A&E

Be Natural Music Makes Students’ Accomplishments High-Profile

Company adapts to offer full band rehearsals online

Full Disclosure, a band made up of Be Natural Music students, after their performance at the MAH on Oct. 25, which was streamed online as part of a multi-camera shoot produced by the local music school. Left to right: Andrea Urzua, Mia Archuleta, Julian Cardona Harris, Jordan Bliesner, Cody Williams.

Be Natural Music is a local company that specializes in teaching kids how to play their instruments.

But also, and perhaps more importantly, it teaches kids how to be in a band, as a group. The pinnacle of this is the concerts they put on that give their students the chance to feel what it’s like to be on stage with their bands. It also doubles as a fundraiser, to help pay for scholarships for kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford music lessons.

This year has been rough, but Be Natural has adapted. In October, they put on four concerts. Two of them were in their parking lot with masks required and social-distancing measures taken so a live audience could attend. The other two were held at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH) with no audiences. All four concerts were broadcast with multiple camera angles.

“It was amazing to see these kids perform. Having those shows and allowing the kids to be able to be who they are as musicians,” says Mathew Pinck, music director for Be Natural Music. “The kids get a lot from those shows.”

When the shelter-in-place orders were first enacted in March, Be Natural was only allowed to teach via Zoom, and they couldn’t do their normal fundraising concerts in the spring. It was a huge challenge, but they worked through both technical glitches and the loss of about a quarter of their clients. They even continued to do full band rehearsals, which was extremely difficult to do online.

“We definitely drank a lot more at that time. We were exhausted being in different rooms, zooming and keeping the kids engaged, and making sure they had focus,” Pinck says.

In June, Be Natural was allowed to teach onsite again, which was a particular boon for the kids who were in full bands, as they were still struggling with latency issues. Kids now come in with masks on, get their temperatures taken, and play in larger spaces that are separated by glass shields to keep them safe. The Be Natural staff sanitizes everything between bands. The kids are able to get the rocking-out experience without putting themselves at risk of contracting Covid-19.

“We follow the rules. The evidence speaks for itself. We have not had any issues, which is pretty amazing,” Pinck says.

As the summer has progressed, and Be Natural has adapted, they’ve managed to get back clients. They’re buzzing along well. However, they’ve fallen short of their fundraising goals.

To help make up the difference, they’re fundraising the entire month of December, with a goal of $15,000. On Saturday, Dec. 5, they started auctioning off some instruments. They also released a podcast, something new for them, that they hope will get the message out about how much what they do means to their students. Pinck sat down and did one-on-one conversations with different students, both scholarship recipients and regular students, about their experiences.

“I wanted to interview these kids, like what really pulls you in? Just a heart-to-heart,” Pinck says. “I really wanted to know why these kids got into music and their love for music.”

Even after Covid-19 is no longer a serious issue, they want to keep doing many of the new things they’ve done this year, like keeping Zoom lessons an option, and doing the same high-quality multi-camera broadcast shoots for their concerts. The podcast, too. It’s something really special to Pinck that he wants to keep going.

“The Covid virus sped certain things up. Now we can teach all around the world. Now, the sky’s the limit, as long as the person wants to take lessons and follow the rules. We can do that,” Pinck says. “We’re getting ready for next spring. We’re going have our spring shows and broadcast them. We want better equipment. We want better cameras. Honestly, we want to make these into TV shows.”  

For more information on Be Natural’s fundraiser, or to donate, go to benaturalmusicsantacruz.com/auction.

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