Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Varsity Strings is Playing Near You!

Varsity Strings was thrown together in 2008 as a showcase for San Diego high school musicians who don't play traditional marching band instruments.

Such as - Guitar, Piano, and Violin; the THE THREE MOST POPULAR INSTRUMENTS IN THE USA!

There's nothing wrong with marching bands. Some of my best friends play in marching bands. They're fun to watch before and after football games, they sound loud, and they're all over the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade. They get to wear cool uniforms. They band together. They march. They play those big heavy tubas. It's exciting, like listening to a big bagpipe band playing.

But - here's my point - where are the GUITARS?!

I play guitar. I love guitar. If it doesn't have guitars in it, a song falls pretty quickly to the bottom of my iPod list. That's just the way I am. They won't let you play guitar in a marching band. It's a rule. No guitars. And no harmonicas either!

And - where are the singer/songwriters? Who are they supposed tp play with?! They seem to be getting a lot of awards at that big party they throw each year, what's it called? Oh yeah, the Grammys!

My friend Valentine plays piano. She can't play in a marching band either. That's too bad, because she's the best pianist I've ever heard and she's written hundreds (HUNDREDS!) of piano songs she'd like people to hear.

And our friend Jocelyn is an amazing musician; she's played for more than 12 years and is featured in the San Diego Youth Symphony. She plays violin, so they won't let her in the marching band either.

We tried to form a school Jazz Band, but it's hard to fit a violin into a jazz piece and they only let one pianist be in the band. I know LOTS of pianists. So many good musicians without jobs! Also - we don't want to have to play jazz all the time. We want to play songs by artists we like and know, like Bob Dylan and Jorma Kaukonen. We want to play our own songs, we want our original compositions to be heard and appreciated! And our music teachers at school are too busy with the Marching Band. It takes a lot of their time getting everybody to march and play at the same time. It's hard to do – that’s why marching bands used to be in the army.

So we don’t play tubas and we don’t have a thing for Jazz. That makes us the outcasts of the entire musical education system in San Diego. WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO?!

So - we formed a group through our Interact Club (Junior Rotary) at school. They were the only ones who appreciated us. And our Interact Advisor immediately set us up playing at a local community center. Then we got offers from charities around town to play at their benefits. And when those people heard us play, they told other people who asked us to play at their luncheon clubs. The community service hours and general enthusiasm at our Interact Club has skyrocketed.

The funny thing is, we found that our group was really popular outside of school. We put on variety-show performances where each member does a few solo songs, then we play together. People like to hear us play. They like our songs. It's FUN. And there are a lot of places that need music all the time, like those community centers and children's charities and benefits and city-sponsored events. You can take a guitar anywhere and ask people what they want to hear. When you actually play the song they want, they love it, and their events are more popular now!

It works.

And then we started finding student musicians from other schools in San Diego who have the same musical frustrations as us and we let them play with us and now it's grown a bit. We try to help all of San Diego by playing for everybody who wants to listen to our music. I've met a lot of interesting people and we're going to keep this thing going! So if you’ve got the chops, give me a ring and we’ll work something out!