Santa Cruz Music Festival 2015

October 10, 2015

Untitled design

I am honored to have asked to participate on the music panel for Santa Cruz Speaks 2015, part of the 3rd annual Santa Cruz Music Festival. I’ll be talking about some untapped resources for musicians based on this top 5 list.

Grants – a.k.a. – free money. A lot of musicians think “arts” grants are limited to the fine arts like painting, sculpture, etc. but there is a significant amount of grant money available to all artists, including musicians. If you have the motivation to apply, locally, check out the Arts Council Santa Cruz County, specifically their site for Grant Seekers. Musicians should check out the Develop Grants – for individual artists and arts organizations seeking support for their professional and business development activities. Guidelines here. Applications are accepted in Fall and Spring. The program is open to all Santa Cruz County artists. Example proposals: A pianist taking a technique class to help recover her playing ability after an injury, A visual artist creating a website to promote his work, An installation artist creating a Kickstarter video to fund their next project. Locally, also check out the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County.

Nationally there are also grants that revolve around music. Check out the California Arts Counsel Artist Calls. Music focused grant sites include:

New Music USA provides over $1 million each year in grant support for the creation and performance of new work and community building throughout the country. Lists current funding, as well as past awardees. Includes knowledge base.

Musical Online | Funding Resources features a compilation of funding resources including foundations and associations, grants, scholarships, and organizations.

Community – There is a lot of art in Santa Cruz and a good deal of infrastructure built in to support it, but somehow musicians don’t always “join” and can miss out on natural opportunities that arise from being part of a group of like minded individuals. Some examples include:

Arts Council Associates – Arts Council Associates are a group of local artists and representatives of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations interested in mutual support, collaboration, and the promotion of arts events and programs. We meet every other month to chat, network, and catch-up, but also to share our challenges and triumphs, and figure out where partnerships can strengthen our community.They also co-produce the Gail Rich Awards each January, which celebrates local creatives and philanthropists who enrich our artistic community. Due are only $35 year.

Event Santa Cruz – Event Santa Cruz is a monthly happening that showcases thriving local businesses, and the people behind them. Our events provide valuable (and fun!) networking opportunities, delicious bites and drinks from local vendors, and live shows by talented local musicians. If you’re interested in volunteering or speaking at our next event, or if you’d like to showcase your artistic or culinary talents for the Santa Cruz community, please contact Matthew Swinnerton at We’d love to have you at our next event!

Balanced Breakfast San JoseBalanced Breakfast is a music industry meet up, the local chapter to Santa Cruz is San Jose (currently over 900 members) – a group of Bay Area music industry professionals that meet every week to create community in our the music industry. Our topics change, but often relate to actions we can employ that will help the scene become a place where musicians & industry professionals can make money doing what they love. (Music). Next mtg. Sat. Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. – Noon – Rockbar.

People will to help you: We have many talented local music writers willing to help the community. One is Cat Johnson who recently did a free workshop at SCRS on how to to write a band bio. Notes on that workshop will be up soon. Cat Johnson is a freelance writer focused on community, the commons, and music. She’s a regular contributor to Shareable and Good Times and has been writing about music since 2010. Publications include Yes! Magazine, Launchable Mag, Utne Reader, LifeHacker, Mother Jones, Mother Earth News, and Triple Pundit. She writes about freelance writing and blogging at The Freelance Cat. Follow her on Twitter: @CatJohnson

She is also building a Get Press For Your Band mini course, sign up here and she will be in touch.

Other cool ways to make money and get the word out locally include:

The Downtown Busker Fest – an ongoing series, on the 1st Saturday of each month in outdoor locations in Downtown Santa Cruz. The Downtown Association will promote the events and the individual performers, will provide access to posters and flyers for performers, and will arrange with the City of Santa Cruz for permits. Performers will receive a small stipend for their participation. Performers can accept gratuities during their performance time.

SoundSwell – a streaming database of Santa Cruz local music that library cardholders can download for free. It was created through a partnership between the Santa Cruz Public Libraries and the Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studios and is growing to become a comprehensive discovery tool for finding local music as well as a robust historical archive of the local music scene in Santa Cruz County. Under the licensing agreement, the library will pay you for a 2 year non-exclusive license as follows: $100 for a full length LP consisting of 9 or more songs, $75 for an EP consisting of 6-8 songs, and $50 for an EP consisting of 4-5 songs. During the term of the license, only those users with a valid library card will be able to download licensed songs. If you meet the criteria and wish to submit your work, please review, fill out, and sign a license agreement form. If you have any questions or concerns or would like to meet in person to go over any aspect of the agreement prior to signing please email Project Manager Diane Cowen at or call Library Administration at 831-427-7706.

