Santa Barbara Strong: A Student-Driven Benefit Concert

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Santa Barbara Strong: A Student-Driven Benefit Concert

Nolan Montgomery (11) on the EPAC stage. Montgomery was the primary organizer of the student-driven benefit.

Nolan Montgomery (11) on the EPAC stage. Montgomery was the primary organizer of the student-driven benefit.

Photo credit: Emily Kuhn

Nolan Montgomery (11) on the EPAC stage. Montgomery was the primary organizer of the student-driven benefit.

Photo credit: Emily Kuhn

Photo credit: Emily Kuhn

Nolan Montgomery (11) on the EPAC stage. Montgomery was the primary organizer of the student-driven benefit.

By Emily Kuhn, Staff Writer

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In the wake of the devastating Thomas Fire and Montecito Floods in December and January, Dos Pueblos junior Nolan Montgomery knew he had to take action to help rebuild the community.  The shock of the events inspired Montgomery to spearhead an unprecedented student-driven Santa Barbara Benefit Concert.

Montgomery began planning the event the day after the mudslides, and was able to get DP principal Bill Woodard and the Santa Barbara Unified School District on board, which allowed him to use the Elings Performing Arts Center (EPAC) as a space to host the concert. Montgomery was motivated to make the event happen as soon as possible.

“I just wanted to do something to help,” Montgomery said. “I guess my first thought was, oh let’s have a benefit concert, because I do sing and I know that there are a lot of performers in our community, specifically high schoolers, who I thought would want to perform.”

So, Montgomery continued this momentum by consulting with his teachers, performers, administrators, and beneficiaries in order to get the details of the event worked out.

The first obstacle Montgomery faced was finding a date for the event that would work for everyone. They needed a date that would be far enough away to prepare, but soon enough after the disasters that it would still be fresh in people’s minds. Due to Montgomery’s determination and the contributions of many supporters, they were able to plan and execute the concert just two and a half weeks after the floods.

“It was honestly one of the most stressful two weeks of my life,” Montgomery said. “But it was really rewarding and it exceeded expectations that I didn’t even have in the first place.”

The event took place on Jan. 27 and featured performances from four different high schools including DP, San Marcos High School, Santa Barbara High School, and Bishop Diego High School. All proceeds from the concert were donated to the United Way Thomas Fire and Flood Fund.

The event was a community effort with major support from: Choir Director, Courtney Anderson; Crew Director, Will Poulin; Theater Director, Clark Sayre; Head of Production, Karla Pardo, Nolan’s mom, Jenna Montgomery; and many others. Thanks to the many people who volunteered their time and support, the event was a success and generated over eight thousand dollars for the Thomas Fire and Flood Fund.

Pardo, who played a huge roll in the production aspects of the benefit, was delighted by the general attitude of everyone who planned and attended the concert.

“It really warmed my heart, as cheesy as that sounds, to see so many people coming to this event.”  said Pardo.

In addition to the money raised, the concert brought up people’s spirits and gave them a chance to give back to the community. Anderson and DP’s choir performed at the event, giving them an opportunity to support the cause in a way that felt natural for them.

“This was our way of being able to help and use our gift of music to bring some joy to people who had lost friends and family and loved ones.” said Anderson of the choir’s contribution.

The choir performed two songs in addition to their participation in the group number at the end of the concert. They chose “Black Bird” and “Indiana Christmas” because they are both songs that speak of strength, rising above, and community. The performers came together to conclude the concert with a group performance of “We Are the World,” a song that reiterated the concert’s message about rebuilding from the rubble and connecting the world with love.

The Santa Barbara Benefit Concert was supported by many different people, but ultimately, it was a student-driven event and a product of Montgomery’s vision. Many, including Anderson and Pardo, had never seen anything like it during their years at DP.

Montgomery is proud of his work, but humbly attributes the event’s success to the support of his parents, fellow students, and teachers who worked alongside him.

“I’m thankful for the community and how we came together,” Montgomery said.

Anderson praises Montgomery for his leadership and believes that his personality is a big reason that people were so eager to help him.

“He’s such a wonderful, kind, young man, and people just want to support him and they want to help him,” Anderson said. “I was really impressed with his professionalism, and just the way he handled everything. He stayed so calm the whole time even though he was like, internally freaking out, he was always outwardly kind and positive to everyone.”

In addition to everyone’s positive feedback about Montgomery, many people also commented on how crucial his mother’s contributions were in the success of the event.. Not only did she offer the initial push that he needed to pursue his idea, she was also a big support to her son in keeping everything organized.

“She offered a lot of help, she was really on top of things,” said Pardo.

In the end, everyone who was involved in the event was very satisfied with its turnout. Despite the short planning period, this unprecedented, student-driven, Santa Barbara Benefit Concert was successful in raising community spirit and over eight thousand dollars for victims of the Thomas Fire and Montecito Floods.

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