Music is in the Air at Rancho Sans Souci

Chin Beckmann on the keys and Ronit Widman-Levy, a professional classical vocalist, make music together in Chin's Sunnyvale Eichler. Music is just one of many factors that make 'the Pocket' a special place. Photo by Sabrina Huang

Most often, people touring a neighborhood to scope it out look at homes, the people walking by, the treescape, and the power lines, or absence thereof. In the Eichler neighborhood of Rancho Sans Souci in Sunnyvale, it also pays to listen, as you will discover in ‘Pocketful of Eichlers’ in the new, winter ’22 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

Ronit Widman-Levy, who has lived in the 35-home Sunnyvale tract with her husband, Raphael Levy, for a decade, is a professional classical singer of accomplishment. But others in the well-preserved neighborhood make music too, and it enhances the mood.

“I have heard people [engaged in music] when I walk my dog,” Ronit says. “I've heard somebody play the clarinet really well at the end of the street. I have heard somebody play a saxophone really well on that side of the street.”

And all this on top of the sounds often heard wafting from the young players of the local Homestead High School Marching Band, whose outdoor rehearsals at the neighboring school can be heard in almost every backyard.

Laurentian Way
A home on Laurentian Way suggests how well preserved and attractive the 35 Eichlers in the Rancho Sans Souci tract remain. Photo by Dave Weinstein

“Wow, we always get these concerts in the afternoon,” Ronit says, adding, “I’m happy when there are young people playing well right next door. It’s all but a blessing to have that, and to know that music education is thriving in schools is reassuring.”

Less obvious than the houses, but not hard to notice if you listen, is the international flavor of the neighborhood.

About the neighborhood, home­owner Donna Stasio says, “A couple of things stand out to me. You can hear people speaking in all different languages, you know, across the fences, literally. But the other thing is there is always laughter over the fence.”

“There’s a healthy mix of a lot of cultures here, I feel,” says neighbor Kamlesh Rao, who adds, “The neighbors tend to be very open minded and friendly around the Eichler communities.”

Raos in atrium
The Rao family -- Risha, Meghana, Ridhi, and Kamlesh -- have met many neighbors simply by walking the tract, including with their dog, Thor. Photo by Sabrina Huang

The tract was built in 1968 and dubbed by developer Joe Eichler 'Rancho Sans Souci,' a rancho without worries, without cares. It’s a low-crime neighborhood, so that may be largely the case -- though the neighborhood has had cares over the years, and has successfully fought off challenges that would have increased traffic and noise.

But the 'sans souci' name has not stuck. Instead, neighbors call it 'the Pocket.' That’s because it is surrounded on three sides by the city of Cupertino, with only a small 'pocket' of land in Sunnyvale.

The Pocket is not the sort of Eichler neighborhood where everybody knows almost everybody. There is no neighborhood association. But many things draw people together, including holiday gatherings out of doors, other forms of socializing, and simply walking the neighborhood.

  Rupp door
Fabio Rupp turned the doorway of his prominently sited Eichler into a work of art, something that spurs discussion by passersby. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Kamlesh’s wife, Meghana, chats with people while walking her dog, a goofy-in-a-good-way golden doodle that neighbors remark upon, also in a good way. “When you see a neighbor, you start conversations,” Meghana says.

“And people are very outdoorsy,” Kamlesh adds. “You know, I’ve seen a lot of them gardening outside, and I’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m Kamlesh. I live down the street.’ ”

Music also pulls people together.

Ronit and neighbor Chin Beckmann, a pianist, often perform together, and there have been house concerts.

Steep gables
Homes in the Pocket were built in 1968, with such popular models of the period including some with broad, prominent gables fronting the atrium. Photo by Dave Weinstein

“It has great sound,” Ronit says of her home. “In fact, one of the reasons I fell in love with this house was when I walked through the door and I saw this big open space, and I thought I could definitely see myself practicing in here and doing salon concerts, which I have done many times.

And do the neighbors mind hearing musicians rehearse? Hardly. Ronit remembers the first time a neighbor called after one rehearsal.

“I thought to myself, that's it. Now she's going to say that she can't work because I'm running scales and singing Tosca.

“And she's like, oh, no, no, no -- I need you to open the window. My husband and I can't hear you."

Learn more about the sights, sounds, and people of Rancho San Souci in 'Pocketful of Eichlers' in the new, winter ‘22 issue of CA-Modern magazine.


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