SDA school band plays with Switchfoot front man

Jon Foreman, the lead singer and guitarist of Switchfoot, called the musicians he took the stage with on Oct. 24 some of the finest he’s ever played with. He was referring to the San Dieguito Academy Wind Ensemble.

The free show at SDA’s outdoor amphitheater was part of Foreman’s whirlwind jaunt of 25 concerts over 24 hours across San Diego. He chose to play at locations with special meaning to him, including a beach, a private wedding and a Mexican restaurant with a mariachi band.

Naturally, Foreman also stopped at SDA, his alma mater.

“This community is amazing,” said the Encinitas resident as the sun set on the crowd of a few hundred people. “And I feel like I’m a conduit of a lot of this culture that has given birth to this band.”

The leader of the Grammy award-winning alternative rock band played a song alone, and the ensemble backed him up on reworked versions of Switchfoot’s “Company Car” and Foreman’s solo piece “Ghost Machine.” Parents and students, hoisting smartphones in the air, documented each moment. In between songs, Foreman commented on just how picturesque the moment was.

“I’m looking at the moon over there,” Foreman said. “I’m looking at the hot air balloons in the sky. I’m seeing some kids dancing up front.”

Foreman announced most of the pop-up shows via his Twitter and Instragram accounts only after each previous concert finished. But word of the SDA concert spread further in advance, since Foreman practiced with the wind ensemble last week. He praised SDA’s band for mastering the two songs in a few short weeks.

“I was blown away walking in and listening to them,” Foreman said. He also gave a shout-out to SDA senior Max Opferkuch for arranging “Ghost Machine” for the ensemble.

After the show, Opferkuch said arranging the song entailed transcribing it by ear, building the harmonies and melodies and then figuring out which parts to assign to various instruments — no easy feat. But he enjoyed hearing it “come to life.”

“For someone as big of a name as Jon Foreman to want to come back to his alma mater high school and play with those of us who are comparatively just stepping foot into the musical world is very cool,” Opferkuch said.

Capping off the crowd’s excitement, Foreman announced that at his request, music companies Taylor and Fender gifted instruments to the SDA band.

“Music kept me out of trouble — music and surfing,” Foreman said. “So I figure it’s a good gift to pay forward.”

When reached after the concert, Jeremy Wuertz, SDA music director, called the performance “awesome.”

“It was really fun to collaborate with Jon and his musicians,” Wuertz said, adding that Foreman approached him with the idea.

Many of Foreman’s favorite musicians joined him along the whirlwind day. And the SDA show was no exception, with Sean Watkins of the band Nickel Creek being a notable example.

Foreman told the Encinitas Advocate three weeks ago that the round-the-clock tour was inspired by the intimate shows he sometimes puts on after larger Switchfoot concerts.

“I’ll play mellower songs that might not fit into a Switchfoot set,” Foreman said. “How it works is, I’ll go out into the parking lot behind the venue, or a coffee shop or a bar down the street, let people know with social media and keep the music going.”

The 24-hour theme looms large over “The Wonderlands,” Foreman’s latest solo release, which features a song for each hour of the day, broken into four EPs.

Foreman started and ended the one-day tour at Bro-Am Studios, a pay-what-you-can music school for youth that Switchfoot recently opened in downtown Encinitas. Tickets for those shows benefited the Switchfoot Bro-Am Foundation, which has raised more than $1 million for San Diego-based children’s charities over the last decade.

The other shows came at no cost, though. At the beginning of the SDA set, Foreman joked that playing so many sets in such a short span is “crazy.” When the concert drew to a close, he once again thanked the ensemble.

“Let’s hear it again for this incredible band here,” Foreman said.

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