Tuesday, October 19, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 33

Santa Maria Sun / Music

The following article was posted on July 18th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 20 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 20

Building a band: Certain Sparks Music offers summer program so kids can join a band in Lompoc

By Joe Payne

Studying the art of music can often feel like an isolating, solitary affair, with hours spent alone practicing the necessary scales and chords to one day become a "real" musician.

That approach to education neglects one thing that has always spurred musicianship throughout the ages: collaboration. Having aspiring musicians study together can actually be an incredible motivator, according to Randall Sena, music instructor and owner of Certain Sparks Music in Lompoc.

Certain Sparks Music’s Build-A-Band summer program is open to kids ages 7 to 17 at all skill levels to learn in small groups and then come together to perform in one big band.

"In that group environment, it's hard to fail," Sena said. "You can watch your neighbor develop a skill and you can kind of sit back while they're getting it and slowly develop the skill if it doesn't come naturally for you."

Sena's business serves students of various instruments with a team of dedicated teachers. During spring break this year, he brought a bunch of students involved with a Chumash youth program together with a few of his teachers with the goal of having the entire group come together for a performance. They called it "Build-A-Band."

The program was a success, he said, because the kids all got to work together toward a common goal.

"We hadn't done a large-scale group class like that before," Sena explained. "But it went so well, we also offer Build-A-Band in the summer."

The summer Build-A-Band program will be HELD the week of July 30 for kids ages 7 to 17 years old, Sena explained.

But the band that will come together on the last day of the program isn't just for the most skilled players in the program; everybody gets to play, Sena said. From beginners who've never picked up an instrument to those already taking lessons at Certain Sparks or elsewhere, everyone can join in. 

"We have a simple way of teaching songs so that some kids will play a very basic version and other kids will play a more complicated version if they have any experience on guitar, drums, keyboard, and ukulele," he said.

The Build-A-Band program allows kids to learn in a group setting, which spurs progress and fosters friendships, Certain Sparks owner Randall Sena said.

The program is an "immersion experience" that teaches the basics of an instrument through the selected song, Sena explained, in the mode of a summer camp.

Build-A-Band is also set up to foster some vitally important skills for any aspiring musician who may start their own band one day.

"One of the things we try to develop is patience, communication, and also teach kids to give compliments," Sena said. "We go around and encourage them to find a compliment for another member of the group, and things like that really go a long way to building camaraderie in the program."

Each day also includes a group lunch, Sena explained, which helps to bring the students together outside of the learning environment.

"They form friendships, which helps obviously when they get back together in the group environment," he said.

The kids will start in smaller groups that are broken up by instrument, learning the basics through the selected music. As the days progress, the groups will meet with each other under teachers' guidance, working on the song together.

Tailored into the program through the wide age range it serves is a kind of mentorship that allows advanced students to serve as assistants to the teachers, guiding beginning youngsters throughout the learning process, Sena explained.

Making sparks
Certain Sparks Music offers its Build-A-Band summer program July 30 through Aug. 3 from 10 a.m. to noon at the store, 107 S. H St., Lompoc. Cost is $125. More info: (805) 588-9479 or certainsparks.com.

"They're expected to sit with the other students and help them develop their skills so that it's almost like a family environment so the little kid doesn't feel left out," he said. "In a way they feel special because they might not catch on as quick."

For Certain Sparks instructor Sean Causby, the journey from music student to teacher all happened at the school/music shop. Causby, now 19, started lessons with Sena on bass guitar at 10 years old. 

He quickly moved on to other instruments too, Causby told the Sun.

"Most of the guys who teach here now, all of them were one of my teachers at one point or another," he said.

Causby will serve as percussion assistant during the Build-A-Band program, though he teaches several instruments, and was also involved in Certain Spark's first Build-A-Band program.

Even as a music teacher in the early years of his career, Causby was struck by how effective group education was for the kids in the program.

"We usually do a one-on-one type lesson ... and the Build-A-Band program was a matter of getting a group of kids on the same page and collectively learn one concept together," he said. "With something so tedious as learning an instrument, it was really impressive to see how all the kids picked it up by the end of the week. It's really cool, actually."

During the weeklong Build-A-Band program, small groups of music students come together to practice a song in preparation for a performance at Certain Sparks in Lompoc.

As far as bands are concerned, Causby brings his own experience playing with groups big and small. He performs with the Central City Swing Big Band, Allan Hancock College's Jazz Band and Concert Band, and his own jazz combo, Odd Method.

Putting together and maintaining a band in adulthood comes with a whole other set of challenges, but the Build-A-Band program is designed to give young musicians a direct understanding that builds the most basic skills necessary to play in a group.

"I think that it shows them teamwork in a way that they've never experienced before," Causby said. "Those kids may be on a baseball team or a soccer team and have a sense of teamwork there, but it's kind of an unspoken teamwork that they're working towards when they're working in a band setting.

"They're all trying to focus on their one particular jobs," he added, "but when you put them all together in that one, giant collective group, everything just comes together." 

Managing Editor Joe Payne has played in several bands throughout the years. Contact him at jpayne@santamariasun.com.

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