Santa Barbara Middle School’s performing arts students, along with Santa Barbara area musicians, rocked the stage at Chase Palm Park along Cabrillo Boulevard last Saturday afternoon to a full audience of supportive families, students, locals and curious onlookers.

The afternoon was designed to be a “celebration of music, youthful courage and community-wide fun,” said Marco Andrade, SBMS Rock Jam teacher and Songfest coordinator, adding that he is certain the day struck a chord with all who participated.

This year’s Songfest showcased more than 34 live performers and nearly 30 musical acts. From local rock band White Moon to freshman Zoe Plaxco’s stirring rendition of The Beatles’ “If I Fell in Love with You,” to seventh-grade student Victor Liu’s remarkable classical piano performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s prelude, the attentive audience was captivated by every performance.

Songfest’s house band, The Grateful Dads, a group of SBMS alumni parent musicians whose children have long since graduated, returned to the Songfest stage again this year to back up and perform with current students. This year marks their 18th year, and the SBMS community is forever grateful for their service.

Local musicians were on hand to join in the fun and play backup for some of the young performers. Craig Thatcher, well-known drummer and founder of the teen drum line Boom Chaka, played drums on several songs. SBMS’ Jazz Band, under the direction of local band teacher Jocelyn Tipple, performed two numbers: Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Tipple, eager to add to the community spirit of the day, invited some of her other music students from Cold Spring School to fill out the jazz band ensemble. Dave Heckhouse, founder of Jensen’s Main Stage, and Mike Schifflet, local guitar teaching legend, were both spotted in the audience rocking out!

SBMS’s Parent Association organized a bake sale and a raffle and raised close to $700. A large portion of the proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit SB Girls Rock Academy, whose mission is to “empower girls through music.”

“This is my favorite day of the year,” Head of School Brian McWilliams said with a smile. “It is truly middle school at its best.”

Although Songfest is seen as a SBMS flagship event, it is just one of the opportunities built into the robust program of performing arts and elective choices available to the students at Santa Barbara Middle School.

— Sue Carmody is a community outreach coordinator for Santa Barbara Middle School.