HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — A room once bustling with diners eager to enjoy live jazz music is still empty, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Catalina Popescu, owner of the Catalina Jazz Club, reflected on her journey migrating from Romania to Hollywood, where she found freedom through the arts and established one of Los Angeles' most iconic jazz clubs for artists of all backgrounds to perform. It also serves as a haven for Jazz lovers.

What You Need To Know

  • Catalina Popescu immigrated from Romania to the U.S., settling down in Hollywood

  • Popescu and her husband opened up the Catalina Jazz Club, which has become an iconic location for both Jazz performers and Jazz fans

  • In Communist Romania, she did not have free access to outside music

  • The pandemic has caused Popescu to launch GoFundMe campaigns in hopes to ensure her club survives, having been shut down for nearly a year now

"I left Romania in 1976 and I was very young then, and I always wanted to come to America," said Popescu. "That was my dream since I was 5 years old."

Guests like the late Mary Wilson brought Popescu's dream to new heights, as the club has thrived for three decades now.

Popescu has brought in both up-and-coming talent and established talent, giving artists a platform to be heard. Keeping her club alive in the midst of a pandemic means that much more to her because of what she had to sacrifice to get here.

"Coming from a Communist country, we are not allowed to have any contact with anything coming from the outside world," said Popescu. "But the only person that I used to know of and listen to was Dizzie Gillespie."

Sure enough, Dizzie Gillespie was the first act that performed at her club — and certainly not the last. Popescu said she hopes to continue to empower local talent through her venue but is relying on GoFundMe campaigns to keep paying rent until live music is permissible again in Hollywood.

“Nothing in this world will bring people together like music. Nothing. People that love music, they speak the same language. They feel the same way. They look at the same thing. They hear the same thing."

Popescu hopes, through community support, that the power of music will persist at the Catalina Jazz Club.