With a “Touch of Gray,” a half-dozen former Santa Barbara Middle School dads are “Truckin’” back to campus this weekend to rock out and show gratitude to a school they love.
For 14 years, band members of the Santa Barbara-based “Grateful Dads” have contributed their talents to back up student singers at Songfest, the school’s annual musical showcase event.
“People are so thankful and appreciative. I like to say I would pay to be able to do it,” bass player Michael Adcock said. “It’s pretty much our favorite day of the year.”
Adcock’s two daughters attended SBMS in the late 1990s. He says it never would have happened without the school’s financial help.
“Besides the incredible joy of playing and participating, it’s kind of a payback for what middle school gave my family,” Adcock said.
Adcock and fellow Grateful Dads Tom Fogel, Peter Kornbluth, Rick Mellor, Ted Rhodes and SBMS Spanish teacher Marco Andrade play in a local band called Doghouse.
“We spend about a month gearing up for this, and then the last two weeks it gets pretty intense because we don’t know the songs — we have to learn them,” said Fogel, lead guitarist.
He said his son, Greg, had learning challenges that were addressed at middle school. His son went on to spend months in China and Africa, earned two master’s degrees and is now a public policy analyst in Washington, D.C.
“I pin my children’s success in life on their middle school experience,” Fogel said.
For rehearsal purposes, the students’ list of songs they will perform is put on an iPod. The band listens to the music over and over until they can play it. Then they rehearse with the students.
Andrade says that beyond using iPods and YouTube to master the songs, the band has made great musical strides.
“This used to take a long time,” he said. “We would labor over these songs for weeks, and now it’s down to a couple weeks of crunch time. It used to be we would take weeks on one song.”
During the mid-2000s, Grateful Dad keyboardist Dan Diamond’s two sons went to Santa Barbara Middle School. He said he loves being part of a full band and playing for the students.
“It’s a real thrill to watch a kid be able to sing with a live band,” Diamond said, “and to witness both the confident students and one’s stepping out in front a crowd for the first time.”
Adcock concurs: “Often the kids who are the shakiest and having the biggest struggle get the biggest round of applause.”
“The event is more than just the big glory moments; it’s also about bravery,” Andrade said. “This is one of our school’s best opportunities for the students to get up and sing in a safe environment.”
Songfest will be at 2 p.m. Saturday on the Santa Barbara Middle School campus, 2300-A Garden St. The public is welcome. The event is free.
— Larry Good is a Santa Barbara Middle School parent.