How to Write a Band Bio: Presentation and Working Session with Freelance Writer Cat Johnson

July 11, 2015

July 27 Poster - updated

Monday, July 27 from 7-9 p.m.
Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studios (RS. 3)
118 Coral Street

Nothing helps sell out a show like a good write up. Come down and find out what a working music writer needs to write about your band. Presentation followed by Q&A and working session. Bring your current bio, laptop, notebook, or just a blank sheet of paper to finally start your band’s official bio.

About Cat Johnson:
Cat Johnson is a freelance writer focused on music, community, and the commons. Publications include Utne Reader, GOOD, Yes! Magazine, Shareable, No Depression and Lifehacker. She blogs about freelancing, coworking, and thriving in the new economy at

Locally, Cat is a music writer for Good Times Santa Cruz, a long-timer at Streetlight Records, and the mastermind behind the Santa Cruz Freelancers, an open community working toward creating a thriving, supportive network of freelancers in Santa Cruz.

June First Friday – Maddie Amelia Lewis: Dreamscaping

May 16, 2015

Skulls and Bottles

Artist Reception: Friday, June 5 – 6-8 p.m.

Bio: Maddie Amelia Lewis is a 2D artist with a fondness for acrylic paint and ink. She is a recent graduate from UC Santa Cruz. She is fascinated by fantasy, the arts, and textures.

Paintings will be on sale from $20-$85, and lithographic prints will be selling from $5-$15. See artist website for preliminary prices:

Artist Statement:

I like making huge gestural brush strokes, circular voids reminiscent of black holes, drips, and fine lines. I paint abstracted landscapes and attempt to embody concepts like death, anxiety, love, daydreams, and imaginary places. I will go through great lengths to actualize an idea. I try to draw from the beauty and emotion in my life for my art so I can’t forget it. Each of my pieces is a space I create to reflect, and after I take my time with each one, I let it go.As an acrylic painter, I am a texture junkie. I love acrylic mediums—glass beads, resin sand, modeling paste, black lava—I’ve tried them all and I make full use of them. My paintings ensure dynamic and varied surfaces. I tend to work very quickly and use a lot of aggressive mark-making techniques. The larger the canvas, the more energetic I become while I paint it. For small works, I can be more delicate, but the restlessness remains.  They say that drawing from live models gives the drawing itself more life, so I try to instill the energy, emotion, and intensity into my paintings by embodying those feelings as I paint.In the end, it all comes down to an obsession. I paint because I can never get paintings out of my head. A painting will tell me what it needs to be real, and I oblige it the best I can. It’s a piece of the world inside of me—it has always been, and will never cease to be.

HOMEGROWN – A Benefit for the Santa Cruz Public Libraries SoundSwell Local Music Collection

May 9, 2015

Poster for the Homegrown Concert

The HOMEGROWN benefit brings together two stellar local bands to help raise awareness of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries Soundswell Local Music Collection. The SoundSwell project is one of kind in California, allowing library patrons to download and stream free local music with their library cards. This win/win project not only introduces Santa Cruz residents to their new favorite song, it also fairly compensates bands for their music and talent, and serves as a historical local music archive. A model for libraries across the country, our local library once again helps put Santa Cruz on the map as a forward thinking arts destination. Special Guest Emcee Kim Luke will be handing out great local raffle prizes too!

All proceeds from this event benefit the Santa Cruz Public Libraries SoundSwell Local Music Collection, a growing contemporary and historical local music archive that library cardholders can download for free. Tickets available at

Arts Council Santa Cruz County / Hotel Paradox Partnership

April 4, 2015


The Arts Council Santa Cruz County has partnered with Hotel Paradox to offer an Artful Overnight preferred rate to the full arts community. Help promote Santa Cruz County as the arts destination we know it to be! Pass this info to your artsy friends and out-of-towners.

