Teen-organized concert highlights promise of future

March 31, 2006 | By Martin Snapp

For years, we Americans have been lauding “The Greatest Generation”—and rightly so. But underneath that praise has been a growing anxiety: Namely, how will we manage when they’re gone?

Fifteen years ago, a book titled “Generations,” by William Strauss and Neil Howe, offered a ray of hope. The next generation of heroes, they say, is right under our noses.

It’s our children.

And everything that has come to pass since then has confirmed this prediction.

I’ve met a lot of young people, from 23-year-old Kate Gage of Berkeley, who went down to Biloxi, Miss., last fall to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, to the third-graders at Prospect Sierra School in El Cerrito, who raised thousands of dollars to pay the tuition at the Center for the Education of the Infant Deaf for a deaf 2-year-old preschooler named Samuel.

They have the same can-do attitude, the same willingness to work together for something bigger than themselves, as the GIs and Rosies did in their heyday.

And now here are other examples: Zeke Nierenberg of El Cerrito, an eighth-grader at Orinda Academy; Hannah Kopp-Yates of Berkeley, a 10th-grader at the College Preparatory School in Oakland; and Adam Becker and Andrew Miller of Berkeley, eighth-graders at Prospect Sierra.

Collectively, they call themselves Future Builders, and their mission is to save the world—a little bit at a time.

Their first project is producing a rock concert Saturday at the Oakland Metro, a benefit for Africa Educational Trust, which builds elementary schools in Africa.

“We found it by Googling for an organization that promotes education in a Third World country,” says Adam. “We didn’t want to donate to something big, like the Red Cross, because they already get a lot of money. We wanted to find a small one that really needs our help.”

The concert will feature eight local teenage bands: The Audiophiles, A Class Act, 5606, Tuxedo, The Usual, Faux Stereo, Hijinks and Zeke as well as Adam and Andrew’s own band, Duct Tape Mafia. (Andrew plays bass; Adam and Zeke play guitars and do backup vocals.)

The ticket price is purposely low—only $10—to make it affordable for young people.

“This event is by teens for teens, for the benefit of little kids,” says Zeke.

Future Builders got its genesis last summer when Hannah and Zeke were campers at Wavy Gravy’s Camp Winnarainbow.

“They taught us that we would never help anyone unless it made a difference to us, too,” said Zeke. “So we asked ourselves, ‘What do we love?’ ‘Who do we know?’ ‘Who do we really want to help?’ And the answers were ‘music,’ ‘bands’ and ‘our peers.’ Future Builders was born.”

The Oakland Metro holds only 250 people, so the teens are not expecting to make a ton of money.

“But that’s not the point,” says Andrew. “It’s an excellent start. We’ll build a database of the people who attend and use that to launch other projects.”

The mind boggles at the prospect of what these young people are going to accomplish when they grow up.

“I know it sounds nerdy, but I’ve always wanted to be a laboratory scientist,” says Andrew. “Or maybe an architect.

Adam’s not sure what his professional future holds yet, but Zeke says, “I’ve always been interested in scoring music to movies. But saving the world has a high priority, too.”

As for Hannah, she says “Something that involves writing—and traveling, too. Maybe a diplomat in India. That would be cool.”

Once upon a time, we emulated our parents. Now it’s time to emulate our children.

“It’s not only kids who hold the world’s last puzzle piece,” says Hannah. “It’s all of us.”

To learn more about Future Builders, visit www.future-builders.org. To learn more about the Africa Educational Trust, visit www.africaeducationaltrust.org.