Local teens open for big-name musicians at WL Polo Noir
The backstage jitters morphed into exhilaration when the Youth Music Project (YMP) Intern Band took its place on stage at the Hidden Creek Polo Club in West Linn Aug. 11 for the third annual Polo Noir. The band livened up the crowd by playing '80s classics, and the audience even screamed for an encore after the three 18-year-olds stood in the spotlight together one last time.
"In the movies when they're on stage and then they chant out the song to you, that was in real life. I felt like Hannah Montana," said Lauren Flick, the electric bass player and lead singer in the YMP Intern Band, referring to the fictional singer on television. "I feel really sentimental like all this hard work has led up to this point and they were an awesome crowd — super supportive. There's nothing worse than having a deadbeat crowd and this venue's been incredible."
The three bandmates were part of the Teen Internship Program at Youth Music Project, a nonprofit organization in West Linn providing music education to children. Local youth generally apply for the internship their junior year and work at YMP for two years, though the internship is a one-year commitment. Interns assist with music classes, co-run the monthly teen open mic night and have an option of joining the Intern Band that gets together weekly with an instructor.
"The Intern Band is a moving group of kids that will come in and out of it," said Travis Magrane, executive director at YMP. "This trio has been playing together for a couple years. As they graduate, we have other folks coming in."
And the band had never before performed at Polo Noir.
The 2018 Polo Noir Aug. 11 drew in hundreds for the single-day event that kicked off with polo matches beginning at noon. The GULFSTREAM team, which featured world-class Argentine polo player Ignacio "Nacho" Figueras, defeated OREGONIAN / 3 Chukkers team in the championship.
The event also offered wine from Willamette Valley, music and food. This year, Polo Noir benefited the Children's Cancer Association and Harper's Playground, a nonprofit organization that builds inclusive playgrounds around the world.
The YMP Intern Band was honored to be able to open for the famous indie folk band, The Head and The Heart.
"When they asked us to do this huge profile event — this is the biggest thing we've done — it was pretty exciting," said Flick, a 2018 Wilsonville High School graduate.
The other two musicians that make up the YMP Intern Band are Nick Boatman, who plays guitar and just graduated from Alliance Charter Academy in Oregon City, and Zac Cross, who plays drums and just graduated from La Salle Catholic College Preparatory in Milwaukie.
Magrane said the flavor of the band changes based on their musical interests. The last band was more blues-oriented, while the current band tends to lean toward rock n' roll.
While the band is no stranger to monthly gigs, performing at the Polo Noir was the group's largest gig yet.
"I think they did incredible and I'm not surprised, these kids are just incredible musicians," Magrane said. "It's so wonderful to see them blossom on this big stage here."
When Flick was hired as an intern two years ago, the band started out with five interns but because of scheduling conflicts and time commitment issues, it dwindled down to three.
"We're a really tight trio," said Flick, adding that her instrument of choice is piano but she can play guitar, bass and the ukulele.
Flick was self-taught with piano and started taking lessons at YMP about five years ago. But it wasn't until she joined the Intern Band that she was introduced to the bass.
"I had four weeks to learn it before a really big gig (the Winter Blues Festival at Elk's Lodge) and I just worked really hard and picked it up," said Flick about her first gig. "I have a really good ear and also having that background in piano really helped me because I was used to reading sheet music and following a chord chart so I kind of just transferred my skills from piano to the bass. I think just having that external pressure of that gig was like, 'No more procrastination, I have to do this now.'"
Flick said that while mistakes were made, she acknowledges that it's all part of being a musician, and she's enjoyed seeing her and her bandmates' journeys unfold.
"The journey has been (from) shy 16-year-old who plays Disney songs on the piano to this girl who's going to perform in front of (hundreds) of people with a bass instrument that I had no idea how to play (and) being the lead singer is pretty cool," Flick said before the band's performance.
During the YMP Intern Band's opening performance, the group played '80s hits and classic-rock numbers like "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry, and other hits by Elvis, The Beatles, Madonna and Billy Idol.
And though the trio's time with YMP and the band has come to a close, Flick said she credits the internship for helping her find her passion: teaching.
"Music for me when I was younger was my way of escaping — I was homeschooled for a long time and music was the way for me to get out of the house in my head," said Flick. "To be able to pass that on to kids — I don't know their situation — and to be able to influence them in a positive way like that, it's incredible, so I'm studying education this fall."
While she'll continue playing music as a hobby, hopefully forming her own all-girls band, Flick will be attending the University of Oregon to pursue a degree in education to become a math teacher — another favorite subject.
"When I first started playing the bass ... I was insecure about it because I didn't really ever see a lot of women playing the bass in rock bands," said Flick, adding that her band instructor boosted her confidence after showing her videos of women playing the bass. "So moving forward since I'm studying mathematics there's a lot of stereotypes and assumptions made about women in math. The confidence I've gained by playing the bass in band, I'm really going to take forward with me in college and be the best mathematician I can and not let my gender affect my performance."
As far as the future of the Intern Band goes, Magrane hopes students will be able to perform at Polo Noir annually.
"I want them to stick around but the cool thing is that everything they've learned at YMP, everything they taught us at YMP, now they get to go out into the world and spread that so we couldn't be happier and more excited for them," Magrane said. "We'll have another Intern Band, the set will be a little different probably because there will be different kids but we're sad to see them go but so excited for them."