Students practice percussion instruments with some instruction from Music Academy of the West musicians. (David Cater photo)

Local students from the United Way of Santa Barbara County’s Fun in the Sun program were treated to a musical morning Monday, June 27.

Now in its fifth year, Up Close and Musical, an idea that blossomed from the imaginations of Janet Garufis, president and CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust, and Scott Reed, president and CEO of the Music Academy of the West, has been providing kids from the United Way an opportunity to learn, play and witness musical performances that they might not otherwise get the chance to experience.

Children from Aliso, Harding, Franklin, El Camino and Santa Ynez Fun in the Sun sites spent the morning having their faces painted, jumping rope, learning how to protect the environment and interacting with world-class musicians and their instruments, but that was just the beginning.

The highlight of the morning was a special opera inside Hahn Hall, led by 26 year-old conductor Matthew Aucoin.

Garufis reflected, saying, “What a wonderful opportunity it has been to see the Up Close and Musical program grow from an experiment to a tradition in just a few short years. Giving local children the chance to spend a morning outdoors at the beautiful Music Academy of the West campus and then see world-class musicians perform a piece that was designed with them in mind is a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

“One of the things I enjoy most about this event is that when you look around, it’s hard to say who has bigger smiles on their faces, the kids or the volunteers,” Garufis said. “It’s always an honor to team up with the dedicated people at the Music Academy and the United Way to make a positive impact on the youth in our community.”

Fun in the Sun students show off fancy face paint at Up Close and Musical.

Fun in the Sun students show off fancy face paint at Up Close and Musical. (David Cater photo)

Aucoin conducted and composed Second Nature, a story about our relationship with the environment written specifically for children. The piece was originally commissioned and performed by the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Aucoin, just 26 years old, is also a poet and pianist, and is the youngest assistant conductor ever appointed by the Metropolitan Opera.​

Montecito Bank & Trust, an S Corporation, is the oldest and largest locally owned community bank in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Founded in 1975, the bank operates branch offices in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Solvang, Montecito, Carpinteria, Ventura, Camarillo and Westlake Village.

Andy Silverman is a marketing supervisor at Montecito Bank & Trust.