Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fundraiser helps provide learning trip to Washington D.C.

FELIX AND THE SOUL CATS is one of the bands playing at a benefit concert at the Cozmic Café Saturday. Courtesy photo

From page B14 | March 24, 2011 |

What: Benefit Concert and Raffle
Who: Felix and the Soul Cats, Simms and Taylor Minks
When: Saturday, March 26, 8 p.m.
Where: Cozmic Café, 594 Main St. Placerville
Donation: $10
Info: 530-644-2956


If a picture paints a thousand words, then a trip to the nation’s capitol must be worth at least 10 textbooks.

A trip to Washington D.C. is a priceless, but expensive history lesson. Students, parents and faculty at Gold Oak Charter School in Pleasant Valley are working hard to raise money to make sure that no student is left behind when they embark on the historic journey this June.

Their goal is that all the eighth graders and some seventh graders benefit from this “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” according to Gold Oak Charter School teacher Mary Gately.

“I want to make history come alive for them,” said Gately, who has taught in the Gold Oak School District for some 31 years. “There are so many interactive programs and they learn first hand about history.”

Gately, whose passion and expertise is American History, said that the Washington D.C. trip is like having an expanding classroom. When students visit such sites as the White House, the rotunda, the Senate and House chambers, the Arlington National Cemetery and the Smithsonian Museums, they learn about American history, and appreciate what our democratic heritage means.

Among fundraisers for the educational trip is a concert this Saturday night at the Cozmic Café, 594 Main St. in Placerville, which donated its stage for the cause. Popular musical groups Felix and the Soul Cats and Simms are performing, and Taylor Minks of Cameron Park, a talented young guitarist, singer and songwriter opens the show at 8 p.m.

Felix and the Soul Cats

Felix and the Soul Cats is taking time out from a busy schedule of Lake Tahoe gigs to help the cause. The group performs the rhythm and blues classics in an energetic, classical style, and features a line-up of some of the best musicians around.

“We’re just good friends playing great music,” enthused Felix Odion, the band’s founder, who is a vocalist and guitarist. He was captivated by the sounds of Motown and Stax.

Formerly with the band Cold Sweat, Odion carries on the tradition of compelling, soulful R&B with the Soul Cats.

The group’s energy purrs on stage, especially with a line-up that includes Billy Slais on keyboard and saxophone. Slais has played with Elvin Bishop, Cold Blood, Starship and continues to be play with Craig Chaquico as well as being in demand as a session player.

On bass guitar, Art Rodriguez hails from the Grammy award-nominated Trey Stories band. A resident of Lake Tahoe, he also is sought-after as a session player.

It will be a busy night for drummer Tom Carlson of Pollock Pines, as he drums for both Felix and the Soul Cats and Simms. Formerly of the Jimmie Jamez band and a graduate of the Hollywood Percussion School of Technology, Carlson owns Referable Painting and his daughter Colette Carlson, 13, attends Gold Oak Charter School and is slated to visit Washington D.C.

Carlson’s heart is in education and in percussion, with enthusiastic drumming that can drive any music genre.

“We are proud to be part of this charity event,” said Odion.

Simms — backing the cause

With several grandchildren in area schools, though none destined for the current Washington D.C. trip, singer, guitarist and songwriter Ken Simms immediately came on board for the educational cause.

Simms, who played in famous Bay Area bands since he was a teenager recently founded Simms, which he calls the “evolution of a band.”

He is excited about his newest band. Cover classics and Simm’s own rhythmic, eloquent songs have found their voice with vocalists Allison Boring and Lisa Bonds, who also play violin, clarinet and keyboard. The entire group participates in vocals, but Bonds and Boring make the songs come alive.

Veteran bass player Don Lind keeps the beat going, and guitarist Mark Urquardt adds dimension with both guitar solos and back up rhythm.

The aforementioned Carlson rocks out on the drums, tapping out the beat on both rock songs and melodic originals.

Simm’s rather “discovered” Taylor Minks at Synapse Wines on Main Street in Placerville. So impressed was he with her talent, he invited her to open at the concert. With nearly 50 years in the music business, Simms has a keen ear and eye for excellence.

Enchanted/enchanting castles

Minks, 22, who will open the concert, graduated (early) from Horizon Charter School in 2006 and has produced her own CD, “Castles in the Sky.” She says she has an acoustic-rock style perhaps reminiscent of Alanis Morisette or Evanescence.

She never imagined that she would play live, but found at Synapse Wines that she enjoys the interaction with the audience and the appreciation for her work. Always encouraged by her parents, Minks started playing piano at an early age and started learning guitar at age 12.

Her songwriting is quite organic. Neither the lyrics nor music come first, “It (the words and music) usually pops up together,” she said.

Completely homeschooled, Minks never went to Washington D.C. but says that she “would have loved to go.”

Like Simms and Felix and the Soul Cats, she is happy to provide music for a good cause.

Parents and merchants kick in

Gately is impressed at how students, faculty and parents at Gold Oak have come together to raise money for the important trip. “We’ve already raised $5,000 which shows a lot of hard work and a very supportive community.”

Local merchants have been very generous with prizes. Tickets will be on sale at the event for $1 each or 6 for $5. One must be present to win.

“I’m very happy to play music for such a great educational cause,” said Simms. “Let’s see everyone there to support our schools and have a good time. It’s really going to be a lot of fun, and there’s music for everyone, whether you love to dance or just listen.”

For more information or to contribute to the cause call Kathy Carlson at 530-644-2856 or e-mail




Susana Carey Wey



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