What Smart Rock Looks Like: Stand for Music Award Winner San Fermin

With a voice as rich as velvet, and as smooth as silk (to overload you with musical clichés), San Fermin lead vocalist Allen Tate draws you in to the story he sings into the mic. Coupled with lead vocalist Charlene Kaye’s lilting voice out of some ethereal fairy tale, this baroque pop band grabs you immediately.

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Charlene Kaye and Allen Tate, lead vocalists of San Fermin. ©ShaunaAlexander.com

Not too “of themselves,” however, San Fermin exemplifies teamwork not only within their own band but also in partnership with others. One night at The Barns at Wolftrap in Vienna, Virginia, the string quartet Invoke shared the stage, and solos, as did an accompanying trombonist.

Invoke ©ShaunaAlexander.com

A perfect homage to the nation’s capital near where they played in January, San Fermin performed a new song from their forthcoming album “Jackrabbit” (due out in April): “Astronaut” (NASA, anyone?). They followed that with “Philosopher.” They knew where they were . . . in the midst of a more intellectual crowd that D.C. rarely fails to produce.

This is what smart rock looks like.

And the way composer/songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone directs his band, as he plays keyboard, is unassuming but in control of the beautiful madness unfolding on stage. Saxophone. Trumpet. Violin. Drums. Guitar. Along with primary vocals by Charlene and Allen, as well as violinist Rebekah Durham’s strong voice. Incredible collaboration.

What San Fermin shows on the stage is what we strive for in education advocacy in D.C. And the band gets it.

In both the quality of their music and how they present it on stage—along with their expressed philosophy about music and its role in our culture and collective conscience, its value for creator and consumer alike—San Fermin is the right candidate for NAfME’s Stand for Music award.

NAfME’s Stand for Music Award is our most prestigious music education advocacy honor. Bestowed only upon select, appropriate recipients through the course of NAfME’s 100+ year history, the award recognizes personal commitment to the promotion of the music education cause, both through engagement with policymakers and outreach to potential music education supporters.

The Stand for Music Award is bestowed upon artists who:

  • demonstrate excellence in their craft of music;
  • exemplify the qualities that music education and training create in those who practice it, such as: innovation, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and other 21st century skills described in the broader mindedTM campaign;
  • speak to music’s power in the lives of students as they prepare to be our nation’s next leaders and innovators; and
  • support music teachers and the schools and communities that support them.

Last year’s Stand for Music award recipient was Andrew Dost of the band fun., who was active in his own school music program and maintains an appreciative relationship with his influential band director.

NAfME Assistant Executive Director Chris Woodside sat down with five of the eight San Fermin members on January 30 to talk about their musical beginnings, influences, and thoughts on the state of music education in the United States. We’ll share more of that interview in the near future, but first, two highlights.

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San Fermin founder, composer/songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone. ©ShaunaAlexander.com

Ellis put it beautifully in talking about the band’s respective music education experiences, saying “all that training is what has led to our success as a band. And I’m excited to give back.” Ellis’s thoughtfulness in putting together this band will lend itself to how they will speak on behalf of music education’s value proposition in June at Hill Day.

And then as we hinted on Facebook and Twitter, an unexpected gem from that conversation between the band and Woodside was the revelation that one of the members was a Tri-M member when he was in high school—and later a teacher and NAfME member. [Drumroll.] That would be trumpet-player John Brandon.

John Brandon of San Fermin. ©ShaunaAlexander.com

With his sunglasses and “man-bun,” and of course true love for the music, John doubtless was a favorite teacher of many students. And what he has to say about music’s value to all will make him a favorite with teachers.

Asked to speak to the notion of how quality music education lends itself to creating a career musician, John responded that it “lends itself to becoming a career human being. Those so-called ‘soft skills’ [music education produces] are the things that truly matter.”

Watch the interview below for more thoughts on music education by our Stand for Music award recipients, including Ellis and John, as well as vocalist Charlene Kaye, violinist/vocalist Rebekah Durham, and saxophonist Stephen Chen.

Follow San Fermin on Twitter and like the band on Facebook.

Collegiates: Have you registered yet for Hill Day 2015? You don’t want to miss it!

Catherina Hurlburt, Communications Manager, February 12, 2015.
© National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)