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Arts and Entertainment

'The Airborne Toxic Event' Rock Out with LA Youth at Plaza de la Raza

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Fresh off rocking stages around the globe, Los Angeles' own The Airborne Toxic Event performed in front of some very familiar faces Wednesday night at Plaza de la Raza.

Prior to the band's breakout from local favorites to national headliners, bassist and California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) graduate, Noah Harmon served as a teacher at Plaza through the Community Arts Partnership (CAP), an arts education program serving schools and community organizations throughout Los Angeles County. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of CAP, LA-based indie rock quintet shared the stage for a Rock & Roll master class with young musicians enrolled in the very same course Harmon used to teach.

"I’m not a super sentimental cat but being able to see the kids was kind of amazingly touching," said Harmon by phone. “It was super cool seeing a bunch of kids I used to teach all tall with mustaches now.”

The class is part of 20 for 20, a series of 20 free master classes for L.A. youth featuring 20 artist ambassadors, from all disciplines of the arts,sharing their expertise with CAP’s youth participants. Along with The Airborne Toxic Event, other arts ambassadors involved with 20 for 20 include Oscar nominated actor, Ed Harris, director Brett Ratner, "American Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi and "Dancing with the Stars" judge Carrie Ann Inaba.

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Prior to taking the stage at iconic East Los Angeles art center, Harmon and his fellow bandmates got to sit back and watch the youngsters perform their renditions of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" (the classic jazz tune was played with a heavy metal guitar jumping in the background) and Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke."

"They were really impressive." Harmon added, "It’s kind of amazing how technically proficient kids can be in high school."

The bassist, who first became involved with CAP while attending CalArts studying jazz because it was the closest thing to a steady gig he could get, says the program is “a real world outside-the-box approach“ to arts education. Harmon, who spent five years working with youth rockers at Plaza adds, “most of these communities the program serves haven’t had any real arts education programs in high schools and middle schools in years.” The program has brought arts education to over 200,000 young people over the last 20 years.

After providing the kids with some pointers, the Los Feliz-bred alternative rockers, who Harmon says are currently "staring the process of rehearsing and recording songs for the next record," took the stage and performed two songs as well. The event culminated with both bands jamming together to Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire."

While his band may have wowed critics and legends like U2's Adam Clayton, Harmon says his former students, many of whom he remains in touch with, "act wildly unimpressed" by the success of the band. He adds, "They’re in high school so they’re like ‘Oh you play in band and stuff? You went to Japan? I hate sushi, I think it’s gross. But yeah, good for you, man.’"