POW! WOW! School of Music Connects and Engages Local Musicians, Artists

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Photo courtesy of Arturo Enciso. 

The POW! WOW! School of Music (PWSoM) wrapped up its weeklong residency with two penultimate performances, one at the Long Beach Museum of Art’s (LBMA) After Dark event last Friday and one at the Summer and Music 720° event in downtown Long Beach last Saturday.

“The crowd was so diverse and very interactive,” said PWSoM student and PWSoM Hawaii alumnus Isabelle Sayno of the After Dark event. She said it was the first time the PWSoM crew was the only act at an event. “I felt the energy being bounced back and forth between us and the crowd. It was definitely one of the most life-changing performances I have ever done.”

“I didn’t imagine it would be as big as it was,” said Arturo Enciso, 24, one of PWSoM’s students and a member of Long Beach’s band Fathers & Suns. “There was lots of art, lots of DJs.” Not to mention over 3,000 spectators at the LBMA’s After Dark event.

The philosophy of using a music school to bridge the gap between local musicians and the street artists involved in the broader POW! WOW! event first emerged in Hawaii’s POW! WOW!.

In an earlier interview, POW! WOW!’s founder Jasper Wong said the PWSoM’s mission is threefold: to “bring people together through art,” “beautify a neighborhood or city through the simple act of putting paint on the walls,” and “educate the youth and become a resource for emerging artists.” 

He said that PWSoM flies artists from across the globe to cities to expose the local community to the international art scene and expose local artists to a national audience. The PWSoM came to Long Beach in a year where it is slated to also reach Taiwan, Japan, Austin, Guam, New Zealand, Berlin, Jamaica and more.

Andy Song, the POW! WOW! School of Music’s creator, was excited about the results of POW! WOW! School of Music Long Beach and said he and fellow organizers are already talking about repeating the event next year.

“It’s exciting to enhance the music part of POW! WOW!” said Song.

The music school served as a central location for POW! WOW!, an event that is spread across the city, through street art. Housed at the Edison Theater, Song and Enciso said artists, volunteers, and spectators visited the Edison Theater as a means of engaging with the scene as a whole.

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The LBMA’s AFTER DARK event. Photo courtesy of Arturo Enciso. 

“Besides synergy with the street artists, we were inspired to have theme music,” said Song. He said PWSoM’s students created theme music for the event in addition to collaborating on covers and experimenting with different music styles.

The school’s week-long curriculum was composed of students and mentors from different backgrounds discussing topics daily, writing the theme song of Pow! Wow! LB, completing special performances and writing music to art.

“As a young musician, I am currently discovering my sound and learning strategic ways on how to really turn my passion into a healthy career,” Sayno said. “The team of mentors this year helped me in both of these areas I am trying to master.”

With a lifelong passion for music, Los Angeles resident Andy Song reached out to Jasper Wong about creating a PWSoM and hosting it in Long Beach. Song lived in Long Beach for five years after moving from the East Coast, and said it is “still the town I call home.”

“Coming from a music background, I wanted to create something in music with the concept of giving back to the community,” said Song.

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The PWSoM crew performs at the After Dark event. Photo courtesy of Isabelle Sayno. 

Enciso said helping to mentor other students (ranging from ages 18 to 22) and meeting other successful artists, like DJ Neil Armstrong, who’s toured with Jay-Z, were highlights.

“It was also a great place to meet friends,” he said.

“Talking about this is actually making me miss the curriculum terribly,” said Sayno. “People in the Pow! Wow! art movement actually suffer from this condition we call ‘post-Pow!Wow! depression.’ Go ahead and ask any member of the movement about the withdrawals they feel after the Pow! Wow! week is over.”

Song was pleased with the entire production.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to have something I created—to have brought something to Long Beach,” said Song.

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Photo courtesy of Isabelle Sayno. 

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