At 17, Gustavo Rios has the stage presence of a pop star.
Well, stage presence is taking it a bit far. More like elementary-school-playground presence. But equipped with a guitar, a rich singing voice and, unexpectedly, a kazoo, this Evergreen High School senior transported a small audience of district staff Friday to a more wholesome, normal time.
“I always want to make music,” Gustavo said, standing in a shady corner of Mill Plain Elementary School.
Gustavo is among the latest Evergreen Public Schools students holding a series of virtual concerts in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Students may not be able to perform their end-of-year concerts, but the district has recorded more than a dozen “EPS Porch Concerts” with individual students and alumni for the district’s social media channels.
Gustavo, who crooned “My Girl” by The Temptations, was eager for the chance to perform. He misses school choir and theater, as well as a chance to connect with his fellow students, he said.
“(Singing) is the best way to start your day,” he said.
Margaret Green, Gustavo’s choir teacher, tagged along to watch her student perform. It’s been challenging, teaching choir from afar, she said. Trying to get students on a conference call to rehearse is all but impossible.
“You don’t get into teaching music because you want to be behind a computer,” Green said.
In a nearby neighborhood, Fisher’s Landing fifth-grader Asher Brown treated his family and neighbors to a piano recital from his front porch. Asher, 11, ran through a series of ragtime standards, marked by a rapid tempo and cascading arpeggios.
Asher has been playing for only a few years but loves performing the high-speed pieces. His mom, Kelley Brown, said he’ll play on his keyboard with his headphones plugged in, but pounds on the keys so intensely his parents can still hear him.
“We’ve not been able to get him off of it,” she said.
Asher’s making do online for now. His piano teacher is hosting video conference lessons, and he has a virtual rehearsal soon.
“I like showcasing my talent,” Asher said.