If a politician needed a poster child for the importance of after-school programs, they could do worse than Danny Sandoval. He started playing music when he was eight, and was soon trying to emulate jazz heroes like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. By the time he’d hit his early teens, he’d started spending most afternoons after school playing music at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts.
Still, success didn’t come overnight.
“I didn’t get to play with Dizzy [Gillespie] until I was 17,” he said of getting to live out his dream gig. Then he added, in obvious understatement, “That was the highlight of my high-school career.”
For the last three years, Sandoval has been an assistant in the Assembly Health Committee. But many in the Capitol had no idea that the mild-mannered Sandoval, now 33, plays his saxophone professionally two or three nights a week. That is, until Sandoval had what he calls his “coming-out party,” when he performed in August with other Capitol musicians at the Legislative Softball Game after-party at Sacramento’s Raley Field.
“Danny’s a pretty shy guy,” said Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, a guitarist who also used to deliver singing telegrams during college. “When he comes up and does his thing with the saxophone, he just blows people away.”
Sandoval has become a new star in an underground and highly nonpartisan Capitol music scene. The current center is probably AKA. The group plays mainly classic rock with a rotating membership of staffers, lobbyists and legislators, said Carl London. London, a lobbyist with GCG Rose & Kindal and lead singer of AKA, said those who have sat in include fellow guitarists like business lobbyist Peter Kellison and Cris Forsythe, Cohn’s former chief of staff. Assembly Speaker Fabian N