Keeping the art spark alive

‘Save the Music II’ benefit concert supports TISA’s school art program


Here in Taos, the arts are everywhere: visual, musical, performance and otherwise. The arts enrich our everyday lives, serve as an outlet for creative expression and encourage contemplation and renewal. Most of us recognize the importance of the arts to health and well-being, but funding for the arts in education is consistently on the cutting block. Here in Taos, local educators, students and musicians are doing something about it.

Earlier this summer, David Kinney brought together a group of musicians for a “Save the Music” concert to help raise money for arts in education. “Save the Music II” is scheduled to take place Sunday (July 30) at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west.

The benefit concert features blues, Americana and rock ‘n’ roll by local musicians. The concert is free to attend, but donations will be collected to support the arts at Taos Integrated School of the Arts (TISA).

Kinney works as an educator with gifted and special-needs students at TISA. He previously taught at the juvenile detention center in Taos. As an educator and musician, Kinney believes strongly in the importance of arts in the schools.

In an interview with Tempo, Kinney pointed to research that indicates students involved in arts programs do better across the board in all subjects. For example, the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities (originally organized under former President Ronald Reagan) issued a 2011 report that shows arts education in schools has a positive impact on overall student academic success.

“To succeed today and in the future, America’s children will need to be inventive, resourceful, and imaginative. The best way to foster that creativity is through arts education,” reads the report, titled “Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools.”

“Eliminating the arts as an outlet for kids can have a dramatic impact on other areas of their education,” Kinney said.

“TISA is in danger of having [arts] programs cut,” Kinney says. “For the students who attend TISA, it’s a big priority for them – arts, music and drama. It really cuts to the core of the school.”

The afternoon gets started at 2:30 p.m. with a group of talented student performers, including fourth-grader Anakaela Trujillo, daughter of Robert V. Trujillo (Taos High School principal).

Next, Tony Mason fronts the Tony Mason Blues Band for a real Chicago blues experience from 3 to 3:45. Mason is known around town for his solo performances, but Kinney emphasized that Mason is something else when he lets loose in front of his blues band. Taos Academy Charter School student Justis Daniels will be sitting in with the Tony Mason Blues Band and showcasing his musical skills.

Shannon Barksdale and Southern Soul will take the stage from 4-4:45 p.m. Barksdale, who frequently performs at Taos Ski Valley, has been working on her original songs, some of which she will play at the concert. Southern Soul is Kinney (guitar, harmonica), Colin Jenkinson (bass), Willie Hunton (vocals, dobro, mandolin) and Paul Greenhaw (percussion). The four-member band also goes by the name of the Mesa Madmen.

Brendan Devlin and the Mesa Madmen will close out the benefit from 5-6 p.m. Devlin has been catching the ear of music aficionados around town, and Kinney predicts it won’t be long before he’ll be touring. So, catch him while you can.

As a studio and stage musician, Kinney has played in Nashville, Tennessee; Chicago, Illinois; and throughout the United States. Formerly of Chicago, Kinney has shared the stage with many musicians, including Trey Anastasio of Phish and Koko Taylor. For eight years, Kinney played harmonica with the Zora Young Band.

Jenkinson is a classically trained musician who plays stand-up and electric bass and cello. Jenkinson performs and teaches students in Santa Fe and Taos.

Hunton is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and performed for more than 25 years on the East Coast. He plays with a number of local bands in Taos.

Greenhaw earned a master’s degree in music composition. He spent 20 years working as a music librarian at New York City’s public library while playing drums for a variety of NYC groups, most notably a honky-tonk band called The Dixons. Greenhaw moved to Taos this spring.

Kinney is excited to bring this combination of musicians together for the “Save the Music II” concert. He said some of the musicians are lesser known in Taos, so it’s a good opportunity for music lovers to hear some new music in town.

“This is gonna raise some eyebrows because these people are really good,” Kinney promises.

TISA is a public charter school serving grades K-8 in the Taos Municipal School District. The school teaches a standards-based, multicultural, thematic and arts-integrated curriculum. For more information, visit