A Local Mom with a Musically Inclined Son Encourages Other South Bay Kids to Express Their Talent

Bang a drum.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Scott Sanford Tobis

Kimberly Koffler started to notice her son Ethan’s odd behavior while he was still in the crib. Banging his toys together in time, as if to a mysterious beat no one else could hear. Nodding his head when he heard any rhythm in seemingly any situation. A massive smile anytime a song by The Beatles came on the radio. 

At the tender age of 5, Ethan started “jamming” with a family friend who just happened to be the former drummer of The Cure. Watching the joy spread across his face from behind the drum kit, Kimberly knew what particular ailment afflicted her son. She didn’t need a psychiatrist to diagnose him. He was—horror of horrors—a natural-born musician.

By the time Ethan was a teenager, he was the longtime drummer for Poppy Harlo, a band he started in elementary school. Watching the kids rehearse with gleeful abandon and serious intent, Kimberly realized that the musical virus had infected many other boys and girls in the South Bay.

She watched as the kids tried to find an outlet for their musical gifts. Sure, they played the occasional party and battle of the bands, but they had no real outlet to let loose their talents. She had an epiphany on how to “treat” these kids in proper fashion. Utilizing her background as an event planner, Kimberly formed South Bay Music Connection (SBMC), a nonprofit organization that facilitates live shows throughout the area featuring kids ages 15 to 23 (although there is technically no minimum age).

At first she recruited Ethan’s musician bandmates and friends but quickly realized she needed to establish a wider net. She posted signs around town, spoke to the teachers at the local high school, and visited various music centers and programs. When she had her slate of talented young musicians set, she honed in on Concerts in the Park at Polliwog as the perfect entry point.

To her surprise, the city of Manhattan Beach agreed to let SBMC members open for the established bands playing during the weekly concert series. An actual audience. Playing in front of a crowd of hundreds of people at the park. Looking at the faces of the kids on stage, Kimberly knew she had found her calling.

Within a relatively short time, she had unearthed a myriad of venues willing and eager to showcase this talented array of musicians. Fiesta Hermosa, Roktoberfest and weekly gigs at Project Barley were manifestations of her dreams for the charity. Of course, raising funds for a PA system and other equipment was a full-time job in itself. Armed with the help of her husband, Tim, a medical software expert/part-time roadie extraordinaire, Kimberly started to expand her net.

Unfortunately, 2020 was a brutal year for SBMC. Not only were they—along with the rest of us—waylaid by the pandemic, but a cancer diagnosis postponed Kimberly’s lofty ambitions. Forced to regroup and pause her plans in the wake of the coronavirus, Kimberly focused on her recovery as well as growing the group of parent volunteers.

Fortunately, two of the parents—Chrysta Powell-Bikoff and Melanie Gourzis—stepped up, the former as talent coordinator and the latter as community liaison. Kimberly was still going through cancer treatments when they started again in early 2022, so Chrysta took care of scouting and booking bands and Melanie handled dealings with the local chambers of commerce.

SBMC bounced back in meaningful ways in the latter half of 2022. Not only did many of their bands play at Fiesta Hermosa that year, but in 2023 two of the bands will have the incredible honor of being opening acts at BeachLife Festival. Having won the BeachLife Battle of the Bands, XYZPDQ will have an opening slot one of the days. Poppy Harlo, with Ethan behind the drum kit, will perform the night The Black Crowes take the stage. Kimberly hopes this is just the beginning of SBMC’s success.

This May, Kimberly, Chrysta, Melanie and many other proud mama bears will be at BeachLife Festival, looking up at the stage—standing in front of their musician children, telling them that they love them. (Apologies to any Notting Hill fans out there.) Thanks to Kimberly’s love for her son and a desire to nurture his talent, South Bay Music Connection was born and an entire generation of local musicians has an outlet to bang their toys together in rhythmic fashion.

South Bay Music Connection hopes to expand further by purchasing a portable stage and other equipment. A nonprofit organization, they appreciate any size donation. Visit them at southbaymusicconnection.rocks.

Join the Southbay Community

Receive the latest stories, event invitations, local deals and other curated content from Southbay.
By clicking the subscribe button, I agree to receive occasional updates from Southbay.