Charitable Musicians: Red Fang Benefit Portland Arts Education (w/ Interview)

It is no secret that the economic depression that has commanded the nation for the past four years has taken its toll on everyone. School districts nationwide are especially feeling the budget crisis, as falling tax revenues has forced some to get creative. Be it via hacking a month off of the school year or forcing teachers to take furlough days, it is, in the end, students who lose out most from these funding struggles.

Portland’s favorite beard metal band Red Fang are more known for their PBR-swilling music videos and heavy riffs than they are their level of social engagement. But when the Grant High School art department needed some funds to keep the art flowing, Red Fang did what all good metal bands would do: threw a benefit show. Like a carwash fundraiser, only with less bikinis, more beer, and more beards.

In this interview, Red Fang’s vocalist and bassist Aaron Beam talks about why the band got involved, and Maliq Rogers, a Sophomore at Grant High School, explains what impact the budget cuts have on his band, Hell’s Parish, and the other students at the school.

“I think we need to re-program society to put a bigger emphasis on the arts, so that it would be inexcusable to cut an arts programs funding in the public schools.” – Aaron Beam

 

A Benefit For Grant High Art Department is scheduled to take place Friday May 25th at the Hawthorne Theater in Portland, Oregon. Red Fang will be headlining the event with support coming from Lopez, Nether Regions and Grant High’s own Hell’s Parrish. Doors for the show at are 7:00 pm with the first band hitting the stage at 7:30 pm. Tickets can be purchased for the show HERE.

 

A Note From Hell’s Parish

My name is Maliq Rodgers, and I am the drummer of Hell’s Parish and a sophomore at Grant [High School]. Grant is facing cuts in many elective classes, especially the arts. Our art classes are already running low on supplies and we have to change plans to work with our lack of supplies. Language classes are being cut as well. An active arts program helps kids find new ways to express themselves and have fun, and to explore different activities that they wouldn’t have in other places. I’ve been taking some form of art through every year of school, and it’s something that lets you branch out and express yourself in new ways and have fun [while] doing. The emphasis on standardized testing takes away from the arts in some ways, because core classes are the main priority of the education system, and that isn’t going to change. Schools typically focus on English, Social Studies, and Sciences.

Art isn’t something you can always put into numbers and scores, but for someone who wants to pursue a career in some form of art, these classes can hold lots of value. Schools often hold fundraisers and benefits like the one we’re playing, but that’s not enough to fund the art programs. The economic struggles are nothing that a small group of people can fix, and the budget cuts aren’t something that can change instantly. Personally, I think that everyone should try to share the knowledge that education is losing money. Maybe if enough people talk about it, someone in power will do something to change the situation. Nothing’s easy, but people need to know what’s going on and the more support the schools have, the better.

 

For more opinions on the topic, please visit any of the following links and articles:

- Educator Voices: Impacts Of Budget Cuts On Oregon’s Public Schools And Students
- Thousands Rally Against Education Cuts In Portland, Oregon (May 2012)
- PPS Students Speak Out About The Value Of Arts In Education (April 2012)
- Vanishing Arts: Budget Cuts Or Lack Of Vision? (August 2011)
- PPS Website

An Interview With Red Fang

Answers from bassist and vocalist Aaron Beam

 

How important is an active arts program in a kid’s youth? Was it important in your youth?

Extremely important. It develops the creative part of the brain which is useful in all aspects of life, whether you end up being an artist or not. It was utterly essential for me as a youth, considering I was not a very communicative person [and] felt very separate from my peers… the arts were really my only real form of emotional expression.

 

With such an emphasis being placed on standardized testing and such, do you see ways for schools to try and place any emphasis on arts with such limited funding available?

I love The Economist newspaper, but in their views about American public education, I believe they are dead wrong. They repeatedly tout school programs (such as the ones Jeb Bush put in place in Florida) which tend to improve the metrics used for evaluating students’ success. But those metrics always involve standardized tests, so what is really being measured is the effectiveness of teachers at training kids for tests that are most likely irrelevant to their future contributions to society. The impact of an arts education cannot be measured directly, so there is no way to justify its necessary expenditures in a board meeting.

 

School districts across the nation (and super especially in Oregon) are facing such extreme budget cuts in the face of the economic struggles, do you see any ways to make arts programs more self-sustaining?

There probably are ways to make arts programs more self-sustaining, but I think that is not the direction we should be heading. I think we need to re-program society to put a bigger emphasis on the arts, so that it would be inexcusable to cut an arts programs funding in the public schools.

 

What will the funds for this benefit go towards, and how has the reception been on-campus with students, staff, etc.? Is the plight a shared and known one?

I think most parents of high school-aged kids in Portland know about what is happening at Grant. I cannot answer specifically where the funds will go, but I have heard they will benefit all arts programs at Grant High (photography, sculpture, painting, etc.). As far as the reception goes, the art students are very excited, and some of the kids from one of the sculpture classes have a heavy metal band called Hell’s Parish who will be performing at the benefit. The whole thing came about because a friend of mine is a teacher at the school, and she brought the funding issue to my attention.

 

I read that while you were in high school, you helped set up music programs for schools due to lack of funding. How was that accomplished then, what does this twenty year difference in contrast feel like?

That is not quite what happened. While I was in school, we got wind that due to budget cuts, the marching band at my school (Fort Collins High School) was going to be cut. A group of students got together and attended the school board meeting at which the final decision was to be made, and we each stood up and presented our arguments for keeping the marching band program. The board ended up voting to keep the marching band.

In all honesty, I sort of hated marching band (which was required for anyone who wished to play in concert band), but I was proud of the fact that we had one of the more successful bands in the region, and I also felt that regardless of my personal feelings about participating in marching band, that A) it is not fair to deprive other people who might want to participate, B) cutting any part of a high school’s music program would set a very bad, dangerous precedent, and I could not allow that to happen.

 

Have you guys been involved with other benefits/charities, and/or do you have any plans to?

We have performed a few other benefits, mostly for friends who have gone through trying times. Unfortunately, we cannot spend all our time doing benefits/charity shows since we need to be able to feed our families with income from this band, but whenever the circumstances allow and the cause is a good one, we re eager and willing to help in whatever way we can.

 

What is your creative process for coming up with THE BEST MUSIC VIDEOS EVER?

100% credit goes to Whitey McConnaughy, who writes, directs, and edits all of our videos.

 

See Video for Red Fang’s “Prehistoric Dog”

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