The Kids Aren't Alright

Santa Fe youths can do more to support their own scene

As a 17-year-old musician in Santa Fe, I’m thankful for chances I’ve had to experiment and gain experience, but I am still incredibly disappointed by the local community’s efforts to organize and create opportunities for aspiring young musicians.

My family ended up here a few years before I was born, and I started playing drums when I was 8. Now my range has grown to include guitar, bass, marimba and trumpet. My wide taste in music, listening to artists such as the Jackson 5, Green Day, and The Beatles, motivated me to go into my community and find new bands to appreciate. As I explored the scene, I found myself underwhelmed by the variety of styles played. Given, I would only see local music at restaurants or downtown, but it was primarily mariachi or cover bands. Many people love those, but it didn't match my own creative interests. Regardless, some new friends and I decided to play music together. A pair of brothers I met at school knew how to play drums and piano, and I taught the pianist to play bass. We found an additional guitar player and then, later, a new pianist. Once the band was formed, we would practice our songs in the brothers' basement, but none of us had any idea where to start with recordings or live performance. Then we discovered Warehouse 21. The organization was kind enough to give us time to record and experience playing live shows. We started to build a following for the group we call Luck Streak.

Not every kid who shares my dream even gets this far. One of the most significant issues of this generation is how many kids never have to put effort into something they want. If you want good grades, you can easily look up the answers to a math problem instead of working it out yourself. The same goes for music. Everyone can make music, but being a musician requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work. And it's a realm where it is impossible to cheat your way to more fans or a higher number of social media views—that is solely dependent on the musicians themselves. There is a growing distance between the dream and the work, and there are such high expectations, but little action to make success possible. I often hear kids who say they wish more people would come to their shows, and all I have to say to is, how well did they try to advertise? Did they put one status up on a Facebook page and expect the entire city to show up? Or did they go around and talk to people, hand out fliers, talk to locals? No? OK. Then, don't be surprised if no one shows up! 18 year-old local musician George Helfrich, of metal band Choking on Air, sums it up perfectly. "I don't hear about shows, and no one hears about my shows," he says.

Another reason for Santa Fe's youth to be apathetic is the lack of effort from many venues and a shortage of places for kids to play their music. From what I've seen, the musical culture is incredibly divided. In order to play shows at certain venues, a musician has to know the right people, and has to sound a certain way. Plus, the majority of the venues in Santa Fe are bars, which does not help local youth. Even if they do theoretically play a show there, the audience is going to be full of people they'll be unable to interact and communicate with due to age differences. Some all-ages venues make it difficult to book shows if a band is outside their inner loop or doesn't have a recommendation from insiders. Venues that ask bands that are just getting started for videos of previous shows or recordings of their music make it nearly impossible to even get a foot in the door.

I do understand the gamble that it takes for said organizations to invest their time and interest on groups with no previous recognition, but these larger organizations could team up with youths to put on all-ages shows. Not only would that give the kids new opportunities, they could give themselves more diversity and potentially create a new fan base for youth bands. This could also cause more attendance at various venues. In the same sense, it would be the responsibility of the kids in the bands to advertise these shows and make sure they're profitable for both themselves and the venues.

Encouraging the community to show up creates support for artists and for local businesses, which only helps our economy and community. The venues and bands are businesses, in the end, but through reasonable cooperation, our musical community can become the kind of tight-knit community that is found in so many other cities.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.