Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - March 7, 2014

'80s musical romp onstage

Youth fest takes us back to that eclectic decade

Young musicians are coming together at the Firehouse Arts Center next Saturday to regale the audience with action from the '80s at the 12th annual Youth Music Festival Concert, beginning at 7:30 p.m. March 15. The festival will have musicians ages 6 to 18, with representatives from Foothill High School, Amador Valley High, Dublin High and Oakland School for the Arts.

The Youth Music Festival started 12 years ago as a way for young area musicians to share their love of music in a supportive and non-competitive way, according to festival director Mark Duncanson. "Battle of the bands" were popular during that time, he said, and the festival was an alternative to the heavy competitive environment young musicians were experiencing.

The selection for the Youth Music Festival Concert began in December, with the call for '80s-themed web-based video submissions, which were reviewed by the selection committee.

This year the festival has two teen hosts who will be guiding the audience through the romp: Sabrina Finke, a 17-year-old junior at Amador, who is a member of the award-winning teen improv troupe, Creatures of Impulse; and Will Mattingly, 16, a freshman at Foothill and was most recently seen in Civic Arts Stage Company's productions of "Willy Wonka Jr." and "The Secret Garden."

The Youth Music Festival is mentored by Duncanson and his team, which includes festival assistant director and writer Jeff Zavattero, choreographer Skylar Schock, and vocal and music director Leah Schaefer. The festival is produced by students, who learn all phases of creating and delivering a full-blown, multifaceted show.

Duncanson said the festival is important because the students are learning to collaborate creatively.

"Our creative team is so mindful to leave room for youth input and feedback. After all, it is a youth music festival; this show is all about them and their talent," he said.

"Another fun key element to this show is the collaborative writing efforts of head writers Jeff Zavattero, Sabrina Finke and Will Mattingly," Duncanson added. "There will be some nostalgic references to '80s pop culture even in the host sketches."

Also, he noted, all music played and sung during the acts is live and generated from the youth performers.

Tickets are $12 general admission, $8 students. Early bird tickets may be purchased by March 8 for $7 general admission, $5 students. Tickets are available online at www.firehousearts.org, by calling 931-4848 or at the Firehouse box office, 4444 Railroad Ave.

--Dolores Fox Ciardelli

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