For nearly five years, the Santa Barbara Bowl’s Education Outreach Program has supported music and performing arts education. On Thursday, May 14, these groups got the chance to perform their work at the Lobero Theater in Stand By Me, the first ever showcase of performing arts groups that probably couldn’t exist without the program’s help. The show was put on completely by volunteers, and featured wonderful performances that ranged from a kid’s mariachi group to West African drumbeats. The Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation Board hopes the show will become an annual event as the program continues to grow and provide further support to the arts.
The night featured almost 100 kids from eight different performing groups. The show opened with the Santa Barbara Youth Mariachi (SBYM) group marching through the crowd to the stage to perform some tradition Mexican songs. The Outreach Program has allowed SBYM to provide free instruments and musical training to at-risk youth.
After some words from Michael Katz, the show’s master of ceremonies, and Graham Farrar, the chair of the Education Outreach Committee, Boxtales, a theater company that brings myths and folktales to young audiences, treated the audience to a performance. Their performance of “Dionysus and the Pirate Ship” was so good that one little girl had to leave the room after getting scared by one of the actor’s portrayal of a lion.
Caesar Valenzuela from Notes for Notes followed by rapping his song “My Girl,” which got a great reaction from some ladies in the audience. The song was recorded at the MusicBox, which Farrar explained is a recording studio built in the Boys & Girls club with the help of the Education Outreach Program to provide a place for kids to explore and create music. This was the first of its kind, and the idea is now spreading to Boys & Girls clubs around the country.
Next was 14 dancers, all eight to 11 years old, from “Everybody Dance Now,” a program ran by high school students that aims to educate kids in the art of dance that would otherwise never be exposed to it. The crowd loved their dance piece, “Freeze,” especially when the two boys in the group gave some solo performances.
Katz danced back on to the stage with a velcro belt that had horns, ears, and a crown attached to it. He used these to portray a monkey, a fairy, and “Buddha Bull” by sticking them to his Velcro headband in a performance of “The Magic of Patience,” an Indian allegorical tale for withstanding bullying and making friends. He explained how he teaches acting workshops in Santa Barbara elementary schools to help them develop acting as well as life skills.
Son Jarocho Pantera took the stage next, and featured a group of kids using traditional Mexican instruments to play some traditional Mexican tunes. This included the jarana, a small guitar-type instrument, a wooden box called a tarima, and a quijada de burro, or donkey jaw. They were followed by Cameron Tummel, who got the entire audience involved in a rhythm routine created by clapping and rubbing the hands, slapping the mouth, and stomping the feet.
The Santa Barbara Dance Institute (SBDI) gave a sneak preview of their up-coming “Once Upon A Time: A Wonderful World of Words,” which county art commissioner Ginny Brush has dubbed, “The feel good show of the year.” SBDI is a non-profit organization that offers dance lessons to 300 children. Their show this night featured 19 pre-teens dancing to the hit song, “Walk It Out,” and five of them dancing to a spoken word recording of Dr. Suess’ Oh! The Places You Will Go. They closed with an inspirational dance set to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream,” speech mixed with Moby’s “Porcelain,” where the removal of black-and-white shirts for tie-dyed ones symbolized racial unity.
The final group to perform was The Hot Shots Youth Percussion Ensemble, led by Tummel and described by Katz as, “a dream team of drummers.” The nine kids’ hands blazed away as they thundered out a medley of three West African rhythms using traditional drums. Once again, Tummel engaged the crowd by getting everyone to clap along to the beat.
The highlight of the night, however, was definitely the grand finale, a rendition of “Stand By Me” featuring Luis Hernandez and Eric “Rico” Hernandez from Notes for Notes providing hip-hop vocals. The curtain behind them pulled away to reveal all of the other groups. The dance groups provided some back up dancing, while Hot Shots tapped their drums and Son Jarocho strummed away on their jaranas.
The performance earned a standing ovation from the audience, and the general reaction in the building included “good show, I really enjoyed it” and “amazing.” Outside, a man named Joel who loved the diversity of the show, told The Independent that it was “outstanding. They all did a fantastic job, especially the dance groups.”
Farrar said that the night was really for the kids. For them, this event is the highlight of the year, and gives them all something to work towards. Having it at the Lobero makes it feel like a real, big-budget production. “You can see how happy the kids are,” he said, “and that makes it worth it.”
According to the evening’s program, the Education Outreach Program reaches about 15,000 Santa Barbara-area students every year, and is funded by $1 from each ticket sold to Bowl shows as well as by donations from community members and organizations. The program is a part of the Bowl Foundation’s American Classic Campaign, and Farrar explained that once the renovations are completed to the bowl, funding will shift away from the building towards a focus on music and performing education.