Wednesday, March 21 , 2018, 2:59 am | Overcast 57º


Local Teens to ‘Sing It Out’ in Sunday Benefit for AHA!

A teenage boy stands on a low stage, microphone in hand, eyes down, shuffling nervously. Behind him is a keyboardist and to one side a guitarist. As the musical intro starts, other teens in the audience cheer and whoop. He looks up, flashes a shy smile and begins to sing.

Coaching, in words and gestures, is offered throughout the song: Hold the microphone closer, more volume, remember to move. Several times he starts to put his free hand in his pocket but always stops himself, heartening evidence that previous coaching has stuck.

With his final note, the adults and other teens in the audience cheer and clap wildly, waving their arms in the air. His smile is now broad and proud.

This is a rehearsal for Sing It Out, a benefit for AHA!, the Academy of Healing Arts for Teens, which serves teens and families year-round with after-school and summer programs. The show will take place at the SOhO Restaurant & Music Club at 7 p.m. Sunday, giving a dozen teens who have been working hard in weekly rehearsals the chance to sing onstage backed by local musician Tina Schlieske and her band.

Jennifer Freed and Rendy Freedman are the coordinators of Sing It Out, which they adapted from Breakthrough, a similar offering for adults created by Mick and Tess Pulver. Non-musician teens work with music professionals and AHA! facilitators, including Tina Schlieske, Laura Schlieske, Jan Ingram, Kelly Simmons and Academy Award winner Dean Pitchford. Mayor Helene Schneider, who participated last year, will be back again to sing with the teens.

Over the course of many weeks, the teens not only master the song they will perform, but they conquer fear and self-doubt as well as learning to support each other on a deep level, crossing the boundaries of cliques and other divisive social strata. Many are dealing with bullying or other emotional challenges in their lives.

“The process of learning to sing with loving peers and coaches transforms oppression and fear into confidence and courage.” Freed said. “From this experience, the teens learn trust, empathy, joy and discipline.”

At the end of the rehearsal, everyone sits in a circle and is asked to go around, spontaneously sharing one word to describe the person on their right. Some can’t limit their description to just one word. “Amazing … brave … beautiful!” says one girl, amid giggles. It is clear these kids can’t sing each other’s praises loudly enough, and perhaps this is the key.

“The best part of it,” Freed said, “is seeing a community come together to bring joy where there was pain, to bring unity where there was once isolation. Sing It Out is about everyone being free to express themselves.”

Click here to order tickets online to Sunday’s benefit event.

— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.

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