A capella groups from numerous schools perform at last year’s Xperience Music Festival (Submitted).

The Salem-Keizer area is known for having exceptional music programs. 

For the last 33 years, students from the Salem-Keizer School District have been awarded more championships at the OSAA State Music Championships than all other 6A school districts combined.

However, this upcoming Keizer music event is truly one-of-a-kind. 

On Saturday, Oct. 26, McNary High School, in partnership with Valor Mentoring, will be hosting the second annual Xpereince Music Festival, an event that is designed for 7th-12th grade students who have a passion for contemporary music and are looking to improve their skills in their specific area of interest. 

“I'm over-the-top excited for this year's festival. I'm really glad we can give our kids this experience,” said Andy Thomas, who is in charge of the contemporary music program at McNary.

The concert begins at 7 p.m. and will feature performances from Mad Love, My Brothers and I, Mind the Gap, OnenO and Lisa Vazquez. But it’s what happens before the concert that makes this event so unique.

Through multiple sessions and interactive workshops, students will spend the afternoon learning and performing their specific styles to more than 50 professional musicians from all over the west coast. 

Styles include: any style of band, singer/songwriter, rap/-hip-hop/R&B/electronic, solo artist and a cappella groups. 

Thomas believes that the main reason for the growth he saw from many of his students in the last year was because of those workshops kids got to experience at the last festival. 

“It was the key component in motivating and inspiring our students. To put them in that environment, they get to see what a next-level musician looks like and they get to work with them and they came away inspired and it made them want to work harder in class. They still talk about how impactful it was for them,” Thomas said. 

McNary senior Shelby Jamison added: “The feedback we got last year was amazing. We got to talk with musicians one-on-one to see what we could improve on and what we could do in the future to make our sound better.”

This year’s festival will put an even bigger focus on creating more workshops for the students, with the goal of making the environment more about learning.

“It’s a more educationally enriching experience for the participants where kids are growing as artists, which will give them more of an opportunity to grow and develop and explore contemporary music genres,” Thomas said. 

One representative from each musical style will also be chosen to perform at the concert alongside professional musicians, and according to McNary student Samantha Wagner, the concert will have the ability to appeal to many different types of people. 

“It’s definitely awesome because there is a piece of music for every single person that goes,” Wagner said. “Music is very interpretive and you can feel it in so many different ways. The same lyrics can impact one person so much differently than another, so going to the festival feeds into that and it encourages young students to put there hearts out there.”

The cost for solo participants is $15 and $100 for a capella acts — which covers mentor sessions as well as the evening concert. 

Tickets for the general public are $8 for students and $10 for adults.