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Take a step away from the homework assignment you’re dreading. The video you have yet to take notes on. The essay you’ve been putting off. Recharge with music. Relax with harmonies. Refocus with rhythm.

Breathe in the sweet jazz.

This is the time of year when the Las Positas Music Department, which is ranked in the top 85 percent in the country by Music Colleges, puts its best foot forward. It’s a showcasing of the program’s vocal talent, instrumental skills and powers of composition.

The second annual Jazz Combo Concert —  on March 28 at 7 p.m. on the Main Stage of the Barbara Mertes Center — is the students’ big performance in the spring semester. Hopeful musicians take the stage for the experience and exposure of a major production, and perhaps exposure that leads to future opportunities in the music world. 

Both groups in this jazz combo feature a combination of vocalists, drummers, trumpeters, bass guitarists and even a recorder. 

It is made up of music majors who have dedicated themselves to the craft of classical and jazz music. The program has so much to show off, this year’s event will feature two groups of nearly 10 musicians — instead of the usual one with the five best — so they all get a chance to shine under the bright lights of the department’s big night. The other is of beginners, giving them an opportunity to grow in the action of live performance.

The set list was crafted to highlight their charisma, their range of ages and experience, and their abilities.

“They have been learning so many songs so they are very well adjusted,” said Cindy Browne Rosefield, director of instrumental music for LPC’s Music Department, which is also offering a Jazz Ensemble Concert in April and in May a Spring Choral Concert, a Spring Chamber Orchestra Concert and the Dave Eshelman’s Jazz Garden Big Band performance.

“Our performing classes are so special because some of them have never played jazz before and now they’re soloing and doing improv.” 

The first group of experienced musicians, which is seven deep, includes a bass guitarist, drummer, guitarist, saxophonist, trumpeter, a single vocalist and recorder. Chemistry is one of the strengths of this group since they’ve all played together before in some form or variation.

The second group, composed of nine beginners, features two guitarists, one drummer, a bass player, a trombonist, a saxophonist, a trumpeter and two vocalists.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Amelia Nelson, bass guitarist for the experienced group. “We’ve been playing together for a semester already and have become a really great unit together.”

 The concert is set up to give the audience five to six songs from each group. All featuring a different style of performance. Rosefield explains that she is grateful to have Carl Haulers as our sound person here on campus. Mike Rinaldi is a lighting guy on campus. 

She gathers them together with students in preparation for the final show making sure it’s just right with a cozy and soft-uplifting feel.  

The audience should prepare to see “all aspiring stars”, Rosefield says when touching on her students’ upcoming performances.

The audition process for these two groups was constructed by the students. The musicians in both groups, eager to make this combo, chose music from a comprehensive song list hoping to demonstrate their skills. The songs were then presented by Rosefield at the beginning of the semester as a model and the musicians were given time to perfect their recorded audition.

The aspiring students each did solo improvisation to show off their skills in the second part of their in-person audition. 

“These students learn tunes a week and sometimes even tunes a day,” Rosefield said. 

They get a taste of a musician’s lifestyle in that way.

They even had the luxury of picking their own songs to perform at this jazz combo. They were free to select any figuration of styles that showed a variation of swing, Latin, modern or jazz fusion, and vocalist features. It was all up to them.

Any healthy competition between the two groups? Rosefeld said it’s not necessary.

“It’s never competitive within the group,” she said. “If it was, then it would be arrogant. In one group, they are all very good. There are no stars.”

Moments like these on March 28th are what students like these have been working toward since they were able to play a key or sing a note. It’s a chance. A chance to be recognized as something bigger. A door to possibilities they dreamed of when they were young.  

“Excited to play some music with these fine musicians,” said Lyle Elster, the main drummer in the experienced group. “Our set is fun but also hard to play, so it keeps it interesting for sure.”

Camille Leduc is a staff writer for The Express. Follow her on X, formally Twitter, @CLeduc7603.

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