OWATONNA — Prior to his show at the Music Space Friday night, musician Walter Salas-Humara dropped by Owatonna Middle School Friday afternoon for the first installment of the school’s “Live on the Learning Stairs.”
“We’re going to try to do more” of these, “whatever we can get from the arts,” said Scott Noet, the middle school teacher who helped bring Salas-Humara to the school Friday. “A lot of these kids have never seen a show like this,” and it was “multicultural,” as Salas-Humara even sang a song — “El Camino de Oro” — in Spanish.
That piece is about the importance of community, and Salas-Humara also discussed various musical elements with students, including chorus, verse, arrangement, bridge, and crescendo. In addition, he and his fellow musicians, Jonathan Rundman and Eric Kassel, delved into songwriting and composition with students in the second of their two sets.
At one point, Salas-Humara asked students who among them could sing, and when only a few raised their hands, he disabused them of the notion, promulgating that “all of you are singers.”
“All of you can sing,” he told them, and he asked his audience to act as the chorus for the refrain “like a satellite.” After concluding that number, he proclaimed “you guys are all in the band now.”
In a setting like Friday’s, Salas-Humara could also reflect on life as an artist.
“Be creative in your life,” advised Salas-Humara, who has maintained a flourishing music career for decades — initially as a co-founder of The Silos, which burst onto the New York post-punk scene in the 1980s and were named Best New Artist in the 1987 Rolling Stone Critics Poll — then as a solo artist. “It’s so rewarding when you can spread that joy.”
Being a musician “is a wonderful job,” and “socially, it’s amazing, because you have friends everywhere,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like work.”
In addition to music, he’s also adept in the visual arts, including with his portraits of dogs, a series of which were featured in the Jonah Hill comedy “Get Him to the Greek.”
Visual art and music “are not all that different, conceptually,” he said. Some songs “come really quickly,” almost “miraculously so,” while others are extended ordeals, and it’s the same with painting.
In addition to Salas-Humara’s appearance Friday, Liz Charlton’s Owatonna Middle School theater classes also performed their plays on the school’s platform for classmates and parents.
The productions were the final projects for her two sections of theater class, Charlton said. “It’s fun for students to see other kids perform” on stage.
Students in the middle school’s photography classes also used Friday’s opportunity to sharpen their skills, taking pictures at both the plays and Salas-Humara’s concerts.
The goal Friday was to emphasize the “A” (for arts) in STEAM, Noet said. It’s “a fun afternoon to highlight the arts in the middle (school), see some aspiring thespians ply their craft, and tap a toe to some terrific tunes.”