"It was really interesting to see what people chose — I was expecting more '80s given the age range, but you realize you're not always listening to what's new when you're little," says arranger, conductor and Magik*Magik founder Minna Choi, a Berkeley-born, classically trained 32-year-old colleagues refer to as a dynamo. (Vanderslice — who will be performing a Simon and Garfunkel song — agreed to Magik*Magik becoming the house band at Tiny Telephone after Choi cold-emailed him five years ago: "Minna's the kind of person who can and will do absolutely anything she wants to do.") Choi will conduct most of the show, with Michael Morgan, conductor of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, appearing on a couple pieces.
In designing music programming for children, says Choi, "We're trying to create ways to expose younger kids not only to music, but to a music career and what that looks like." The orchestra has organized instrument "petting zoos," taught kids to build their own string instruments, and run a summer camp where children learn to conduct.
Many players in the orchestra also teach private music lessons, and some had to cancel a few lessons in order to rehearse for the show. "But the point of this show is music education," says Choi. "So we came up with a kind of 'Bring your student to Magik work' day and had them reach back out to parents saying 'I can't do a traditional violin lesson Tuesday, but you're welcome to bring your son or daughter to the studio, we'll have it set up for them'...there's so much to learn there, whether it's rehearsal technique, or just how to communicate when you're working with 40 other people."
Diana Gameros, a staple of the Mission's indie-folk scene — she's been called "the Latin Feist" — chose an original song from her most recent album, a song she wrote for her hometown of Juárez, Mexico.
"I grew up listening to very traditional Mexican songs, because my grandparents lived on a little farm and that was what there was," she recalls. "And I didn't like it when I was young. I wanted to be hip, I wanted to be cool. I liked really poppy songs, which you could hear on the radio because we were so close to the border. What was that band that sang 'I Saw the Sign'? That's what I wanted."
She moved to the States as a teenager, and began writing songs as a young adult. And that's when she realized that the traditional Mexican music she'd disliked as a child "was embedded in me...it's in my blood." She chose "En Juárez" for this show in part because it's written from a mother's perspective: "If I had children, this is a song for them — explaining the realities of Juárez, the violence, but also talking to them about what's possible, about dreams and the hope we should have regardless of problems," she says.
"I was just honored to be asked to be part of this show, honestly. It's going to be a magical night."
A handful of scattered thoughts, while we're on the topic of music that helped when you needed to lie on your bed blasting music through a Walkman:
- Green Day's Dookie was released Feb. 1, 1994 — 20 years ago this Saturday.
- I've listened to that album from start to finish more recently and more frequently as an adult than I should probably admit. If "When I Come Around" starts on the radio when I'm driving, I will turn it all the way up.
- Miley Cyrus. Skrillex.
- My grandfather, in the last stages of Alzheimer's at age 95 and unable to keep family members' names straight, would sing along if you brought him tapes of Big Band songs from the 1930s.
- Sherman Alexie: "Your generation's music isn't better than any others. It's just inextricably linked to your youth."