Almost a year after he last performed with SBCC Music students, singer-songwriter Michael McDonald is rejoining them for a benefit concert at the Lobero Theater. The September 14 performance will raise money for the SBCC music department and feature the former Doobie Brothers member backed by an SBCC Music string ensemble as he sings hits from his decades-long career.
In an interview with the News-Press, Mr. McDonald said he wanted to return for this year’s benefit show because of the inherent excitement that comes with young people playing music.
“It reminds me of being their age… There’s no greater kind of excitement than to be doing music when you’re young,” he said.
Having lived in Santa Barbara off and on since the 1980s, Mr. McDonald now considers this town his home, calling it “the community that I have the greatest affinity with.” During his conversation with the News-Press, Mr. McDonald was in northern California for a stop on his tour, traveling for which makes him feel like he’s in “suspended animation.” In addition to playing with young musicians and benefiting SBCC’s music department, the singer is looking forward to for once getting to go home after a gig and sleep in his own bed.
“We get paid for the traveling part, the music part we do for fun,” he said.
In addition to Mr. McDonald’s performance, SBCC’s award-winning Lunch Break Jazz Band and its New World Jazz Ensemble will perform sets of contemporary big band jazz and a tribute to Miles Davis, respectively. Lunch Break Jazz Band director Jim Mooy told the News-Press that his group’s performance will include songs by Ella Fitzgerald and will boast numbers sure to wow the audience.
“We’ve got a couple tunes that are closers that should just bring down the house,” he said.
The Lunch Break Jazz Band will showcase some “star students” of last year’s benefit concert including Cambria Metzinger, who currently sings with San Diego Opera. Mr. Mooy called her “one of the most versatile singers I know.”
While last year the New World Jazz Ensemble played a set of songs by rock band Steely Dan, this time it will pay tribute to jazz trumpeter Miles Davis by performing selections from his albums “The Birth of Cool” and “Kind of Blue.” The band’s director Tony Ybarra said this change in direction is meant to highlight the strengths of SBCC Music. While performing songs by Steely Dan was fun, jazz music is more in the program’s wheelhouse.
“Instead of chasing that direction I wanted to focus on the department’s strengths, which is jazz studies,” he said.
According to Mr. Ybarra, the idea of putting on a concert benefiting SBCC Music came about a few years back when he had a student whose father was friends with Michael McDonald. The singer visited the New World Jazz Ensemble during one of its rehearsals, leading to a friendship between him and the college’s music department.
“This idea of putting on a fundraising concert for SBCC music was born out of that friendship,” Mr. Ybarra said.
The Lunch Break Jazz Ensemble backed up Mr. McDonald’s set during last year’s concert, an experience Mr. Mooy described as “always fun.” The director went on to compliment Mr. McDonald as “the nicest, most genuine guy I’ve met in this business,” and recalled how he would spend time chatting with students in the green room before taking the stage.
Surprisingly, Mr. McDonald said the students hardly ever ask him about how to make it in the music business. Stressing that music is “not all about becoming a rockstar,” Mr. McDonald explained that many of the SBCC Music students are seeking careers in fields such as music education and music therapy, as opposed to the path he took.
He said, “In some ways their musical pursuit is more pure than that defined by the parameters of the music business.”
Instead, his pre-show conversations with the students usually involve “altruistic questions about the music.” For many of them, preparation for the show is their first time hearing music that he played with The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, and as a solo artist, so their questions often revolve around how certain songs were created. For Mr. McDonald, it’s “encouraging” that music he wrote and recorded decades ago still resonates with younger listeners.Tickets for the show are available at the Lobero Theatre website, www.lobero.org, and range from $55 to $75. According to a press release, VIP tickets are available for $150 and SBCC students can attend at a reduced price of $25. The concert will begin at 7:00 p.m. and the Lobero Theatre is located at 33 E Canon Perdido St.