Make reservations in two ways to get the ARTS group rate:
1. By calling 831.425.7100 and asking for the “Arts Council Santa Cruz County” rate -or-
2. Go to and enter dates of stay.Click “Book.”

  • Click “Update your access or promotional code.”
  • Select the Promo/Corporate Code, and type the code: “ARTS”
  • Click “Update.”
  • Then click “Confirm.”

The rate is given on a first-come, first-served basis with a limited number or rooms available at this rate at any given time.

First Friday – April 2015

March 14, 2015

First Friday is finally back at SCRS and we’ve got an amazing artist lined up for April.

Janina A. Larenas: Graphic Works on Paper
A collection of design projects ranging from posters to hand printed sticker images to original book illustrations.

Artist Bio: Janina A. Larenas studied printmaking and book arts at the University of California Santa Cruz. Besides design her skills include relief, intaglio and letterpress printing, as well as painting, embroidery, bookmaking and food preserving. Her designs are most recognizable as hand printed printed stickers and as t-shirts for The Devil Makes Three.

The show is available to view during normal studio hours. Check schedule here. If a band is booked, then the studio is open.

Sugar Percussion at the 2015 Oscar Awards

February 22, 2015

Oscar Shot Maroon 5

If you live in Santa Cruz, I’m sure you know any number of truly amazing artists. I think you should meet another one. It’s time you met Sugar Percussion. Tonight their custom five piece Honduran Mahogany drum set built in Santa Cruz made its way onto the stage at the Oscars thanks to Maroon 5 drummer Matt Flynn. The Oscars is a big stage and slowly but surely, Sugar Percussion is doing big things.

Founded in 2011, Sugar Percussion specializes in custom stave-built, solid wood drums. Rooted in nearly 20 years of custom woodworking, Sugar Percussion drums are conceived and built like fine furniture, carefully and precisely designed, dedicated and deliberate in their construction and custom to the nuanced particulars of every client.  There is no ‘stock’ model.  Every drum is built from and specifically to the  deliberations and conversations between player and builder.

Before Maroon 5, Black Crowes drummer, Steve Gorman, was one of Sugar Percussion’s first clients.  Introduced to the company through one of their snares, Gorman immediately ordered the rest of his full kit, all built from a single plank of Eastern Black Cherry.  Quoting his immediate response to the delivered kit… “Exactly how drums are supposed to sound, exactly how they’re supposed to feel.”  Gorman used the kit throughout the final Black Crowes tour, and subsequently ordered a second kit made from Alaskan Yellow Cedar for his latest project, Trigger Hippy.

On the recording side of the glass, producer Eric Valentine was also introduced to the company through a single snare.  A full kit and 3 snares later, Valentine continues to be a treasured ‘family’ member, as well as a tremendous resource.  It was through 3 weeks of correspondence between Jefferson and Eric that the Eric Valentine Signature Recording Kit was born.  Aiming to design a better kit made specifically for recording, the two employed shallow depths, thicker shells, blunter bearing edges and a dimension schedule based on prime numbers to inhibit sympathetic resonance between drums.  All of this and more rendered a controlled and balanced sound ideally honed for studio use, scratching every itch of a meticulous, perfectionist producer, as demonstrated in a video produced by Jefferson and Eric using only a single microphone.

Sugar Percussion continues to build recording, live and hybrid kits and snares for a wide range of clients including Gadgetbox Studios (Santa Cruz), Blackbird Studios (Nashville), The Blasting Room (Ft. Collins), SIR (New York City), as well as backlines regularly for bands in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York

Contact them at: or

Do You Know Gail Rich?

January 21, 2015


Every year the Santa Cruz  Arts Council Associates puts on the Gail Rich Awards at the Rio Theatre. You’ve probably never been, but I think yo u should go. Here are my top 10 reasons to go to your first Gail Rich Awards next Wednesday, Jan. 28.

  1. It’s a awards show that celebrates the spirit of the arts in Santa Cruz by formally recognizing, “our friends and neighbors who are committed to living lives of artistic passion.
  2. You will be way more inspired than usual on a Wednesday night.
  3. It will give you that feeling of community that you forget you love until you experience it again and then remember it is why you live in an artistic community in the first place.
  4. There will be live music.
  5. It’s free.
  6. You will hear stuff like this (quote from honoree Robbie Schoen): “I want to do what art is supposed to do,” Schoen said. “I want it to stop people in their tracks and give us pause to reflect on our place in the world as human beings. It’s here to remind us of the things that matter and take us away from our day-to-day lives.”
  7. Excellent networking, especially if you like the artist types.
  8. There is often wine.
  9. You pay a lot of money to live in a town that has really cool shit like this, but if you don’t go out and support it, it goes away.
  10. There are always free cookies.

