Music students rock out for at-risk youths
The concert will showcase many of MMA’s most talented students and raise money for Guitars Not Guns, a national nonprofit organization that gives guitars and music lessons to at-risk youths. All proceeds from ticket sales will go to the organization.
Last year’s Big Benevolent Bash raised approximately $1,600 for the Arroyo Grande chapter of Guitars Not Guns, which provides a guitar, gig bag and lesson materials for each youth they instruct.
Student adviser and co-founder of San Luis Obispo’s MMA chapter Jessie Clarke said she wants the venue to be even more packed this year.
“Everyone we’re putting up there on stage we’re excited about,” Clarke said.
The event is an opportunity for MMA students to showcase skills they have learned during the 30-week program as well as their final test before graduating with an Academy of Contemporary Music Diploma.
“This is kind of an exam for them,” Clarke said. “It makes up one of the modules of their diploma.”
Performers will be videotaped and graded based on showmanship, music excellence and songwriting.
Although the concert functions as an educational and charity event, it will be an exciting night, Clarke said.
“It’s not going to feel like a fundraiser,” she said. “It’s going to feel like a show.”
Approximately 20 musicians will play a mix of original and cover songs. Some of the performers are as young as 14 or 15 years old.
Cuesta College student Bentley Murdock is in MMA’s Artist Development Program and will perform two original songs at the event.
“We know this is our crowning moment,” Murdock said. “We’re pitching our music to people who’ve never heard it before.”
The Artist Development Program is the more advanced of the academy’s two courses — the other is the Professional Music Foundation Program. The curriculum for these courses comes from the Academy of Contemporary Music in London (ACM).
“It’s one of the most prestigious music schools in the world,” Murdock said.
No other school in America is allowed to use ACM’s programs, Clarke said.
Diplomas from ACM are industry qualifications, which are not considered accredited in the U.S. However, MMA students receive technical training for a career in the music business.
By the time they graduate, students have developed an online presence, created a press kit and recorded original songs to promote themselves as artists.
“They have a really good way of helping people solidify what they want to become,” Murdock said.
Despite the fact that some schools have canceled music programs for budget reasons, creative outlets are needed to teach kids about themselves and inspire, he said.
Barbara Gorin, the Guitars Not Guns vice president of fundraising and public relations, said the organization provides guitar lessons to kids who would not have a creative outlet otherwise.
“Their mother could be a drug addict in rehab; their father could be locked up in jail,” Gorin said. “We’re giving kids an alternative to destructive behavior.”
The beneficiary of the Big Benevolent Bash offers an eight-week program for foster care, at-risk and needy kids, ranging from ages eight to 18. They are given a guitar to practice basic techniques with a volunteer instructor for an hour each week. If they complete the program, they are allowed to keep the guitar.
“It’s a happy time — that one hour a week,” Gorin said. “It gives them a sense of accomplishment. They leave the class having learned chords, having learned songs.”
Exceptional students are also considered for a sponsored education at MMA.
The MMA is currently accepting applications for its 2011-2012 programs.
“We know how powerful music is,” Clarke said. “Getting stuck into music can be such a productive thing.”
Tickets for the Big Benevolent Bash are $6 and can be purchased at Boo Boo Records, Ticketweb.com or at the door. All ages are welcome and doors open at 7 p.m.