September 30, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Downbeat 720: More Than Just Open-Mic

A space for the youth of Santa Monica to find their voice.  

By Eli Ricanati

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill. 2001. Two-time HBO Def Poet and Emmy Award-Winner Joe Hernández-Kolski and actress Ameenah Kaplan join forces to create an artistic space for the youth of Santa Monica. Born out of their collaboration is Downbeat 720 (summarily referred to as Downbeat), an open-mic for local high school students. Sixteen years later and today Downbeat is as vibrant as ever.

I watch from the second row as Hernández-Kolski, award-winning comic and Downbeat co-host Joshua Silverstein, and Emmy-award winning turntablist Terence Fredricks (aka Dj Jedi) kick off the evening with improvised beatboxing, mixing, and a challenge: tonight, every performance must be backed by Eddie (piano), Aidan (drums), and Elliot Rick (saxophone) – the resident teen band. What follows is nothing short of harmonious collaborations as local high school performers dare themselves to go above and beyond. Emily Johnson (aka Emily Delia), a rising senior at Venice High School, incorporates the drums into her rendition of “Zombie” by The Cranberries, while Rise Barkan, a rising junior at Santa Monica High School brings together the whole band in his acoustic original “The Girl Who Could Fly”. The band closes out the evening with melodies and an improvised blues song – complete with audience participation.

Photo: Eli Ricanati.
Rise Barkan, a rising senior at Santa Monica, performs an original acoustic song “The Girl Who Could Fly”.

The night sees seven acts in total. Following each performance, Hernández-Kolski and Silverstein asks the performer to remain on stage so that the two may share a few words; first-time artists are herald for their courage to perform onstage and are encouraged to keep coming back, while more seasoned Downbeat attendees are given honest, helpful critiques and points of praise. Occasionally, Hernández-Kolski and Silverstein will even throw in an optional homework assignment for a performer.

“It’s always about feedback,” Silverstein tells me that Downbeat, “isn’t just an open-mic. We are helping [students] to refine and redefine [their] voice.” For Hernández-Kolski, Silverstein, and Dj Jedi, the mission of Downbeat has been clearly defined from the get-go: foster a safe and supportive environment for high school students to find their voice within the creative realm. Madeline Davis, a graduated senior from Hamilton High School attending Downbeat for the second time, explains to me that she came to Downbeat once, “and fell in love.” Davis goes further, telling me that from the second she got to Downbeat, she felt completely welcomed.

Another graduated senior and saxophonist-of-the-evening Elliot Rick speaks to Hernández-Kolski and Silverstein’s emphasis on feedback. “They’ve been performing for years,” Rick explains, adding that their advice is very valid. When asked to summarize the evening, Rick states simply: “everyone jammed…had a good time. It’s wonderful.”

Following the evening, a group of performers and audience members pile into three separate cars and head to Menchie’s. Over frozen yogurt, Wyndham Rothblatt, a rising senior at Santa Monica High School sums up his thoughts on Downbeat in five words: “this place is like family.” The evening culminates in a heartfelt rendition of “Hallelujah” on the corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Montana Avenue.

Downbeat 720 convenes on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at the Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica, 90403. Showtime begins at 7:20 p.m. and admission is free.

Eli Ricanati is a graduated high school senior and local Santa Monica resident. He will be attending the University of Pennsylvania in the fall.

 

in News
Related Posts

Man Charged for Setting Fires Behind Seven Santa Monica Businesses

September 30, 2022

September 30, 2022

John Dean Thomason faces seven counts of arson By Sam Catanzaro A man faces charges for seven counts of arson...

LA Metro Lifts Mask Mandate

September 30, 2022

September 30, 2022

Masking no longer required at LAX as well  By Dolores Quintana As of September 23, Los Angeles County has lifted...

City Officials Considering Spending $29 Million to Replace Santa Monica Pier Bridge

September 30, 2022

September 30, 2022

City of Santa Monica releases EIR For Santa Monica Pier bridge replacement By Dolores Quintana The City of Santa Monica...

SMa.r.t. Column: City Council Endorsements

September 30, 2022

September 30, 2022

Editor’s note: These following endorsements should not be attributed to the Santa Monica Mirror. They are the opinion of Santa...

LAHSA’s Homeless Count Accuracy Questioned

September 29, 2022

September 29, 2022

LA City Council motion would require that LAHSA’s count be assessed independently  By Dolores Quintana and Sam Catanzaro After the...

Fresh Corn Grill Closes Santa Monica Location

September 29, 2022

September 29, 2022

Restaurant ceases operations September 23 By Dolores Quintana Fresh Corn Grill, a small chain based in Westwood that serves “a...

Santa Monica’s Love Coffee Bar Expanding to Mar Vista

September 29, 2022

September 29, 2022

3519 S Centinela Avenue location coming for popular Santa Monica coffee shop  By Dolores Quintana Love Coffee Bar, a Santa...

Dr. Jane Goodall Speaking at Youth Event Wednesday at Temescal Park

September 27, 2022

September 27, 2022

Seven Arrows Elementary hosting event Wednesday for students from around region Seven Arrows Elementary, an independent kindergarten through 6th grade...

Five Santa Monica Artists Awarded City Artist Fellowships

September 27, 2022

September 27, 2022

The $16,000 Artist Fellowship will be presented to painter and sculptor Meg Cranston The City of Santa Monica awarded five...

Santa Monica High School Orchestra Program Presents Disney in Concert Around the World

September 27, 2022

September 27, 2022

Submitted by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District For the first time since the fall of 2019, the Santa Monica...

Trailhead Improvement Project Begins at Cheeseboro Canyon

September 27, 2022

September 27, 2022

Access to trails will continue, but use of temporary parking lot required The National Park Service is revitalizing the trailhead...

Santa Monica Man Killed by San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputies After Hitting a Deputy With Car and Attempting to Attack Him With a Knife

September 27, 2022

September 27, 2022

Marlon Bonds shot by San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputies Saturday night in Rancho Cucamonga  By Sam Catanzaro A Santa Monica...

Man Arrested for Santa Monica College Sexual Assaults

September 27, 2022

September 27, 2022

Christopher Noah Griddine II being held on $1 million bond By Sam Catanzaro A 27-year-old man has been arrested for...

SMa.r.t. Column: SMCLC Rejects Gelson’s Project

September 26, 2022

September 26, 2022

This week our SMa.r.t. column is guest written by the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC). They are...

Framing Nearly Complete on Lincoln Blvd 47 Unit Mixed Use Building: Santa Monica Real Estate Report – September 26th, 2022

September 26, 2022

September 26, 2022

Property, Developments, and Listings on the Westside.* Framing Nearly Complete on Lincoln Blvd 47 Unit Mixed Use Building* City of...