Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Jackson Browne headlined the 10th Annual Artists for the Arts benefit concerts this past weekend at Samohi’s historic Barnum Hall, but it was the student musicians who stole the show.
Joining Browne as co-headliners were fellow rock icon Gary Wright, known for “Dreamweaver” and other classic rock hits, and local rock band Venice, a touring group with more than 20 years playing with the biggest names in music. All three headliners took turns on stage, joined throughout the night by student orchestra, choir, and soloists from Santa Monica, Malibu, and Olympic High Schools, respectively.
Over the course of two nights this year, Browne, Wright, and Venice teamed with students and faculty to deliver rousing performances that raised more than $125,000 to benefit arts programs in the 16 public schools comprising the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). The funds raised will be added to the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation’s For The Arts endowment, supporting visual and performing arts education throughout the SMMUSD.
Emceed by longtime KLOS radio personality Cynthia Fox, the Saturday night show also featured an auction of music treasures including signed guitars, a drum set, tickets to the 2014 Grammys, and other uniqueitems, all supporting the cause.
Among the many highlights of the evening was a rousing rendition of the Beatles’ classic “With A Little Help from My Friends,” featuring all the artists on stage together, joined by student and faculty musicians and student vocalists. The crowd was on its feet throughout the song, which preceded the closing number, the classic ‘70s anthem “Take It Easy,” led by Browne.
Browne, the artist who originated this annual benefit concert with Venice a decade ago, was playing for the fifth time in the event’s 10-year history, and he and the other artists committed to a second night this year when the Saturday show sold out so quickly.
“It’s amazing because every year we do this gig we get to work with kids and do something special,” Browne stated. “We do it once…when people come to see one of these shows, they see a completely different show than what they saw last year. Arts in high school are really important. Arts make the individual complete. Arts connect us to the rest of society. They give us a chance to express ourselves and to channel our emotions…and to have a healthy emotional life you have to have an outlet for that. And arts, like sports, are really important for people who are developing.”
Since 2004, the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation has been the beneficiary of annual benefit concerts that bring featured artists onstage with student musicians for a truly magical evening of music and philanthropy.
Produced by the Artists for the Arts Foundation, these concerts have now raised nearly $900,000 for arts programs in Santa Monica and Malibu public schools in the past decade. Featuring Venice every year as the house band, past concerts have included David Crosby, Billy Idol, America, and many other music icons, all of which have donated their time and talents to perform onstage alongside musicians and singers from all three SMMUSD high schools.
“Our annual collaboration with Artists for the Arts Foundation creates truly unique opportunities for our students and faculty to work hand-in-hand with amazing professional musical talents to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences while raising funds to ensure our arts programs can continue to benefit future generations of students,” Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation executive director Linda Greenberg Gross stated. “We’re so thankful for the support of Artists for the Arts, Jackson Browne, the members of Venice, and the community members and parents who support this event every year.”