By: Kendall Moffett
CLARA tenant Southside Unlimited creates a safe and encouraging environment that sees people with developmental challenges as full citizens. For Southside Unlimited, providing adults with disabilities opportunities to express themselves artistically is critical. To support this aim, the organization hosts a music and performing arts program that is home to the band The Early Birds. For Sacramento audiences and on their podcast “Southcast Internet Radio,” the band performs original songs as well as covers of songs from the ’60s up to today.
With most of the members of The Early Birds playing music since childhood, it makes sense that music is something that comes from the heart. The current band mentor, Geno, says it is a bit of a mystery as to why he found himself on Craigslist looking for another job. After realizing how much he missed teaching, he spontaneously sent in the materials needed for a music instructor position. With many years of teaching at Merryhill School and a few years teaching at Sacramento City College under his belt, Geno knew he had a user-friendly way of teaching students of all ages. Now, after six months of teaching at Southside Unlimited, both Geno and the band are grateful he is here.
Since their first performance with Geno as a mentor, the band says they have not been nervous to play on stage together. Matthew, the band’s bass keyboard player, plays from heart and believes that music is a way of doing God’s work. The band’s vocalist, Joe, says he is focused on entertaining the whole crowd. Even after hearing these reasons for The Early Birds’ fear-free performances, you may still be asking yourself how all the band members are fearless. Everyone gets stage fright, right? To this, The Early Birds would probably answer: not at Southside Unlimited, not with wonderful instructors like Geno, and not in this supportive and motivating environment.