Article and photo by Molly Murphey
When Santa Rosa High School senior Ava Stubblefield stepped on stage at the Phoenix Theater on Friday, March 4, a cheer went through the crowd as it moved towards her. Stubblefield was opening the four-act benefit show for local charity. The charity, The Living Room, provides unhoused women and children in Sonoma County with fresh meals, job search assistance and mail and computer services.
Audience members sat in a semi-circle around the stage as Stubblefield played covers of Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box, The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset and an original. She joined a long list of young performers appearing at the Phoenix since it became a nonprofit community center in 2000. Although this was her first performance at the Phoenix, Stubblefield is no stranger to live audiences, having played a variety of venues around Sonoma County including Hopmonk Tavern, Three Disciples Brewing and the Barlow.
Stubblefield started at School of Rock in Santa Rosa in 2018 as a camper. “Being able to see other musicians develop these insanely beautiful techniques that just encouraged them to keep working… helped people [members of the program] to self-reflect and be more aware of their desires and their shortcomings,” she said of School of Rock. She has since grown out of the program , but says that it provided her and her former band opportunities to play their first gigs at relatively large venues and gave them confidence to perform for live audiences.
Her former band was amorphous, with two drummers and multiple guitarists, all in their teens. It was the band’s large size and its flexibility that allowed members to play music in a variety of styles with different combinations of their bandmates. Stubblefield reflected on the experience saying, “being with a band is so gratifying when it comes to your relationships with music,” and that working through the hardships of being an artist with bandmates enriches each of their experiences. She said that being with a band requires vulnerability, a word she uses again and again when talking about music.
Stubblefield is in the process of forming another band with a fellow student at SRHS and looking forward to playing more shows with that group.
Stubblefield says that she doesn’t plan on making a career out of music and will study psychology after high school. However, she anticipates that writing poetry will always be a part of her life and says that she, “love[s] performing whether it’s acting, or singing, or playing guitar.” In addition to performing as a musical artist, Stubblefield is a member of the SRHS ArtQuest TheaterTheatre company.