Sound Lounge strikes a chord with students
Media Center program gives local students a place to perform, produce
With an apocalypse on the horizon, Gunn High School senior Timmy Linetsky seemed extraordinarily relaxed, even eager.
"It's the end of the world, so you've got to go out with a bang," Linetsky joked.
Linetsky wasn't preparing for a fire-and-brimstone apocalypse you might read about in scripture; rather, he was readying for the "Hip Hop Apocalypse," a music- and dance-infused event held at the Midpeninsula Community Media Center Dec. 8. The show — which included Linetsky as deejay and a host of musicians and break dancers from Gunn, Palo Alto High School and Middle College at Foothill — was part of the Media Center's Sound Lounge Program.
The program received $5,000 this past year from the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund. It hosts four performances throughout the year and offers opportunities for musically inclined teens to showcase their talents, support their peers and learn about behind-the-scenes production.
"While (the Sound Lounge Program) has gone through many changes since its original inception, the purpose has always remained clear: a night of music and entertainment for local high school students to come together in a fun, laid back setting and support their peers and the music they create," according to a description of the program posted on the Media Center website.
The shows are often streamed live online through UStream and run approximately two hours. Organizers said each show focuses on a different genre, from heavy metal and rock 'n' roll to electronic and hip hop. Linetsky helps organize and promote the events and is himself a performer.
"I think it's just a great outlet (for teens) to express themselves and share their art with the community," he said.
While Linetsky serves as the program's conduit on the high school side of things, Layla Moheimani oversees the program for the Media Center at 900 San Antonio Road in Palo Alto. Moheimani attends Foothill College and said she has been volunteering at the Media Center for four years, starting in the youth program and working her way up to freelance-filmmaking projects. She said the Sound Lounge Program represents a unique opportunity for student performers to bond and encourage one another.
"There isn't really anything else like it around here, where high school musicians can get together and perform and invite their friends," she said.
She compared the program to the popular "Open Mic" nights organized by the Teen Arts Council and held at the Palo Alto Children's Theatre.
"We're kind of trying to further spread that and just give teenage musicians an outlet and a place to perform and for their friends to see them perform," she said.
This is Moheimani's first year heading up the Sound Lounge, which she said has "gone through a lot of growth" over the past few years. Former Youth Services Coordinator Brad Sanzenbacher was previously in charge of the program, which was bolstered by his musical background, Moheimani said. Katherine Saviskas took over for Sanzenbacher as youth-services coordinator, but she didn't have as much musical experience, so Moheimani was brought on to captain the Sound Lounge, she said.
"I'm also a musician, and I worked as an intern in the (youth) programs when I was in high school ... so they asked me to kind of take charge of it this year," she said.
A passion for music is something Linetsky and Moheimani have in common. Both have studied and practiced for most of their lives, they said. Linetsky has been playing classical piano since the age of 7 and has been creating his own electronic music for the past three years. He hosts a radio show on KZSU and has been working on a project dubbed "Nightly Beats," in which he creates a new electronic "beat" each night and posts it to the Web. He is influenced by the likes of Flying Lotus, J Dilla and "American Beauty" composer Thomas Newman, he said. Linetsky sees the Sound Lounge as an opportunity for students to enjoy music away from the traditional high school venues.
"I know it's a great way for kids to go out outside of the high school dances — which, as we all know, are lame — so this is a good alternative to that. A hip-hop alternative," he said.
Moheimani, who was born in Fremont but moved with her family to Palo Alto when she was a child, played piano for six years and then switched to guitar the summer after her senior year in high school, at which point she started playing, writing and listening to music "non-stop," she said. She has also been singing since before she could remember and picked up the bass guitar two years ago. Now music is the "number one thing" in her life, she said.
"But I also love sharing music with other people because it only has value when you really get to experience it with other people, so kind of hosting these (Sound Lounge) events and giving high school students the opportunities I never had or didn't take advantage of is important to me," Moheimani said.
Linetsky and Moheimani are both planning careers in music, and if the energy they have put into making the Sound Lounge a success is an indicator of things to come, they will have bright futures indeed. But on this particular Monday, the two are preparing for their "Hip Hop Apocalypse," and Linetsky's goal is simple.
"I just want kids to come in and have a good time," he said.
The Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund is in the midst of its 2012 fundraising campaign. A donation form and more information are available on page 20.
Online Editor Tyler Hanley can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.