LOUD Rocks The Echo and Echoplex With 38 Student Bands! LOUD Program Serves Low-Income Communities By Bringing High Quality Music Opportunities To The Youth
LOS ANGELES, CA- LOUD program, is a non-profit that provides high quality instruments and world-class music and film education to low-income students through free after-school classes and video lessons. LOUD provides music education for over 300 students in three different cities, at zero cost to the student of the school that allows them to run the program.
On May 19th at The Echo/Echoplex, 38 LOUD student bands graced the venue’s stage to entertain and showcase all that the program has been able to offer. After a raucous and rocking afternoon of student performance (with a special performance by the rising NPR darling Cuco), we spoke with LOUD’s founder, Mason Orfalea, to learn more about the organization and what their goals are for the future.
Blurred Culture: For people who don’t know, why don’t you give a little primer about what this organization is and what it does.
Mason Orfalea: Yeah, so its called “The Loud Program” and we teach kids that need it, music and film classes. We basically give them all the resources they need to be successful artists.
BC: How did you guys get started? Must have been an investment in order to provide all the equipment.
MO: A hundred percent! So I’ve been in the music industry for a while and had some connections. You know, it’s kind of like you’re on the road, you get a guitar from Fender or Gibson, and you’re like, “I don’t actually need this.” So you get gear and it was kind of like, “well hey, I don’t need this guitar but I know some kids that would probably really enjoy it.” And it kind of started super organically that way. We started with one class about five years ago and now we’ve grown to, I think, we have about 40 classes in LA, we serve about 350 students. We just started this year a film program. So, they kind of work in tandem. You know, we’re in the kind of entertainment capital, so we figure what better than to get these kids into music and to film.
BC: And the music videos and…
MO: Exactly! So there’s synergy. So we had a screening today. And so the film kids make music videos for the music kids so there’s a lot of back and forth and a lot of kind of collaboration in new media.
BC: Are there any partners that you work with in LA? Where do you have the classes, first of all?
MO: So we go directly to the schools. This year we have classes four days a week in all of our schools.
BC: So they are like extracurricular activities?
MO: After school. Exactly.
BC: For Los Angeles Unified School District?
MO: There’s a lot charter schools. There’s a couple LAUSD schools. So it’s a combination. [W]e try to go […] where it’s needed to places where music programs and art programs have been kind of cut from the budget and we go in and provide that. [At] the end the day, those are the kids that want it most, and they really thrive with this sort of thing. So we give them the resources they need. We have programming four days a week with most of our instructors, who are touring musicians. These are all people the students can look up to.
BC: Do all the musicians do it out of the kindness of their heart?
MO: No, we pay our instructors. It’s hard enough being a touring musician so we want to take care of our own. But I think having working professionals be part of the program really kind of makes it come full circle and shows these kids that there is an opportunity for them to actually kind of make it in this industry.
BC: As a non-profit, you must rely on a lot of sponsors.
MO: We do, we do. We have great sponsors. We have private sponsors that are just really patrons of music. And then we also have Fender as one of our sponsors. We have Zildjian cymbals, you have Apex drums, so we get a lot of the gear donated to us and then it’s really a partnership between us, these schools and some of these benefactors to help kind of keep the arts alive.
BC: How do you decide which schools get the program?
MO: It’s really enthusiasm based. We reward enthusiasm [so], if a school comes to us and says “Hey, we just had our music program cut, we are dying to have it”, then we go in. Those are the people that we really love to work with and we kind of take it as far as they want to go. So it’s really a needs-based kind of situation.
BC: How many years have you been doing this showcase?
MO: This is our second year here at The Echo. The program is about five years in and we are looking to expand. So we keep on growing, we have our curriculums all online, it’s all free. We have video tutorials online. This year we have a mobile recording studio, which was an old touring bus that we turned into a recording studio, and it goes to all of our schools. So the kids get to go and …
BC: Kind of like a “Jam in the Van” kind of thing?
MO: Exactly. [T]hey get to go in, and one of our awesome instructors […] is in charge of driving this RV, so you might see it around town. So driving the LOUD RV around and then the kids get to come in and record a couple of songs throughout the year. It’s a great way to track their progress and have something to take home.
BC: How did you get Cuco to play today?
MO: So, Cuco evidently kind of got his start in music through a similar sort of music program. So there was a lot of synergy there in like-minded kind… He found out about the program, we hit him up. We are just fortunate enough to have him.
BC: Do you have any parting thoughts?
MO: You know, there needs to be more art and music in school. Unfortunately, it’s the first thing that goes and it’s the thing that should be a top priority for most. [We’re just trying] to put it all together with a collective purpose and fill a [huge void].