Sing It, Kid 

Benefit aids school music program

SUN 6/1

All too often it seems that when public schools face budget cuts, music class is the first thing to go. Couple California's current fiscal woes with education reforms emphasizing easily quantifiable skills, and you could have a recipe for a dull school year filled with drills on the names of state capitals and US presidents. Or not. Tracey Hartwell, a teacher at Highland Elementary in Vallejo, came up with a fun solution slightly reminiscent of the Sound of Music's guitar-strumming Maria. With grants from the National Education Association and the Bill Graham Foundation, and with the talents of a handful of local musicians, Hartwell spearheaded "Say It Thru Song," a music enrichment program for her fifth-grade class. Seven Bay Area musicians, including favorites like Noe Venable, Etienne de Rocher, and Jethro Jeremiah, lent their expertise to monthly workshops designed to immerse the kids in a variety of music -- from folk and rock to ska and rap. While the six-month program certainly served as a primer on musical style, history, and theory, its ultimate goal was to help the kids find their creative voices. "The workshops," Hartwell says, "have been an exciting way of introducing students to a world which most young people are only able to dream about when they listen to music on the radio or watch a video on television." She's not referring to the hot stage lights of American Idol per se, but the real artistry of transforming ideas into song. As such, students learned the ABCs of songwriting. They penned poems, fashioned lyrics, and set them to music with the help of their musician mentors.

The resulting CD, Say It Thru Song, written entirely by 11- and 12-year-olds, is a diverse compilation of six tracks including "The Worst Lunch I Ever Ate," a funky ode to bad cafeteria food. Although the EP hasn't yet found its way into stores, you can hear the culmination of this year's creative collaboration Sunday at the Say It Thru Song CD Release Party at the Starry Plough (3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 3-6 p.m.). The all-ages benefit, emceed by KFOG's Peter Finch, will feature sets by the Say It maestros and their cartoon-watching protégés. The $15 admission includes the CD and pizza. Proceeds will fund future Say It Thru Song workshops. Info: 510-841-2082. -- Joy White

SUN 6/1

Formidable

Paris by the bay

Let's hope the war supporters keep up their boycott of all things French -- more Bordeaux and bouillabaisse for the rest of us. Fortunately, Francophobia will never touch Berkeley. Fly your tricolore this weekend at the East Bay French-American School's La Place du Marché. Come to the little "train station" house on Heinz Street Sunday (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) for market stalls selling Gallic items, live music, kids' entertainment, the Marché Bistro, and a raffle for a trip to Paris. $5, kids under 12 free, and it benefits the school. 1099 Heinz St., Berkeley. -- Kelly Vance

SUN 6/1

Climb Every Montuno

When Rebecca Mauleón sits down at the piano, prepare to be swept away. The Mills College grad and former flamenco dancer is one of the foremost players and composers of classic Cuban montuno piano -- a rumba style from the mountains of Oriente province, the perfect percussive, syncopated attack for dancing. Her instructional music book 101 Montunos is considered essential, and she's gigged with everyone from Celia Cruz to Cal Tjader to Israel "Cachao" Lopez. Sunday, in a benefit for SF's Presidio Hill School, Mauleón and her frequent compadre, timbalero Orestes Vilató, tear up Yoshi's with two shows. At the 2 p.m. matinee, kids in the audience are invited to participate in the rhythm section. www.yoshis.com -- Kelly Vance

SAT 5/31

CHiPs Ahoy

C'mon. You know how important safety seats are. But maybe you're lazy. Maybe you don't know the laws. Maybe you think the laws are dumb. Maybe you need to talk to Erik Estrada . Yep, the man who made "Ponch" a proper noun is coming to the Emeryville Toys "R" Us parking lot (3838 Horton Ave.) as part of the CHP/21st Century Child Safety Seat Inspection and Installation Fair. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. you can pick up a child safety seat parents' guide in either Spanish or English, and real CHP officers will inspect and, if necessary, replace and install a new car seat donated by 21st Century Insurance. The safety guide is also available at www.21st.com -- Stefanie Kalem

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