These Boyz Love Zydeco

These Boyz Love Zydeco

March 13, 2014  |  Cajun Zydeco, Local Interest

By now I have probably heard Andre Thierry and Zydeco Magic perform eight or nine times, at venues ranging from church dances in San Francisco and Richmond to the historic 23 Club in Brisbane to a dance in a woodshop in Palo Alto. It’s always a good time. But I never had the chance to just hang out with Andre and other musicians as they practice, until one special Wednesday afternoon in Marin City.

What made the experience so special? The other musicians ranged in age from five to eight years old, and they were meeting Andre after school as they do almost every Wednesday as part of the Performing Stars program. The Zydeco Boyz, as they have dubbed themselves, are learning this music the traditional way, by ear. They are practicing the rhythms of the two-step and waltz on drums, rubboard, and accordion. Along the way, they are being exposed to a rich culture of Creole music and tradition that came to the Bay Area from southwest Louisiana more than 50 years ago.

It’s fun. Imagine a room full of little boys and drums. Andre doesn’t adopt the front-of-the-classroom teacher role. He treats these boys as fellow musicians, and when it’s time to get serious they try to match him beat for beat. So far they have performed on stage a few times with Andre, including at the recent Mardi Gras dance at St. Finn Barr Church in San Francisco. But they are working hard toward forming their own band. They hope to perform without help from their mentor at the 2nd Annual Creole United Festival in Sausalito, California, on October 18th.

Andre Thierry was born in Richmond, California. But through his parents and grandparents, his ties to Louisiana are strong. He wants to be sure that Creole culture continues to thrive in northern California with generations to come. For him, Zydeco is about much more than music. It is part of a culture that values family, enjoys good food, and fosters community. Zydeco is what brings all those elements together when people gather to play music and dance. When he participated in a Performing Stars benefit a few years ago, he thought he saw a match between his goals and those of the organization.

Performing Stars was formed in 1990 with the mission of transforming the lives of low-income children in Marin County through enrichment programs in the arts. Founder Felecia Gaston can point to many successes, but the Zydeco Boyz is one of her favorites, largely because of Andre. “I have never met a professional musician that gives back so much, and is so sincere,” she says. The program is in its third year, and Andre is committed to it. “I value the professional training from Andre to these kids,” Felecia goes on. “I’m amazed. I think Andre is one of the kindest people I have met in many, many years.”

For him, it’s simple. Andre tells me, “Well, it means this music is being passed down to other people. They are taking to it. They like it. I like it. It means this music is being shown to others outside this culture, the Creole culture.”

You can see it in their faces. Yes, it’s simple. And it matters.

The Zydeco Boyz are: Keith Callahan, Kevin Callahan, Nicholas Gardner, Oceil Mazariegos, and Evan Feguire.

KQED recently did a wonderful radio piece on Andre Thierry. You can listen to it here.

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