This past weekend, Santa Barbara students as young as 8 rocked it out with L.A. county youths at LOUDfest, a music and cinema festival hosted by S.B.’s Loud program on May 19. Students played covers and original numbers at the festival, which filled up L.A.’s high-profile venues The Echo and the Echoplex, for a solid day of student performances and music videos. Super-smooth and super-popular 18-year-old genius producer Cuco capped off the evening with a special guest set, culminating a year’s work for students once too nervous to set foot onstage.
Founded by area musician and filmmaker Mason Orfalea, the Loud program is an after-school music program for low-income students in Southern California. With a mobile recording studio and veteran music teachers onboard, the program gives professional industry exposure and access to underserved communities.
La Cumbre Junior High, Monroe Elementary, and Notre Dame School students joined forces with student bands from L.A. County at the mixed-media festival, with groups playing songs from Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” to The Cranberries’ “Zombie,” as well as originals. This year, the ever-expanding program introduced a film component, encouraging kids’ visionary skills with music-video and movie creation. Music videos and a loop of student films excited the eyes as the bands rocked the ears at LOUDfest.
Orfalea said the program “really fosters an artistic community,” encouraging talented youth to find careers in fields “they can actually thrive in.” What’s more, he said, it “fills a void. Unfortunately, art funding’s been cut across the board in California, and this gives kids a level playing field.”
Program Director Carter Lee was “blown away” by the student talent and was thrilled to see the transformations at play. Students went “from being completely inward and quiet to really owning that stage for sure,” he said.
The Loud program takes a summer break before resuming again in the fall, but the students’ newfound confidence will be ongoing. “It’s helping kids realize that music can be a natural part of their lives, and that’s been the goal from the start,” Lee said.