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SambaDá helps keep music in the schools

click to enlarge CLASS ACT Some members of SambaDá owe it all to high school band.
  • CLASS ACT Some members of SambaDá owe it all to high school band.

Some of the most famous and influential people in America were in high school band. Film director Woody Allen played clarinet, as did Steven Spielberg. Actress Halle Berry, basketball great Vince Carter and even politico Alan Greenspan were all in band. Former president Bill Clinton once said, "I might not have been president if it hadn't been for school music."

Sadly, funding for the arts has been cut, and California schools are scrambling to supplement their meager budgets. To keep kids from having to pay for after-school classes, schools like Petaluma High are coming up with resourceful ways to keep the arts alive. Cliff Eveland, PHS band leader and director of the Petaluma Music Festival, credits the efforts of the community and the Mystic Theatre for helping to save music for the next generation of students.

Now in its eighth year, the Petaluma Music Festival benefit concert hosts Santa Cruz's entertaining seven-piece Brazilian band, SambaDá . "Getting to do a fundraiser for music in the schools is awesome," says SambaDá saxophonist Anne Stafford. "This is how music continues."

A Sonoma County band kid herself, Stafford is now an ethnomusicologist. "I was really lucky they had such a great jazz program at Slater Junior High. Frederick Colman—the late, great band director—was amazing, and I credit everything I've done in music to his inspiring and teaching me. I would have never gotten into music if it hadn't been for public school music programs."

The SambaDá family recently welcomed new members, as several of the original male players are taking what Stafford calls "paternity leave." Among them, Senegalese percussion master Ibou Ngom is taking SambaDá to a new level, and with capoeira "mestre" and SambaDá founder Papiba Godinho, the band is now recording their fourth studio album. "It's a gift, this new journey that SambaDá is going through," says lead singer Dandha da Hora. A Brazilian native, da Hora is a nationally renowned Afro-Brazilian dance instructor and lead dancer with Ilê Aiyê, one of Carnival's largest performance groups.

"I can't picture myself in this world without music," says da Hora. "The fundraiser for schools is to provide a world where kids and teenagers can understand what music will do for their lives, how it will change their lives. With so much violence in this world, we can see each other through music as equals, because music is universal and we should all have access. SambaDá is definitely proud to deliver that—to show up for these kids and give them hope. That's why SambaDá does what we do."

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