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Rockin’ for Colfax – Profile on a Pint-Sized Band

Two Kindergartners and four 1st graders form their own rock band with a little help from their friends and Burbank Music Academy.

It is a Monday afternoon, just a half hour after school gets out, and two kindergartners and four 1st graders from in Valley Village travel down the street to the Burbank Music Academy. Although they’ve never shared a class before, they’ve been thrown together to form a rock & roll band.

In just five weeks this band, which calls itself Fire Candy, will be playing Bow Wow Wow’s I Want Candy at Rockin’ for Colfax, a concert of 21 kids’ bands that raises money for school arts programs.

Rex Broome has the patience of Job, and he is one of BMA’s instructors. One by one he hands each student an instrument and gives a quick lesson on how to play. Ron Kaminski picks up a red guitar and Rex guides his left fingers to the correct fret and shows him which strings to pluck with his right. Ron continues plucking as Rex moves on to Skylar Lewis, a 7-year old who is learning how to play bass. Skylar chose the bass because his dad plays the instrument.

Jake Rosholt is a little shy. He’s in kindergarten, and although his entire family either sings or plays musical instruments, this is his first time learning how to play. Rex has set him up at the keyboard and shows him the notes to play: D-D-D-C-D // D-D-D-C-D. It’s the same beat and notes over and over. Jake tries a few times. By the fourth time he gets it. His face breaks into an enormous smile and he continues to play as Rex approaches the next musician.

Masha Nagiyera is antsy and can’t wait to start beating the drums. Rex shows her how to hit the cymbals with the drum sticks and stomp on the kick drum. She starts beating away, joining in the cacophony of the other musicians.

Then Rex sets up two microphones for Jane Okparaocha and Skylar Moland, the two 1st graders who will be singing the song in unison. They get a kick out of hearing their voices over the speakers. Rex places a piece of paper with the lyrics on a music stand in front of them and they start singing a capella.

Rex hits a button on his laptop and the original song plays. Some of the kids know the song. Others don’t. Jake recognizes it from the movie Hop.

Then the band is ready. Rex attacks his guitar like the pro that he is, then every measure he signals a different kid to jump in and start playing. In seconds, all six kids are jamming.

This is the second year that Colfax is putting on this concert. Last year it was called Rockin’ for the Arts, and the concert was created by Burbank Music Academy owner Laura Wynne. BMA puts on several of these events each year at absolutely no cost to either the school or the students, and the concerts have raised a combined total of over $100,000. Wynne provides the music teachers who coach each band an hour a week for for to five weeks. The instructors also play with some of the bands, particularly the younger ones who need more guidance during their performance. Kester Avenue Elementary School in Van Nuys recently held their own Rockin’ concert, and many schools in Burbank have made this an annual event.

BMA’s instructors choose simple 1, 2, or 3 chord songs to make it easier for children who are novices to playing musical instruments. The kids choose their own band names, among them: The Fluffy Teddy; Peppermint Cookies; The Cartographers; and Mohawk Monkeys.

 A custom Rockin’ for Colfax clothing line was designed and sold recently, including hoodies with all the band names on the back. They were only sold for a limited time and will not be available for sale during the concert.

Rockin’ for Colfax takes place Saturday, April 28th on Colfax Charter Elementary School’s grassy track and field. Guests are encouraged to bring blankets and beach chairs. Admission is just $5. Doors open at 4:00 pm and the first band goes up at 4:45 pm. There’ll be plenty of food and drinks available for sale, including pizza, Panda Express, tamales, and of course a variety of desserts. All proceeds pay for the arts programs at Colfax, including music, drama, dance, and visual arts.

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