Ten young recorder-players from Salinas today spent an hour listening to Al Jardine of the Beach Boys and Edwin Huizinga of the Bach Festival jam.
To the kids, there was no overture of fame—Jardine was introduced by Huizinga just as "my friend Al," and even if they'd identified the Beach Boys, it seemed unlikely this group would've recognized the band anyway. Searching for a sing-along song, Jardine tried "California Girls" then "Barbara Ann," getting no recognition from the young musicians.
"Jeez, this is a tough crowd," Jardine said afterward. He seemed genuinely a little hurt: "It's a moment of judgement." (The group did eventually settle for a rendition of "Barbara Ann," and it was groovy enough to get the kids up dancing. For their sing-along tune, they went for something a little more widely known: "Row, row, row your boat.")
"I'm not sure what 9-year-olds listen to anymore," Jardine said. Huizinga told him it wasn't his fault: Pop music, after all, cycles in and out too rapidly these days to keep up with.
Jardine joined Huizinga, a Toronto-based violinist who comes to town for a couple of weeks every summer for the Carmel Bach Festival—and now three, to support music at youth summer programs at the Big Sur Land Trust's Glen Deven Ranch.
This is BSLT's first year of camp programming at the rugged 960-acre property off Palo Colorado. This week, they hosted a series of music and nature day camps for Salinas Valley youth, participants in the Youth Orchestra of Salinas.
Today was for beginners, who are still working on recorder. "I love playing recorder," Amerika, a fourth-grader, says. "It's like flute, but easier."
She's got her sights on cello, and is waiting to hear back from YOSAL on how she did in auditions.
YOSAL, a rigorous after-school music program that Alisal Union School District launched at MLK Academy three years ago, is a local version of El Sistema, a nonprofit that gets classical music instruction to underserved youth who don't have access at school. YOSAL's annual $800,000 budget is in danger of being cut.
Jardine also played Pete Seeger's "Last Night I Dreamed the Strangest Dream," about world peace, and how remote it feels. That felt particularly poignant considering the wave of violence that's struck Salinas the past week, considering these children are all headed home to East Salinas.
"I've been thinking about that song for six months," he says. "The timing couldn't be better, with the world falling apart, and all the conflict.
"We've got to get it out of our systems—maybe, if we sing about it…"
Earlier in the day, the kids told Huizinga the sounds they picked up on in their environments: car doors shutting, honking, yelling.
"Their world is just so different," Huizinga says. "They deserve a chance to be part of this."
He picked up his 250-year-old violin to start jamming with other counselors on violin and cello, and instructed the kids to sit down and listen and write a story about whatever the music made them feel.
For most of this group of kids, today was the first day they'd seen the ocean. Two girls said it was pretty; one said it looked like lakes in Salinas. But most of them ended up drawing starfish and ocean scenes later in the afternoon.
"Big Sur looks like the Grand Canyon, but instead of rocks, there are trees," says Ethan, a fifth-grader. He's hoping he auditioned into the orchestra where he wants to upgrade from recorder to violin.