Photos by Asia Morris. PWSOM creator Andy Song working with students at The Edison Theater in downtown.
Having originated in Hawaii, Pow! Wow! School of Music (PWSOM) creator and Long Beach resident Andy Song brought the residency to Long Beach for the first time in 2015.
Now annually housed during the week of Pow! Wow! Long Beach at The Edison Theater in downtown, a select group of talented youth and young adults learn to collaborate with each other and work with acclaimed mentors.
“Our focus is to bring in different levels of interaction to Pow! Wow!” Song told the Post. “Street art has different interactive aspects compared to art in a museum. You can see it without making a schedule or paying for it. With music being the most powerful language I know, it’s a useful tool to interact with the community in person. That’s how the idea of school of music came around.”
This year’s two-week intensive residency was introduced to the community when the students performed Sunday at MADE by Millworks during the opening of the Pow! Wow! Long Beach pop-up shop. Three more performances will take place this week where fans of both music and visual art can experience the hard work and creative growth of these young musicians.
Song and Long Beach local and regional director Ronnie de Leon, are working to bring the students out of their shells, so to speak.
“There’s a skill level, but what they lack in general is being able to work with different people,” Song said about the students’ growth during the program. “Most of the music they make happens in their room in their house with their computer. So we want to bring them out of that box to interact with other musicians.”
Eighteen-year-old Jessica Sayno, who was one of the first students of PWSOM when it started in Hawaii four years ago, auditioned and was accepted to participate as a “socially awkward” 14 year old, she said. She had just started attending public high school, after a rigid and demanding Catholic school education from kindergarten to eighth grade.
PWSOM mentor Jessica Sayno at The Edison Theater.
“I was super shy and honestly depressed at 13,” Sayno told the Post. “When Pow! Wow! School of music came around I was so relieved because even in the Catholic school the music education was so competitive.”
An avid songwriter, Sayno has attended every Long Beach session. For this third local iteration, Sayno is no longer a student, but a mentor to the current musicians-in-training. She says PWSOM offers its students a non-traditional form of education, one that you wouldn’t be able to find in a more academically-geared music learning environment.
“The mentors teach a lot of ‘unspoken etiquette,’ as I like to call it,” Sayno said. “Things that you wouldn’t cover in a music school where you learn theory [and technique]. We talk about everything you need to be an independent musician. In the beginning it wasn’t always like that, but that’s what Pow! Wow! School of Music is. It’s casual, laid back, it’s because of that casualness that I think the kids are able to be themselves and grow not only as musicians but as people, too.”
The students will perform three more times during Pow! Wow! Long Beach on Tuesday at the Art Theatre before Jeff Staple’s conversation with artist Adele Renault, Wednesday at the Museum of Latin American Art before the Talk with Tatiana Suarez and likely on Saturday during the Art Battle hosted by Mike Giant.
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