May 09--Drummer Sandy Ficca knows what success is like. He's toured with rock band Firefall since 1984. His passion is to share that success with talented teens and young adults. So, in 2005, Ficca founded Use Your Gift Foundation, a nonprofit that assists talented individuals find careers in the music industry.
"It just kind of started with some kids from North Medford High School," says Ficca, whose home base is in Central Point. "Then word about the foundation got out, and they just sort of started showing up. All of them are passionate about their music. It makes it really fun for me."
A benefit concert for Use Your Gift -- featuring rock band Ambrosia and several teens from Ficca's program -- will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased at the Craterian box office, online at www.craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000.
Ambrosia was founded by guitarist David Pack, bassist Joe Puerta, keyboard player Chris North and drummer Burleigh Drummond in 1970 in Southern California. The group had five Top 40 hits -- "Holdin' On to Yesterday," "Magical Mystery Tour," "How Much I Feel," "Biggest Part of Me" and "You're the Only Woman" -- between 1975 and 1980.
Three of the original members, Puerta, North and Drummond, along with keyboard player Rick Cowling and lead guitarist Doug Jackson will play the May 16 shows.
New artists from Use Your Gift will open for Ambrosia.
"The first group will be songwriter B Wishes (Colonel Mustard, The Toyes) and her choir," Ficca says. "It's a group of eight children from Cave Junction that performs Beatles songs."
Honey Bee Choir consists of two groups: Honey Bees, featuring Hazel Randall, Lena Randall, Sierra Hanni and Sierra LaHey, and Blossom Bees, featuring Annabella Eisner, Isabella Idoine, Cole Hanni and Lily Mayo.
Each group will perform the songs "Nowhere Man" and "Two of Us."
Next up is Camryn Ridgley, a 17-year-old high school student from Crescent City, Calif.
"As a singer, songwriter and guitarist, she wants to become a country singer," Ficca says. "I think a lot of people will compare her original stuff to Taylor Swift, who also was a very young country singer who transcended into pop music."
Guitarist, singer and songwriter David Bufarale is from Medford.
"His work is in a contemporary style along the lines of Jason Mraz," Ficca says. "And he does some rapping. It's a cool style, like alt-pop and rap. It's his style and rhythm that stands out, and a lot of his vocals have a bit of R&B to them."
Bufarale came to Ficca with his original song, "Don't Get Me Started."
"It needed a lift, so I came up with a cool hook for the chorus that David liked, and it really made the song stand out," Ficca says.
Lexi Deats of Jacksonville, who is in her freshman year at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., also will take the stage. She and Ficca have started her recording project, which they hope to finish this summer.
"She's a bluesy, swampy kind of singer, and she also plays guitar," Ficca says. "She can sound like Bonnie Raitt. She's got that kind of vibe."
Ficca works with individuals for about six months, going through the young artists' material, taking it into preproduction and finally recording a CD.
"Sometimes I include other players from the area to make their CDs sound as good as they can be," he says. "When we're finished, they also have press kits that can be used to garner the attention of record labels, producers and managers."
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