This past week, more than 45 southeast L.A. youth have been getting a crash course not just in making music, but in what it takes to be a musician.
Chicas Rockeras SELA has been hosting classes for the past three years, and this year’s batch of students learned how to play an instrument, compose a song, and form a band. They will be performing this Saturday in Lynwood, Calif.
The one-week class pairs up students with volunteer mentor that teach alongside the students. Though the cost for one student is valued around $400, the program works with the parents to see what they feasibly can pay though no one is turned away for lack of funds, said Marin, co-founder, and co-director of Chicas Rockeras SELA.
The program is designed for girls between 8-17 years old who live in the southeast Los Angeles area, which includes cities like Huntington Park, Vernon, and Bell. This year’s students range from first-time musicians with little to no experience to returning students that have continued to practice their instruments or haven’t picked one up since prior year’s classes.
Even if a student gets some musical instruction throughout the year at school or from their families, they tend to be playing covers or other people’s music, Marin said. Creating a song, their own composition, becomes an empowering experience for the students. “Regardless of your level everyone is coming in fresh-faced and learning together,” said Marin.
Accomplished musicians are common guest teachers and performers throughout the week. Martha Gonzalez, the lead singer of the Grammy award-winning band Quetzal, stopped by Monday to teach songwriting to the students. Gonzalez, Maya Jupiter and the ModPods also stopped by on different days for lunchtime performances.
The program is entirely volunteer-run, said Marin, and the fundraising throughout the year all go toward making one week of Chicas Rockeras SELA happen. While she is glad to see the program continue each year and grow each year, more donations and more volunteers are needed to handle to programs growth.
Another way to help is also by going to Saturday’s showcase at the Glennon Club in Lynwood. All revenue from the $5-$10 admission and all Chicas Rockeras SELA merchandise sales — the youth throughout the week also contribute in designing and creating their own merch — go back to the program.
Southeast L.A. often gets overlooked in terms of arts and music, said Marin, making a program like Chicas Rockeras important to the area. “No one told me that I could be proud of where I came from,” said Marin, a native of Southeast L.A. But now she boasts: “I come from southeast L.A.”
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