Words by Juli Fraga
As musicians in a local band, the Silhouette Era, San Francisco State students Sean Thompson and Carlos González have already recorded an EP and toured together. While they may have more professional music experience than many students, they’re honing their entrepreneurial skills by planning the RGB Arts and Music Festival for the Bay Area community.
“RGB” stands for “red, green, and blue,” which are three colors in the visual color spectrum. When combined, they make new hues. “We think RGB represents the collaborative spirit of the festival,” says SF State senior and festival organizer, Thompson.
Meant to bring student artists together, the festival will feature performances by SF State musicians, poets, dancers, and film students. Free to the public and the campus community, the three-day event will be held at Knuth Hall on the SF State campus on May 1, 2, and 13.
“We want to use art and music to bring student performers from diverse backgrounds together,” says González, a senior at San Francisco State University. González is one of three students organizing the festival.
Similar to Noise Pop, the RGB festival will showcase numerous artists over several days. “People who attend Noise Pop hope to discover new artists. RGB will offer a similar experience, but on a smaller scale,” says González. He adds that many of the festival’s performances will include collaboration among the student artists.
“I’m working with a Mexican-American student poet, Elizabeth Rosas, and putting her poem, Juárez, to music,” says González. The poem paints a vivid picture of the tragic murders and disappearances of women from the Mexican city. “My family is also from Juárez, and I’m familiar with the city’s history. I wanted to compose music to help bring my friend’s beautiful prose to life,” he adds.
The festival kicks off on May 1 with a concert, where student musicians will perform original compositions spanning a wide variety of genres including contemporary classical music, blues, and jazz. Composer Lauren Tougas will perform, and poet Asher Marron will have their poetry set to music by composer Forrest Balmant. Marron published their poetry in a collection of works titled, Unbind(ing).
Dances choreographed by the students will be performed the following day. Choreographer and dancer Nekai Abriol will perform a dance that she’s choreographed with the help of composer Greer McGettrick. On the last day of the festival, cinema students will show their films as student musicians perform the original scores they’ve composed for them.
Student filmmaker Jake Naso will show his film Mound, an experimental, black and white movie showing a series of images of Ocean Beach (Thompson composed the music to accompany Naso’s film). Another film, Briefcase, written by student filmmaker Jake Hill will also premiere. Also of an experimental nature, Hill’s film depicts how a briefcase leads to a mugging.
Thompson and González hope the RGB Festival is an opportunity for student artists to tap into their talents and collaborate creatively with others. For the two student musicians, planning the festival has also taught them marketing skills needed to make it in today’s music business.
“Planning an art and music festival requires more than creativity,” says González. He adds that naming the festival was a crucial step in marketing the event to the community.
“You have to get people excited about what you’re doing to make it in this business, which is why the name was important,” says González.
Instead of calling the festival the ‘SF State Art and Music Concert,’ González and Thompson chose ‘RGB,’ because it’s casual and invites engagement from others. “Sometimes keeping things simple, grabs people’s attention,” says González.
For Thompson, planning the festival has helped him master the art of persistence. “If things don’t happen, you have to keep going until things begin to unfold,” he says.
While these business skills will help Thompson and González as they continue to pursue their music careers, the most crucial aspect of RGB has been bringing the art and music community together. They hope festival attendees will see how diverse artists can come together to form a community and the power of this collective bond.
“In many ways, art and music can further a conversation more than words can, which helps tighten social bonds,” says Thompson.
Juli Fraga is an avid music lover and freelance writer living in San Francisco. She’s written for KQED, NPR, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.