The long-awaited return of the legendary Air Guitar for one night only on Friday, March 1, was an homage to a lost tradition once a hugely popular spectacle at Dana. But this time around, Air Guitar returned as a testament to the prominence of the special needs program on campus: with a philanthropic mission.
According to the Coming Together for Children in Need Foundation (CTCN Foundation), the nonprofit that put on this fundraising event, all proceeds are going to the special needs program to fund “educational and life skills programs” for our special needs students in the form of iPads for those with dexterity limitations, transportation for excursions to the Ocean Institute and Disneyland, to kitchen appliances for teaching necessary skills.
The name CTCN, pronounced “citizen,” is a reference to the foundation’s mission to serve as true “citizens” by assisting our neighbors, especially those in the special needs community.
Dana math teacher and CTCN founder, Mr. Jake Schwartzberg, was instrumental in the effort to revive Air Guitar, something of a hybrid between a lip sync battle, a dance battle and a good-natured competition, with elements of comedy intertwined throughout: a recipe for genuine laughs and an immensely enjoyable show.
He notes that two students in particular, seniors Charlotte Bowen and Audrey Saloot, “really stepped up to the plate” to make the return of Air Guitar possible.
Mr. Schwartzberg remarked in a rousing, inspiring opening speech that Dana Hills is like no other school he has come across in his teaching career. As a touching example, he noted that where special needs kids are “ignored” and “bullied” at other schools, Dana elected one of these students “as homecoming queen” in last year’s especially memorable homecoming football game.
Though the night started strong, a sound issue postponed the second act for several minutes. The following number was performed with a bluetooth speaker.
The issues with the existing sound system were resolved by the following number.
Schwartzberg remarked that considering the circumstances, the ASU and SOCSA students responsible handled the hiccup with “calm and grace.”
Technical mishap aside, the event was successful, as evidenced by the packed seating of the Porthole theater. Making around $5,000 from 410 ticket sales (despite the Porthole theater’s 263-person seating capacity) and drawing in 220 performers, this year’s Air Guitar set a promising precedent after an approximately 9-year hiatus.
But what is Air Guitar? The game: two groups of performers, each with a routine set to the music of their choosing, are paired. The audience’s applause, gauged by the Improv Team MCs, determines who reigns supreme in the battles of song and dance.
To start, a hoodie-cladden upperclassmen Pep Squad beat their lower classmen counterpart with a routine to NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye.” Senior Dylan Avillanosa emerged wearing a Pep Squad uniform to declare this victory, met with the roaring laughter of the crowd. The football team and girls’ soccer also fought it out with hits from Soulja Boy and others, but the girls (wearing some rather unsettling but equally funny blue masks) took the prize.
The “mean,” “green,” “lean,” and “racially ambiguous” (as Dominic Andraos and Scott Dorhout put it) teachers put on quite the show with Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” each donning a single iconic silver glove. But they were no match for the Structured Teaching, Educating Prepared Students (STEPS) kids’ rockified rendition of the Peanuts theme, complete with real instruments.
ASU, Best Buddies, Dance Team, Dance Production and even Mr. Schwartzberg’s second and third period Topics in Calc classes all duked it out, with the Best Buddies, Dance Production, and third period each coming out on top, their routines featuring music from Blake Shelton all the way to Vanilla Ice.
Seniors Kaito Sato and Ralf Ocampo from the Men’s Hip Hop Dance Team and the Drum Line made special appearances with numbers of their own.
Ultimately, the participants in Air Guitar were a microcosm of student life at Dana overall: from student government leaders to athletes, from math whizzes to performing artists, from STEPS students to their Best Buddies, each of several diverse groups on campus seemed to make an appearance—and these groups are not mutually exclusive, either.
The beauty of Air Guitar is not only in fundraising for a great cause—an effort to make special needs program and facilities a “shining beacon,” as Mr. Schwartzberg puts it. It also lies in the fact that special needs students are included and integrated into the event in the same manner as all other participants, driving home the core message of this year’s event: the special needs students are welcomed at Dana like nowhere else.