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Petaluma’s ‘Benedettivile’ expands its borders

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NEED MORE DETAILS?

What: Create a Radio Show summer camp

When: June 18-21. 9:30-noon for ages 7-10, or grades 1-3; 1-4 pm for ages 10-12, or grades 4-6

Where: Petaluma Arts Center, 230 Lakeville St., Petaluma

Cost: $150 nonmembers, $125 members. The cost of the camp is discounted for PCA members; for scholarship opportunities, email dvigil@petalumaartscenter.org.

Sign up: petalumaartscenter.org/art-classes.

Next month, children age 7–12 will have the chance to create, produce and broadcast their own radio/podcast show in Petaluma, thanks to Gio and Jennifer Benedetti, creators of the weekly radio show “Benedettiville.” Just as with that popular local program, the show to be created by kids will be broadcast on community radio station KPCA, 103.3 FM, with a podcast posted the following Wednesday.

‘Create a Radio Show,’ June 18-21, is the first of three Benedettiville Summer Art Camps that the Benedettis have planned for this summer. The morning session will be for children ages 7-10 (grades 1-3), the afternoon session for children ages 10-12 (grades 4-6). The camps will be held at the Petaluma Arts Center.

“Participants will write, edit and produce original stories, plays, investigations, interviews, fake commercials, and songs,” Gio Benedetti said.

There will be two parts to the camp, he explained — the initial creation of material, followed by show production. Gio said scripts are the “enemy of great radio,” at least when the performers are children. So, instead of writing scripts to be read on-air, the camp will focus on creating set-ups, or broad general outlines, from which the kids can improvise while the tape runs.

“You have to reduce the self-awareness so they relax and play,” he said.

For example, participants might be told, “OK, your parents are having a date-night, and they tell you to keep the house very clean while they’re gone. Who wants to be the puppy?”

“As for production, the kids will learn about taping for radio and podcasts, and how and why the tapes are edited,” said Jennifer Benedetti. “All the kids listen to podcasts now. But many of them don’t realize that what they’re listening to has been shortened, and that mistakes have been fixed and so on.”

The second camp, ‘Plant a Story,’ is for children ages 10-14 and will run July 23-26. The third, ‘Make a Zine,’ is for high school students, and will run July 30-Aug. 2.

Since launching “Benedettiville” in February, the Benedettis have produced nearly two dozen episodes of the program.

“Ours is a family show, a mix of Prairie Home Companion, the Muppets, and Monty Python,” Jennifer said. Each episode features 15-20 segments, including two or three songs, a ten-minute interview, made-up commercials, skits and jokes.

“Some of the songs on the show are by other artists in the community,” Jennifer added, “but Gio composes all the music that fills out the show otherwise.”

Gio is the bass player for the five-person string band Brothers Comatose, which performs widely playing bluegrass, country and rock ‘n’ roll. He previously worked with John Bertucci, executive director of KPCA, running the music education program at the Phoenix Theater. When Bertucci mentioned that he would like to do a “radio thing” on KPCA, Gio and Jennifer created “Benedettiville.” The couple had already been doing a twice-a-month book-reading event for children at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma, inspired in part by their own growing family of two daughters, Stella, 7, and Emmy, 4.

“One repeated way to get material, is for Jennifer to go to Stella’s first grade class and ask the kids questions,” Gio said, explaining that she also takes advantage of Gio’s brother’s four kids.

Their friends in Banff, Canada participate by sending down “Great White News from Canada.”

NEED MORE DETAILS?

What: Create a Radio Show summer camp

When: June 18-21. 9:30-noon for ages 7-10, or grades 1-3; 1-4 pm for ages 10-12, or grades 4-6

Where: Petaluma Arts Center, 230 Lakeville St., Petaluma

Cost: $150 nonmembers, $125 members. The cost of the camp is discounted for PCA members; for scholarship opportunities, email dvigil@petalumaartscenter.org.

Sign up: petalumaartscenter.org/art-classes.

Every episode of “Benedettiville” includes an interview with a local “champion of creativity and inspiration.” Past guests have included Tom Gaffey (founder and theater manager of the Phoenix Theater), Stephanie Raststetter (chef-owner of Water Street Bistro), Matthew Harris (Principal at McKinley School), Brian at Brian’s Comics, and Patty Norman, children’s specialist at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma.

What do all these people have in common?

“They’re creative and inspiring in what they do,” Gio said. “There are lots of creative people in Petaluma. I interviewed Darvin DeShazer, my biology teacher from when I attended St. Vincent High School, because he’s a charismatic teacher who loves his subject. He’s retired now from teaching, but stays active as ‘the mushroom man.’”

DeShazer, Gio said, is a self-taught expert on mushrooms and co-founder of the Sonoma County Mycological Association.

“The cool thing about local radio,” Gio conintinued, “is while the audience may be small, it’s familiar. For example, for Mother’s Day, we went out with our microphone and recorder to the malls and parks and asked people how the holiday could be improved. We edited the tape and played the segment on Mother’s Day.”

Gio and Jennifer met in the choir at Sonoma State. A Petaluma native, Gio played bass for the band Toast Machine for a decade, before joining Brothers Comatose. A singer, Jennifer studied music at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. She graduated from Sonoma State and taught high school English for six years in Santa Rosa. Her training includes serving as a “creative counselor” at a Power of Hope Camp, sponsored by the Center for Creative Community at Commonweal, where the premise is that everyone is creative.

“I love curating an environment where creativity happens,” she said. “Petaluma is a magical place to live - that’s our constant theme.”

The three camps this summer will be Gio and Jennifer’s first attempt at generating revenue from their educational work.

“We’re in a building mode with the show and our camps, and we’re in it for the long haul,” Gio said. “We love this educational program because it’s about our town, our kids, our stories.”