I really hope I see you there.

19th Annual Gail Rich Awards
January 28th, 2015 at 7:30pm
Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave. in Santa Cruz
FREE and open to the public

2015 honorees:

Carolyn Hyatt – arts philanthropist
Dale Ockerman – White Album Ensemble, Musicscool
Robbie Schoen – Felix Kulpa Gallery
Johnny Simmons – KUSP radio personality
Cat Willis – Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center

As Simple as a Tweet

January 20, 2015


This week I am taking part in the #YourTurnChallenge, a 7-day blogging challenge inspired by the Your Turn book by Seth Godin. Since being introduced to his daily blog years ago, I am constantly inspired by his views on work, art and how to treat people. A lot of what he writes about is along the lines of, “go, make something happen.”

It was in this spirit that we approached starting the rehearsal studios in the first place, and most recently propelled our involvement with the SoundSwell project. Back in August of 2012 I read an article on Hypebot about the Iowa City Public Library and how they were offering free downloads of local musicians for those with a library card. I couldn’t help but think that if they were doing it in Iowa, we could do it here in Santa Cruz. I tweeted as much to the Santa Cruz Public Library and the next day got an email from the virtual services coordinator.

She was aware of the ICPL work and was also about to attend a leadership retreat the next month which included the development of a year long project for which she would get help applying for grant funding. We got to emailing, she got to talking around her office and before you know it, we started to make something happen. Serendipity? It was through this one interaction that we opened the door to being involved with this amazing project from the ground up.

To date the Santa Cruz Public Library has paid local musicians over $5000 to license music for library patrons to download free of charge. This year they have another $4000 waiting to distribute to new local bands what would like to join.

This project is a win / win. Local musicians get real money in the bank ($100 for full length LP, $75 for EP). To earn that much from iTunes band would typically need to over 100 downloads. With SoundSwell, bands not only make the money up front, but only local library patrons can download the music, so bands are not only earning money, but also making new local fans. Our community also gets access to a library of free local music.

All it took was one tweet to make to make the connection to start this project. I encourage you to send one email, or tweet, dedicate a FB post or an Instagram hashtag to foster more SoundSwell connections.

If you know a local musician, tell them about the opportunity. If you have library card, download some new music. #keepsantacruzweird #liveformusic


Five Years Young in 2015

January 19, 2015


2015 marks the five year anniversary of Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studios. We’ve been high, we’ve been low, but we’re still here paying the rent every month thanks to our community of local musicians. Thank you.

Some days it is all we can do as a small business to just keep the doors open with all equipment running, other days (like today), we’ve got energy to spare and start thinking about all the OTHER projects we’d like to do in and around our space in the world.

The short list includes:

  • Video stuff. We’ve got an epic GoPro Hero w/the music bundle that we can rent to bands for cheap. It is under utilized and the whole idea of video in the studio needs attention.
  • Art. In the beginning we put a lot of time and energy into First Friday and having new artists in the studio every month. Then life happened, and we skipped a month, an artist flaked at last second, and the whole thing just went on the back burner. We’d really like to bring it back, or maybe it looks like something else, artists taking over the space, a collaboration event to learn to make show posters or DIY merch ideas.
  • Teaching / Co-working /Networking. We have a community, we have free rein of a physical space, there are more things we could be doing to share resources, have more fun and get more creative together. We’ve been inspired by things like  Cohere Bandwidth, Backyard Brunch Sessions, Balanced Breakfast, etc. We want to use our space not just for rehearsals, but do MORE, more impact, more, more, more.

I am writing this blog as part of the #YourTurnChallenge, the goal is to blog for seven days straight. I realized I had not taken the time to blog since September, 2014 so I wanted to get the ideas flowing again and you know what, it’s Day 1 and I feel like it’s working.

If any of this inspires you in some way, please reach out, let’s make something happen in Santa Cruz or beyond. You can email direct at or connect w/ us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.



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