San Jose's independent police auditor to retire, focus on music

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- San Jose's independent police auditor will retire from her job this summer. That will mean less time investigating reports of police brutality, and more time for a labor of love. It involves struggling black composers, long lost classical music, and education.

This is not the way most people picture the woman who investigates police brutality and hate crimes in San Jose. But it's not just music. This particular kind of music now occupies a big chunk of her time.

"Our goal is a simple yet important one -- to bring the music of black composers, past and present, to the world," said LaDoris Cordell during a speech in January 2015.

Cordell has worn many caps in her life: lawyer, judge, civil servant. But this new incarnation is something completely different.

She and Menlo Park piano teacher Jodi Gandolfi scour the country looking for the works of black composers; some contemporary like Valerie Capers and Joshua McGhee, and some long forgotten like William Grant Still and Florence Price.

"We're on a mission now to bring more and more of this music, and there's so much of it, to the world," Cordell said.

Gandolfi added, "You hear in their compositions really the entirety of who they are; their classical training, their life experience."

It's one thing to find the music and bring it to the public, but these ladies don't stop there.

Every January they perform the music they've dug up in concert to adoring fans at the Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto. The students there don't just listen or study the compositions, they take part.

Folks who attend the concert are encouraged to make donations, and all proceeds are given to the school.

"We've fallen in love with the students, with the teachers, and everything that they're doing there at the school," Cordell said.

Gandolfi added, "These kids are going to grow up knowing that this music is part of American heritage."

Cordell has also founded an organization called the African American Composer Initiative to help showcase the work of black artists before they are permanently lost.

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