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You got the gig and it’s for the President of your school. No pressure.

The President’s Musicians

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The Cal State LA Jazz Ensemble

The Cal State LA Jazz Ensemble

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Facebook - Cal State LA

The Cal State LA Jazz Ensemble

David Czinner, Intern

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When people discuss famous albums, compositions and songs, many immediately think of the producer, performer, composer or writer of the work. Yet frequently, it’s forgotten by many, including musicians, that one of the most important considerations during the creative process is the audience. Music has to be meaningful, moving, and inspiring to audience members in order to obtain the prestigious label known as “Art”.

It is also often forgotten that the status of the audience adds to the recognition of the artist and their work. For example, 13-year-old Jazz piano prodigy Joey Alexander has not only released two albums at an extremely young age, he has a resume that includes performances at the White House, Rose Hall at the Lincoln Center and several tours to places like Israel and Canada.

Rarely do opportunities arise to perform for special audiences, such as our university president William Covino, his wife Dr. Debbie Covino and guests hosted in their private home. When first approached with this opportunity by Dr. John Kennedy, professor in the music department, I was honored to be considered. I later learned that some of my peers had been hand-picked as well to perform for the president and his wife. “Dr. James Ford recommended me when he was asked for student musicians to represent the jazz department,” recalled Jenny Hughes, a recent Cal State LA alumna, jazz pianist, and composer. Marvin Paez, a senior graduate student in the M.M. Afro Latin Music program, bassist and composer, was not only asked to perform, but given additional responsibility as a bandleader. “I got the first gig from Dr. Kennedy, who asked me if I can play for a gig and come up with musicians.”

One of the most important aspects when deciding to have live music is the setting. I was chosen to play for several occasions, the most recent of which was the President and his wife hosting the Mind Matters working group. The pressure for me was in preparing the appropriate music. Coming up with a tasteful set list was a task in itself.  “I played at one of the Welcoming New Faculty parties, and I also played on the day of Halloween,” remarked Jean Luc Piriou, a talented vocalist, songwriter, and student in the B.M. Commercial music program. “I liked it very much. I enjoy performing my music to an invested audience and I am very used to playing intimate settings.”

Hughes’s instrument of choice creates a liberty that is sometimes intimidating. “If I’m alone, super pressure. With a trio or bigger group piece of cake” she commented on playing solo versus being part of a band.” Paez’s instrument of choice, the upright and electric bass, sounds beautiful by itself but is most often heard in a group setting. “The performance was not too bad. I wasn’t really nervous because I was playing with musicians I know.”

Many argue that it stands for itself and exists only for itself. Many believe that name recognition of an artist reflects their talents and abilities. Venue operators often think that artists could and should be able to perform or present their art regardless of time and place. After preparing and selecting appropriate music, becoming informed on who the audience is comprised of and finally performing at the President’s home, I’ve found that the selection and rehearsal process, the audience members and setting are all interweaved and connected, creating a very specific, unique once in a lifetime musical experience. Not to mention, the gigs also compensated very well.

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You got the gig and it’s for the President of your school. No pressure.