African drums were pounded, tambourines were shaken, and maracas were rattled on Monday morning at the Music Academy of the West. The rhythm remained perpetually unorganized (and thunderingly loud) while one volunteer from United Way’s Fun in the Sun program attempted to introduce the concept of 4/4 tempo.
Montecito Bank & Trust and the Music Academy of the West partnered to host the second annual musical outreach program, titled “Up Close and Musical” for children at the Music Academy’s Hahn Hall.
Children from the United Way’s Fun in the Sun program, the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara, United Boys and Girls Club of Carpinteria, and Casa Pacifica were among the groups invited. Roughly 300 children, age 7 to 18, were in attendance.
“It’s very much in the spirit of what Leonard Bernstein did in New York City for years and years,” said Music Academy President Scott Reed. “Those adults come to our concerts and they talk about that experience as children and how it made them love music. Because of the bank,we’re able to do that in Santa Barbara and it’s extraordinary.”
Janet Garufis, president and CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust, said the event “opens up a world of possibilities” for introducing children to both the Music Academy campus and the prospect of becoming a professional musician.
On Monday, several children gathered around arts and crafts tables, which include face painting and decorative masks of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s likeness. Some use colored pencils to tattoo butterflies, hearts and flowers onto the composer’s cheeks and forehead. Others colored his hair to give him a florid technicolor coif. Lizet, 9, used pipe cleaners and colored pencils to give Beethoven a yellow mohawk and a small green mustache.
Following the festivities, the Academy Festival Orchestra performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 in F Major, led by guest conductor Tito Muñoz.
This is the second time the orchestra has performed the eighth symphony for an audience this month. On July 13, it performed at the Granada Theatre with world-renowned conductor Leonard Slatkin.
“Just because this is a group of kids doesn’t mean we don’t want to be prepared,” Reed said. “We want to give them a world-class performance.”
Between movements, Muñoz discussed the mechanics of instrumentation and the different families at play: percussion, woodwind, brass and string.
“We saw the orchestra over there,” said Kristopher, 12. “[It was] good because we could see the different type of instruments. [My favorite instrument family was] the strings.”
Edgar, 7, said his favorite movement was the first because it was “loud.” Monse, 10, said her favorite instrument in the orchestra was the cello, while Evelyn, 9, and Lizbeth, 10, preferred the sound of the violin.
The average age of the performers in the Academy’s orchestra is 22, said Reed. “For these kids to see these young people making music on stage, it creates a different level of accessibility that maybe one day they’ll become a Music Academy fellow, and that’s the ultimate return,” he said. “It would make the culture even stronger.”
For more on the Music Academy of the West’s Up Close and Musical program, visit musicacadey.org.