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TUNING OUT ADVERSITY.

Byline: Jill Aho The Register-Guard

A few of the Kids of Widney High weren't done with their breakfast when Shelly Goodhope began singing the first lines of "Life Without the Cow" at the Glenwood Restaurant on Alder Street Thursday morning.

Guitarist Michael Monagan played the chords to the song as the other members of the band joined in for the rousing chorus of the catchy, upbeat song about what life would be like if there were no cows.

On a tour up the West Coast, "the Kids" were in Eugene in between shows in Eureka, Calif., and Portland. But as they made evident on Thursday, they are liable to break into song any time, any place.

The Kids play most often in and around Los Angeles, where Joseph Pomeroy Widney High School, their special education school, is located. All the Kids have graduated from the school and are in their late 20s and early 30s. They have varying abilities, but all are singers, songwriters and artists.

The Kids' songs are often about the hardships that children with disabilities deal with everyday. The members' developmental disabilities range from autism to blindness to cerebral palsy.

"We write how we see the world," member Tanesa Tarvin said.

Both Tarvin and Elisa de la Torre identify with the song "Miss Understood," written by a previous band member. "It's about disabilities and how different people deal with it," de la Torre said.

The band got its start in 1988 in a songwriting class taught by Monagan at Widney High. In 1989, they recorded their first album, and it was 10 years before they recorded another.

Tarvin, 32, is the most veteran current member, joining the class in 1991, followed by Goodhope, 33, who joined in 1992.

All the current members performed on "Act Your Age," released in 2003, and last year's "Live at the Key Club."

The Kids are the subject of a documentary by Jesse Alba, Matt Klickstein and Joshua Akhparzad, who discovered the Kids about eight years ago.

Alba and Klickstein were students at the University of Southern California when they learned about the Kids. "We met them and kind of fell in love," Alba said.

Both he and Klickstein have since graduated from USC's screenwriting program, and Akhparzad is a graduate of Yale who also has an MBA from UCLA.

"Everything they had to say was from a fresh perspective," Alba said. "Working with them was infectious."

The tour, the filmmakers hope, will provide the finishing touches for their documentary.

Alba also helped the Kids launch a clothing line, Better Bacon, which features artwork by the band members.

"We don't see them as charity kids," Alba said. "They're functioning artists."

De la Torre wore an "Out of Shape Banana" T-shirt to breakfast designed by her boyfriend of 10 years and fellow band member Louis "PeeWee" Fernandez, the comedian of the group.

Fernandez added red Tabasco sauce to his coffee, then added green and red Tabasco and other hot sauces into some barbecue sauce for his burger.

Fernandez wrote the Kids' song "I Make My Teachers Mad," the irony of which, Monagan explained, is that Fernandez was a straight-A student.

Fernandez uses two phrases to explain his philosophy on life: "I can out-plastic them" and "winners never shiver." To him, those phrases mean that he should never give up and he won't back down from achieving his goals.

Cain Fonseca has one of the best voices in the group. One of his favorite songs to sing is the Kids' version of "Respect" by Otis Redding.

"It's about feeling - about joyful and peaceful and happiness," Fonseca said.
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Title Annotation:City/Region; The Kids of Widney High sing about the challenges of living with disabilities
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 11, 2008
Words:603
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