To the rhythm of classic hits, such as Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and The Romantics’ “What I Like About You,” The Banshees, an all girl band from Merced County, pumped up a crowd of students during a mini-concert at Luther Burbank Elementary on Friday.
But they delivered more than an entertaining performance. The group also had a strong message for their audience: Say no to bullying. The young musicians travel to area schools to perform and promote bullying prevention through their “Banshees against Bullying” initiative.
The band is made up of five girls: lead singer Chloe Knestrick, 11; keyboardist Savina Compston, 13; bass player Helaina Schisnewski, 14; and sisters Karine Moua, 16, on guitar and Katelyn Moua, 13, on drums.
The girls first met at The Music Room in Atwater, where they all study music and have been playing together for more than a year.
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For them, using their talents to empower their peers is a special opportunity. Their goal, they said, is to encourage other kids to stand up for themselves and others.
“Bullying is a serious problem in many schools, and I think we’ve all experienced it,” Karine Moua said. “Kids should know that there is help and that they are important.”
Schisnewski said they’ve all witnessed bullying and know how difficult it can be to ask for help.
“Personally, I’ve had many friends who have been bullied, and it’s not easy,” she said. “Nowadays, a lot of kids commit suicide; it’s just sad. We just want to remind kids that if they are being bullied to please tell someone.”
The best place to address the consequences of bullying, according to the girls, is schools, where most of the teasing and harassment takes place. The most effective way to target bullying is to stop it before it starts. That’s why addressing a young audience is critical, the girls explained.
“Our saying is ‘Be safe, be respectful, be responsible,’ ” Karine Moua said. “And that’s what we told kids today – be responsible for your actions and be respectful toward others.”
According to national surveys, 28 percent of U.S. students in grades 6-12 experience bullying and 30 percent admit to bullying others. The most common types of bullying are verbal and social. Physical and cyberbullying also occur, especially among teens.
The girls all agreed that music is a safe outlet for expressing feelings and overcoming obstacles that arise from bullying.
“Music is my escape from the outside, negative world,” Knestrick said. “Whether it’s problems with family or friends, music is what I go to.”
The Banshees have played at local events such as Merced’s Got Talent and Cap ‘n’ Town. They plan to continue playing at schools and events in Merced and Stanislaus counties. On Aug. 3 they will perform at New Hope Church, 1207 E. 21st St., along with other bands from The Music Room.