David Lescht passed away of a heart attack at 3 a.m. Friday, May 4
David Lescht, the founder and director of the award-winning Outside In project, passed away unexpectedly May 4 of a heart attack. He was 64.
Lescht had just been in on the air on KBAC yesterday with station manager Ira Gordon to announce the lineup for this summer's Santa Fe Bandstand festival, a project of Outside In.
Lescht, who was from Brooklyn, N.Y., founded the nonprofit Outside In in 1995 to provide live performance events and workshops to people confined to shelters, prisons, nursing homes, correctional facilities, and other places where people have no access to the arts. He was inspired by the work of musician and activist Mimi Farina, the sister of folk singer Joan Baez, and her group Bread and Roses, which gave live performances to institutions. Lescht passionately believed that "music and the performing arts have the power to uplift the human spirit and relieve both psychological suffering and the boredom that people can experience in such situations," according to a statement on Outside In's website.
"I was so crazy about what he did," said Margaret Burke, who has worked with him on the Bandstand production committee for 10 years. "What he's left me is that I really see how one person can change the world. That's the legacy he's leaving me. That one human can be so powerful. He had a great mind, but he was an old hippie and he was coming from a place of peace and love. Whatever challenges he had in bringing music to Santa Fe, he always had faith that things would all work out."
Michael Franti is just one of the countless musicians who's worked with Outside In. I have played 4 times in New Mexico correctional facilities and each time I do I am moved by the residents desire to grow beyond their current circumstances. OUTSIDE IN teachers are inside everyday of the week, teaching people to play guitar, hip hop dance and learn the valuable skill of expressing themselves through the arts. Without this outlet many of the men and women they work with would be without hope. I have played 4 times in New Mexico correctional facilities and each time I do I am moved by the residents desire to grow beyond their current circumstances. OUTSIDE IN teachers are inside everyday of the week, teaching people to play guitar, hip hop dance and learn the valuable skill of expressing themselves through the arts. Without this outlet many of the men and women they work with would be without hope. "I have played four times in New Mexico correctional facilities and each time I do, I am moved by the residents' desire to grow beyond their current circumstances," Franti said in a statement posted on the group's website. "Outside In teachers are inside every day of the week, teaching people to play guitar, hip hop dance and learn the valuable skill of expressing themselves through the arts. Without this outlet, many of the men and women they work with would be without hope."
The Santa Fe Bandstand continues Lescht's belief in the importance of music to a community. This summer's Santa Fe Bandstand is tentatively scheduled to run from July 5 through August 16 on the Plaza.
Lescht first moved to Santa Fe in 1974, where he lived in a commune and worked in a hostel on Manhatten Street. He ran three homeless shelters from 1974 to 1982, when he organized the Brotherhood Band as an offshoot of his work with homeless. He was a member of the band and also the manager, organizing tours of the U.S. and Spain to play in correctional facilities and hospitals. After seeing the work of Bread and Roses while on a tour, he decided to return to New Mexico to create a similar program here.
During the early '90s, Lescht lived in London, where he managed a rehearsal space for musicians and managed the Peter Webber/Fritz Studios. He returned to New Mexico and established Outside In in Santa Fe, where he became a central figure in the music scene. Lescht also was a programmer at KUNM 89.9 in Albuquerque and a host for the station's "Freeform" and "Folkroutes" shows.
Mayor David Coss released this statement today: "...David did so much for Santa Fe and was a key member of Santa Fe's thriving music scene. His work with Outside In, Youth with Promise and Santa Fe Bandstand was invaluable to all Santa Feans...As mayor, I am confident that David's work will be continued by his colleagues. City officials will do everything we can to make sure David's work is honored and that the work he started is continued throughout the community."
His friends and colleagues are leaving remembrances and comments on his Facebook page, including Neal Copperman, executive director of AMP Concerts in Albuquerque, who wrote: "David was one of the most generous souls around. He founded and ran Outside In, which brought hundreds of events (music, poetry, workshops) to people who were shut in. Folks in prisons, detention centers, halfway houses, juvenile centers, retirement homes...A huge loss for the community. Thanks for everything you gave to the world David."
Lescht is survived his wife, Sarah, son Tobias, and two daughters, Petra and Esther Theona.
His friends are gathering at the Cowgirl today, May 4, at 5:30 p.m. to toast his legacy. A public viewing takes place in the foyer of The Lensic Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, May 8 from 5 to 8 p.m.
Also, his friends have arranged a public celebration of his life with select tributes and music at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 10 at the Bandstand on the Santa Fe Plaza.
We will update you here with more information as it becomes available.