting act, The Janks. The entire celebration benefits Studios on the Park’s Kids Art Smart program, which brings free art classes to local youth. The shindig kicks off Saturday, Aug. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Templeton-based winery, and tickets are still available. About 200 guests are expected to attend.

"At Salon Roux, we really do care about giving back, and we really do throw great parties that celebrate our clients and make them feel appreciated," said Salon Roux owner Jacque Leonard. "This year, I just felt like it was time to take our time and money and do something positive for the community."

Studios on the Park Program Director Sasha Irving said the artist's nonprofit is thrilled to be the beneficiary of the celebration. The additional funding means more children will have access to colored pencils, paper, paintbrushes and a sense of creative accomplishment.

"At Studios on the Park, we believe all children should have access to creative learning opportunities through the arts. With arts education cut from local schools, STudios on the Park provides the only visual arts programming for every one of Paso Robles' 3,000 public elementary students," Irving said. "Our hands-on classes provide not only first-rate fine arts education, but also serve to develop personal expression, critical thinking and problem-solving skills."

Leonard, who grew up and flourished in an artistic environment, aid she holds a special place in her heart for the arts.

"It is very close to my heart," she said. "When you look at what's happening to education today, and you see the many children who miss that opportunity to be exposed to art, I just see a huge need for this program. Thanks to Kids ARt Smart, that opportunity is offered to every single child."

Leonard said she knew she wanted to throw a fun party for her salon's fifth anniversary, but had no idea she would be working with such immense talent as Croce, son of legendary singer-songwriter Jim Croce. The musician began his career at age 18 opening for B.B. King, and has since spanned genres from jazz to Americana to blues to pop. Croce is a regular on national television and has graced the likes of Jay Leno, David Letterman and MTV, as well as received glowing press from The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone and People Magazine.

"His music is jaw-droppingly, amazingly good," Leonard said, adding that she first heard Croce when he opened for YES at Castoro Cellars in 2012.

"I had never heard him before, but I was completely blown away. I became a fan at that moment, and once it was over, I bought four of his CDs," Leonard said. "He's an incredible artist, an incredible writer and an incredible piano player. Just amazing."

On Saturday, Croce will play several tunes from his eight studio album, "Twelve Tales," released by Compass Records and recorded with six legendary producers who have worked with the likes of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello and Tom Waits, among other superstar performers.

Croce currently resides in San Diego and said he is excited to make the trek back to Paso Robles.

"My goal is to spread joy," Croce said. "The more fun I have, the more fun that the audience has, and regardless of whether I am playing alone or with a full orchestra, it's really all about having as much fun as possible."

Croce has spent the past year touring while recording his new album - quite a task. He said he is now ready to share that hard-earned music with local crowds. The multi-talented artist plays piano, guitar and sings on the new record. As for Saturday's concert, it will be a grab-bag of sounds.

"You will hear songs from my 20 years of making records, new songs, or you might hear something from the 1920s or a rock 'n' roll song from the 1950s or a pop song from the 1970s - whatever I am in the mood for and what the audience wants," Croce said. "I always sign CDs after I finish playing, so I will be there to meet with audience members. I am really looking forward to it."

In addition to live music, paella, organic mixed greens and dessert will be provided by Thomas Hill Organics Bistro. The event is sponsored by Tim Montgomery, First Solar, Mystic Hills Vineyard, Gayle Force Design, Paker Sanpei and Krush radio.

Leonard said she welcomes the entire community to support the arts at the scenic concert venue, where she noted "there is not a bad seat in the house."

Leonard is always quick to point out that her business would not be where it is today without so much unwavering community support. Now, she is returning the favor in a big way.

"The Kids Art Smart program brings children to Studios on the Park to paint, draw and get creative, Monday through Friday. I know that if I hadn't been in art classes through school, I wouldn't be where I am today," Leonard said. "In the end, I wanted to do something that gives back to our community that has supported us."

Individual tickets to the benefit concert are $50 each. VIP tables include wine and dinner, and are $250 for two people, $500 for four people and $750 for six people. Tickets are available for purchase at Salon Roux by calling 239-9499 or by emailing info@salonroux.com. Tickets will also be available at the door.