Brian Aubert and Nikki Monninger of Silversun Pickups performing acoustic session at Rock4PEF in Farnsworth Park Amphitheater in Altadena, CA on October 5, 2014. (Ryan Kevin / Courier)
Brian Aubert and Nikki Monninger of Silversun Pickups performing acoustic session at Rock4PEF in Farnsworth Park Amphitheater in Altadena, CA on October 5, 2014. (Ryan Kevin / Courier)

“Where you goin’ tough guy?” he said.

The boy stopped dead in his tracks, waited a moment, and turned around. He stared at the man who had called him out and the crowd erupted with laughter. A 3-year-old boy had wandered onto the stage and walked right up to Brian Aubert and Nikki Monninger of the Silversun Pickups.

Aubert then invited the rest of the kids onto the stage to “play” along with them. The bright-eyed children rushed over at the opportunity. Audience members laughed and the outdoor amphitheater was transformed into an intimate space for friends and family alike to enjoy music in the warm fall air.

This was only how the night came to a close for the benefit concert held by the Pasadena Education Foundation (PEF) this past Sunday.

With the aim of raising funds to promote a better musical education program in the public schools of Pasadena, PEF invited acclaimed musical artists the Silversun Pickups, Ozma, Taylor Mathews, Melissa Polinar and the Serenegades to perform.

“I think it’s so important nowadays because so many music education programs have been cut, so it’s just really important to raise some awareness, and to put it back into education,” Monninger said, “I think it’s really important to get exposed early, and then at that point you can make the decision if you want a career or not.”

All of the musicians who performed got their first taste of music early on and most of them from the public school system before going on to higher education. Members of the band Ozma, who are Pasadena natives, appreciated the education they received and are thankful for the opportunity to give back.

“I teach music at the Altadena Academy of Music. I studied a lot of music within the Pasadena Unified School District, so I’m really happy to be able to give back to the musical education community in this way today,” said Daniel Brummel, bassist of Ozma.

Melissa Polinar, also thankful for the chance to give back, made note of how important music education is not just for the sake of learning the arts but for what it teaches children in other areas of life as well.

“I’m thoroughly in support of it [music education]. Not just because I’m a musician but because when I was a kid, music education helped me with my studies and helped me cope with emotional stress,” Polinar said. “People always ask me if I get nervous on stage. I think I don’t really get all that nervous because of that. Because of my music education. It’s because I was thrown on stage, rehearsing all the time, it becomes second nature so it builds up confidence for kids.”

Some kids already know firsthand how much their musical education has given them. The Serenegades, winners of the Battle of the Bands held by PEF recently, are still in high school.

The group not only participates in their respective schools’ bands but also study at the Burbank Music Academy (BMA), which is where they formed the band. They have competed in multiple Battle of the Bands and this past Sunday found themselves on stage with big names in the industry.

Kids are often forced to find other means of music education these days as it has been steadily declining in public schools.

“I noticed it with my nephew, literally, the difference between the people that have fancy schools and the people that go to public schools. I don’t want it to just be private schools where kids learn about art. That would be very sad. It would just be a bunch of rich kids who know about art and a bunch of normal kids who don’t know [crap] about art.” Aubert said.

The benefit concert was a great success, Monica Lopez from PEF said, but in a society that puts so much emphasis on sports, mathematics and reading and writing, how does the importance of arts education get weighed out so easily?

“Music is not really a spectator’s sport,” Mathews said. “Sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle because you don’t see what effect or what impact it’s having on kids. Being able to come over and speak about [how] it meant a lot to us, seeing us play and doing what we love, and representing this foundation, it’s just really cool to see. You see, this is our end result, this is our game winner.”

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