Teens thrive at music school
SONOMA MUSIC ARTS SCHOOL DIRECTOR Aldo Mosca keeps the time and an eye on student Gwen Phillips, 12, who also studies guitar at the center.
It’s a sunny Wednesday afternoon and the Sonoma Music Arts School on Broadway is bustling with teenagers. A drum lesson is taking place to the left, piano is down the hall with a private guitar lesson on the right, while a couple of young men mix music in the studio and another teen staffs the front desk. Some of them are there on scholarships, many of which are provided out of the pockets of the school’s Director Aldo Mosca.
“I put my money where my mouth is,” Mosca smiles, hesitant to go into detail on his personal investment. But he says it’s worthwhile, he’s investing not only in his most dedicated and talented students, but in his community as well.
“When I was growing up, I would have loved something like this,” he continues. “There was this bug in me that only playing music could fill.”
As a child in Venezuela, Mosca was surrounded by music, both in his family and in his culture. Music education was tackled nationally – the government provided extensive funding for programs that promoted authentic Venezuelan music.
“You could watch a TV program that taught you how to play the cuatro (four stringed guitar), a very famous Venezuelan instrument,” Mosca recalls.
It launched a passion that stuck with Mosca through adulthood, ultimately inspiring him to leave his computer sciences job eight years ago to establish the Sonoma Music Arts School. The nonprofit school will celebrate its seventh anniversary on Halloween, and while it has gotten sporadic support from organizations such as La Luz Center, the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, the Sonoma Valley Jazz Society and Whole Foods Sonoma, Mosca has never specifically sought out donations or hosted a fundraiser for the school.
“I’m not good at that stuff,” he admits.
But supporters of the school, Rhys Wade and Lee Armstrong, wanted to help ensure more students could receive music lesions, regardless of their ability to pay. The couple are planning the school’s first ever benefit event, to take place Saturday, Nov. 3, from 6 to 10:30 p.m. at Yoga Community, 577 Fifth St. W. The suggested donation is $20 at the door and the line-up of musicians includes Plan Be, Ten Foot Tone, JoyRide, Easily Distracted, Dawn Angelosante with Tony Gibson, Deirdre Egan and Devra Wolfe, Garen Patterson and even Mosca himself. There will also be a silent auction of lots including a two-night stay at an exclusive home in McCloud (Siskiyou County); restaurant gift certificates; gift baskets from local businesses; trapeze lessons; wine; artwork and music classes.
“(Mosca) has basically been doing this as a labor of love for the past few years. We’re happy to be able to help him out,” Wade says.
In addition to lessons, the school provides a productive place for students to hang out, directly across the street from Sonoma Valley High School and Adele Harrison Middle School. Many kids come daily after school, even when they’re not taking lessons.
“I come in every day basically,” says 13-year-old Amadeus Paredes, who plays both guitar and piano. When asked what he would be doing without the school, he responds, “I don’t know, probably watching TV.”
On Wednesday, he was mixing dubstep music with his friend and co-producer Angel Barcenas, 12. The pair agreed while their respective middle schools offer music class, it’s not the kind they’re interested in taking.
“They have band, but it’s like orchestra and stuff. It’s not really what we want to do,” Barcenas says.
Paredes adds, “Here, we can go our own trail.”
Mosca employs about a dozen Valley musicians at any time, who offer lessons in guitar (acoustic and electric), bass guitar and upright bass, piano, drums, brass and woodwind, violin and vocal training, along with music production. He works with students to form bands and provides practice space. Students are expected to bring their own instruments (except for piano), but the school does have instruments to loan students who can’t afford to buy their own.
“We’re always looking for instrument donations. Especially drum cymbals. But we’ll take anything,” he says before thinking about the $500 it takes to hire piano movers. He instead says with a smile, “If I can fit it in the back of my truck myself, I’ll take it.”
When the recession hit, many Valley families were forced to cut music lessons out of their budgets, so Mosca offered some talented students guitar and drum classes for free himself, and paid other instructors to allow students to continue taking classes.
“Without him teaching us, I wouldn’t be learning this because I couldn’t pay for classes,” Paredes says.
“Or equipment, that stuff’s expensive,” Barcenas adds.
For a list of classes or instructors, or to make a donation, go to sonomamusicarts.com or call 996-7661.