The event is a collaborative effort between general education and special needs students on the Autism Spectrum who work together to plan an entire music festival. In just 10 years, the annual show has grown from a small concert for a crowd of 150 people to a professional production that draws thousands of fans, internationally renowned sponsors and big name acts.
40 acts, including Rome of Sublime with Rome, will take the stage at the day-long festival. Artists such as Seedless, Krooked Treez, Cherri Bomb, and Badflower will perform on the main stage, while local favorites and DJs will be getting the crowd going from the festival’s two side stages in the skate park.
We caught up with Yes I Can Program Director Bret Lieberman for the skinny on Summer Meltdown.
What made the students decide to pick Santa Clarita Skate Park for the venue?
It was a natural tie-in. We’d been holding the event on the school campus for the past 8 years. We took Summer Meltdown to a musical venue last year and lost so many different jobs for the kids and elements we would get at an outdoor venue. For us it was a natural fit to incorporate music, art and action sports by holding it [Summer Meltdown] at the Santa Clarita Skate Park. We have some solid companies in the industry supporting us too, so a venue like SCV Skate Park made sense from every standpoint.
Who are some of your sponsors for this year’s event?
KROQ, Unite the United, SOS Entertainment, Vans Warped Tour, Andy Gump, Olley Skateboards, Roaring Lion, Val Surf and many others have generously donated to the cause. Putting on a production like this is difficult enough as a professional.
How do the kids do it?
The fact that it’s so difficult to produce a professional event inspired them to work to this standard. Learning the skills and the steps as they’ve grown has led them to want to achieve higher and higher levels of professionalism. Kids in the Yes I Can program spend an entire year planning, preparing and producing this event. Letter writing to businesses for sponsorships and donations is incorporated into their English curriculum. In class they are taught how to contact managers, sound companies and other businesses needed for event production. In math class they learn how to manage budgets, which helps them cost out the event. The students get real life experience calling businesses and working with professionals through this program. They also learn about communication and self-esteem boosting.
How has the Summer Meltdown affected the Autistic population at the school?
The summer meltdown is the social connection piece to the general education population. The general education students treat the special education students with respect, and The Yes I Can students get a sense of pride and ownership when it comes to the Summer Meltdown. It gives hope to those younger students who have something to look forward to when they get to high school/college. A number of students involved in the program have gone on to intern or work in the music industry after graduation.
Why do you think this program is so effective at combating stereotypes about special education?
The power of music is the driving force–everyone loves similar music despite what color or culture they are from.
Why is the YES I CAN program and Summer Meltdown essential to the community?
We are the only Autism Awareness concert in California that is planned, prepared and produced by the youth with and without disabilities alongside music concert professionals. We are breaking down stereotypes of students with disabilities, and at the same time, teaching the community the power of teamwork and goal-setting.
What can the community do to further the cause?
Help spread the word about our cause, donate, sponsor and buy tickets to the Summer Meltdown here:
Summer Meltdown is accepting donations and last-minute sponsorships. Please contact Bret Lieberman for additional details: email@example.com (661)252-6110 ext 479