Joshua Tehee

Nonprofit offers Summer Youth Music and Art Exploration classes in Visalia

Sound N Vision Foundation’s pre-teen Rock Band performing in Visalia. The musician are students of the foundation’s summer music classes
Sound N Vision Foundation’s pre-teen Rock Band performing in Visalia. The musician are students of the foundation’s summer music classes Special to The Bee

Sound N Vision Foundation isn’t out to foster the next generation of classically trained musicians or artists, or to replace arts education in schools.

No, the Visalia nonprofit is doing something better, perhaps, with its annual Summer Youth Music and Art Exploration classes. It’s giving kids — as many as it possibly can — the opportunity to experience the immediacy of creativity.

“Art can take years and year to develop,” says SNV founder Aaron Gomes.

The foundation’s classes, which kick off Tuesday, June 16, at Visalia’s Boys and Girls Club, only last an hour and stretch over the course of just two weeks. This is not in-depth study.

“That’s why we call it an exploration,” Gomes says.

By design, the free classes are rooted in the hip, pop-culture stuff kids latch on to. Last year there was an introduction to comic book art. This year, students will get an overview of basic art concepts that includes screen printing.

6 Number of years Sound N Vision Foundation has offered free art and music classes

In lieu of classical music, SNV students learn electric guitar and world drum beats from Carlos Rodriguez, a private instructor and working musician.

Rodriguez is the music director/guitarist for the Latin groove band Mezcal. He met Gomes through the band and started teaching when the program started six years ago. One of his first students was Gomes’ son.

That first year, Rodriguez taught from his own studio and brought in every conga he owned, just to make sure the students had instruments. Eventually, he bought a full set of hand drums for the classes.

From the beginning, he says, no one was asking about money.

“We were going to do it no matter what.”

In a way, the program is extension of what he does already, at home with the younger members of his family. It’s also reflective of the way he was introduced to music and learned to play. He had no serious formal training until he started getting into Latin percussion. Then, it was expensive lessons and trips to Los Angeles.

He starts the students out simply. They count together. Then, they clap together.

“If they can count and they can clap, then they can beat on the drum,” Rodriguez says.

It’s not music theory, but by the end of the first hour, the students can keep a simple beat. At the end of two weeks, they’ll play a song. Last year it was “Low Rider,” which all the kids knew as the George Lopez song. Then, the drummers team up with the guitar class and perform the song as a full band.

That’s the payoff moment.

“They can start to see the parts come together like the spokes of a wheel,” Rodriguez says.

These opportunities are important for kids, Rodriguez says. Yes, music and art is being pushed from school curriculum, but even outside of school, it competes with after-school activities. And kids are busy these days. Often times, arts loses out, especially as the kids get into high school, Rodriguez says.

“Every school year, I’m losing students to coaches,” he says.

Rodriguez takes as many students as he can each year — 20 to 25 per class, even with an additional instructor helping out — but there’s an overflow of students. Thanks to partnerships with the Visalia Arts Consortium and Visalia Community Arts Grants students are not required to pay fees or bring their own instruments or art materials. As such, the classes are free and tend to fill up as quickly as they are announced.

Gomes is sure the program could be expanded to a year-round schedule.

He’d like to see it expand beyond Visalia. He is in talks with 40 Watt Hype frontman Aaron Wall to develop a similar program in Fresno. That could happen as early as this summer or next, Gomes says.

Summer Youth Music and Art Exploration

Painting and Screen Printing Art

  • 10-11:30 a.m. June 16-18 and June 22, 24 and 26
  • Boys and Girls Club, 215 W. Tulare Ave., Visalia
  • Free for ages 8-17
  • (559) 331-0009 , www.snvfoundation.org

Drum Rhythms of the World:

  • 10-11 a.m. July 13, 15, 17, 20-23 and July 27, 29 and 31
  • Boys and Girls Club, 215 W. Tulare Ave., Visalia
  • Free for ages 8-17
  • (559) 331-0009 , www.snvfoundation.org

Electric Guitar Jam Basics:

  • 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. July 13, 15, 17, 20-23 and July 27, 29 and 31
  • Boys and Girls Club, 215 W. Tulare Ave.,Visalia
  • Free for ages 8-17
  • (559) 331-0009, www.snvfoundation.org
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