By DAVID MIN
On January 31st, the Youth Action Team held its fourteenth annual Akustikoff, which is an event where student performers and groups from across Irvine Unified School District compete against one another for the chance to play at a summer music festival. Hosted at the Heritage Park Events Center, the sets included renditions of popular classics, instrumental pieces, and even a few original compositions, mostly sung alongside a piano or guitar – hence the name Akustikoff.
“The goal of the event is to support one of the two main missions in YAT’s purpose: to connect teens and their community together through fun and creative social-recreational events”, says senior Christina Liu. “Furthermore, it’s also a great opportunity to showcase one’s musical talent and get experience on the stage!”
The event took place in a relatively small auditorium, around the size of our school’s small gymnasium. The stage was less than three feet away from the front-row seats and seeing the performers up-close made for a much more intimate and enjoyable experience. The compact space also lent itself to the audience, as their cheers and shouts were heard all across the room.
The audience’s excitement only heightened the mood; most, if not all, of the members of the crowd were there to see their friends or family perform, and whenever a new group went up on stage I heard a cacophony of shouts and cheers from various sections of the auditorium. They clapped alongside songs, cheered at singers hitting the high notes, and gave the performers thunderous applause and encouragement. Their energy really made the experience a lot more fun for everyone involved.
Each group or solo act brimmed with musical talent, whether it was on the vocals or on an instrument. Songs ranged from old-time classics, like Yesterday by the Beatles, to newer, popular songs, like Loving is Easy by Rex OC. Sprinkled among the performances were a few nuggets of creativity, with one group performing a mashup consisting of Fly Me to the Moon, Sweet Caroline, and more, and another singer/guitarist who played two of her original songs for us. From Uni, we had freshman Hannah Park singing and playing the ukulele and junior Thomas Nguyen playing fingerstyle guitar.
“I really enjoyed watching all the amazing performers and having a good time in the practice room,” Nguyen said. “It was a great first experience for me to learn what I could’ve done better, but the most important thing was to have fun on stage.”
Aside from a few hiccups with microphones and speaker functionality, the event ran smoothly, with very little waiting time between sets. Performers came and went quickly, which kept the momentum alive as the excitement carried over from one piece to the next, building upon one another and keeping the audience engaged and involved.
Beyond the fun and lively theme of the event, the Akustikoff is hosted as a fundraising event for various charities and causes, chiefly through its bake sale. Home to a broad array of delicious and highly affordable cookies and pastries – the lemon cookies were especially good – the sale promised to donate 100% of its revenue to the American Cancer Society to fund cancer research.
“The funds of the bake sale went to YAT’s Relay for Life campaign, which is a giant fundraising event hosted by the American Cancer Society,” says Liu. “Any leftovers from the bake sale were immediately sent to Grandma’s House of Hope, an organization that helps struggling women & children who need refuge from domestic violence or homelessness.”
Overall, the Akustikoff was a fantastic experience that supports a great cause, and I highly encourage you all to attend or maybe even perform in the coming years.