Alan Der Ohannessian, staff reporter
Anna Osipova, staff reporter
The San Fernando Valley has a reputation as being devoid of entertainment. Justin Souza, the man behind The Breathing Room, hopes to make it a little less so.
“There needs to be more opportunity for people to meet up in person and the San Fernando Valley doesn’t have very many places that are worth going to, so we’re losing that social connection,” said Souza.
He started The Breathing Room late last year. It is a non-profit, all ages venue that organizes shows once a month at the First Presbyterian Church of Granada Hills, located at 10400 Zelzah Ave. in Northridge.
“We’re seeing that the demand is there. I mean my hunch, the whole reason I wanted to start this is because I really feel strongly that there is a void in the SF Valley,” said Souza.
“I put up a big proposition to the First Presbyterian Church of Granada Hills. They’re across the street from Granada Hills High School. They have a building that is just perfect for what we are doing at TBR. Full stage, sound, lights, rooms for bands to hang out, plenty of parking. The location’s perfect,” he said.
Souza explained that it’s called The Breathing Room because he wants people to come away from the experience feeling like they’ve just taken a breath of fresh air.
“We want you to come in and feel like you are really being refreshed, that it’s a fresh getaway from our culture of being bombarded with billboards and ads.”
Souza graduated from CSUN in 2004 with a degree in music industry studies. He’s been working in the music industry since then and said that his experience has helped him convince bands to play at The Breathing Room.
He does offer guarantees to the smaller bands that play as well as the headliners. There are a couple green rooms for bands before the show and he does offer catering for all the bands.
“Part of the vision is to provide a lot of opportunity for local bands but… I want to have bands that are touring nationally coming through,” said Souza.
He looks for bands already established to headline the show. Pigeon John was the headliner for last month’s show on Feb. 27. Pigeon John is a local alternative hip-hop artist from Inglewood who has achieved national success. Flynn Adam, Soul Junk and Lifter and O!mega played that night as well.
“I’m interesting in putting on an event where you’re going to show up at the beginning and you’re going to want to stay for the whole thing. You’re going to feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth and you feel like you’ve really had a good time,” Souza said.
“There’s a pattern there with themes,” he said, “… in March, we have just a straight-up rock, pop rock night.”
John Bowling, director of youth ministry, said “I knew the power that music has to influence youth.”
Music was an important part of his adolescence and so when Souza approached him with the idea, Bowling thought it was a great idea.
“I want to empower people to do more than just listen to music,” said Bowling, “but I haven’t quite figured it out.”
He is trying to use the shows to promote community service by having sign-up sheets at the concerts for events for the following Saturday. At the Confide show last month, Compassion International showed a video and encouraged people to donate for Haiti.
“I want to provide the people that come with an opportunity to build relationships with new people,” said Bowling.
“Everybody’s volunteers except for security,” Souza said. “The great thing about that is everybody is so excited to be involved.”
They are always looking for more people to help out and Souza said one of the things he is lacking is promotion. They have people that pass out flyers at similar events and they depend heavily on Facebook and Myspace, but he said that he would like to have additional ways of getting the word out.
“We’re really about just impacting the San Fernando Valley in a major, in a positive way with our music and with just the space that we’re creating,” said Souza. “I want to have a higher standard than what’s going on in Hollywood.”
Tickets are available for presale for $10. To order tickets, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the number of tickets and a name. The Breathing Room accepts cash or check. Tickets purchased at the door cost $12. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/thebreathingroomallages.