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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Commercial Music Ensemble plays to their own beat

City College Commercial Music Ensemble members (left to right) Gillian Rains, psychology major; Hannah Miller, music and communications major; and Tara Stice, music and business management major, deliver soaring vocals during the Halloween concert in the quad at City College Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (Jerome Jeffries/[email protected])

Everyone in the Commercial Music Ensemble does their part when setting up for a performance event. On Halloween, the City College CME prepared for a noon show on the quad. The guitarists were tuning their guitars. The drummer was putting together their drum set with the help of the keyboard player. Loud practice beats from the drums rang across the quad. The vocalists all gather together to chat before the event begins. 

Commercial Music Ensemble performed at Sacramento City College on Thursday, Oct. 31. The concert was held on the City College quad in front of the Performing Arts Center building. The music group performed a total of six songs. Around 50 students attended the concert. 

Two young men continually ran back and forth throwing hand signals at the guitarists and keyboard player. One of the men keeps looking at a large black console pushing buttons. 

“It’s complicated but fun,” said Elijah DeAnde. “At first it was difficult to learn the QU-32 but it became easier to use once you learn.”

DeAnde is part of the sound crew. He uses the QU-32 to control the sounds of the keyboard, guitar and speakers. 

DeAnde has been attending City College for four years. He has been apart of the CME for two years. He wants to major in game design and audio production. 

The drummer tested his set by continually beating on his drums. The loud noise blasted the surrounding area.

Jordan Sanders is the drummer for the CME. He is a commercial music major and music business management emphasis major. He used to attend CRC but decided to transfer to City College. This is his first semester on campus. As well as his first time in CME. 

“When I started realizing what I wanted to do, I found myself being led here because of the music program,” said Sanders. 

He described himself as playing the drums since his youth. 

“I have been playing when I was really young,” said Sanders. “I stopped taking it seriously when I was younger because I wanted to play basketball. Then I found myself back to playing the drums and I have been taking it seriously for two years now.”

According to Sanders playing an instrument by yourself is different than playing with a band. 

“It’s not difficult but it’s a skill,” said Sanders. “It’s something you have to work on because you can’t do all the same things you do in the practice room in a setting with other people. You have to figure out how to implement what you practice into how you play with others.”

Sanders enjoys working with the CME group. He likes that everyone wants to grow and find ways to work together.

“Everyone has the exact same attitude,” said Sanders. “Everybody is positive and they are all skilled musicians. It’s really nice.”

Sanders is currently playing in a couple of bands outside of college. He is in a band with the keyboard player of CME and a few other friends. 

Damond Barbee prefers to go by the name DJ. He’s 19 years old and wants to major in music. This will be his second year working with the CME. 

“I like coming together with other musicians and singers,” said Barbee. “It’s very fun and fulfilling. I just love to play. When you get together with other people who love doing what they do; it creates this really cool creative musical environment.”

The first song called “Human Nature” was sung by music major, Diamond Johnson.
This is her first semester on campus and her first time being apart of CME.

“My mom will always sing with me and play music,” said Johnson, who’s been singing since the age of three. “I’ll be trying to sing anything. She motivated me to keep pushing to sing.”

According to Johnson singing with everyone just came natural— they all vibed well together.

“I love everybody. Everyone is just so diverse, different and dope,” said Johnson “Everybody is so talented. The singers are just amazing. It’s different but I love it. That’s my family everybody.”

Johnson highly recommends any musicians and singers to take the class. She even called it one of the best classes to take. 

“Don’t be scared just get out there,” said Johnson. “Show your talent and don’t give up.”

Johnson goes on to sing “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse with Hannah Miller and Gillian Rains.

Miller, 20, is on her fifth semester on campus. She is a music and communications major. She took CME last year and then took one semester off. 

“I came back this semester but the people change,” said Miller. “The skill level changes. This entire band is different. You figure it out and adjust. It’s not difficult.”

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Miller started singing when she was five years old. She took private lessons when she was in the second grade. In high school, she joined concert bands, jazz band and choir. 

Miller compliments the CME’s ability to pick up the material quickly and their good ear for music. 

“Everything just clicks really well,” said Miller. “It’s crazy. I’ve never been with a group that I just instantaneously got along with.”

After the song, “Valerie” ended the next song called “Witchy Woman” by the Eagles began. This song was sung by Tara Stice.

Stice, music business management major and second semester with the CME. She just started singing more professionally this year.

“I remember going in the shower as a little girl and singing,” said Stice. “It was my inspirational place. Every time I went into the shower I just wanted to sing and sing and sing.”

Every semester the group will change members because of auditions. Stice really bonded with the last group. Everything became a bit different when new members came in. However, she believes that this current group is amazingly talented. Having amazing musicians made the transition easier for her.

“It is a blast working with everyone,” said Stice. “I look forward to every practice. I love going to rehearsals it’s so much fun. I think all of us feel like a family.”

During Stice’s “Witchy Woman” performance Sergio Zazueta had a guitar solo. 

Zazueta, 21, has been attending classes at City College for a year. He is a music major and has been playing the guitar for 10 years. 

“In the sixth grade I had a music teacher and he wanted to start a little group,” said Zazueta. “He had an electric guitar and I thought it was a cool instrument. I thought it would be nice to learn to play.” 

Even though the group changes every semester Zazueta doesn’t find it difficult having to play with a new group.  He enjoys playing with the group.

“It’s fun and awesome,” said Zazueta. “It’s like a little friend group. We hang out and play music.  We are all connected.” 

The last song played was “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. Diamond sings and dances to the music. Miller and Rains sing with her. The song ends and the crowd gives applause. 

CME instructor Kurt Shiflet is pleased with the performance. Shiflet has taught at City College for about 20 years. He teaches commercial music ensemble, guitar, world music and American popular music. 

He explained that every semester he holds an audition for the commercial music ensemble class. Students walk in on the first day and perform. The class isn’t a place where students learn to play an instrument. The people that walk in are already accomplished players. Some vocalists will sing acapella, some will sing karaoke and others will be accompanied with someone. Shiflet gives instrumentalist charts to learn. 

“I give them something to work on separately and we put it together,” said Shiflet. “I’m looking for talent but I’m also looking for people who work well together. This group works extremely well together. They all get along great. They are really good people.”

Shiflet believes that CME is the face of City College. He mentions that it’s ethnically diverse and that it reflects the students on campus. 

“Our youngest member is 18 and our oldest is Rick and he’s 76 I believe,” said Shiflet. “It really crosses all boundaries. Everybody comes from different places and everyone gets along well and works together well. It’s pretty cool.”

He described himself as a director or producer. He gives the class ideas and steers them in a certain direction. However, everyone else gets to have their input as well. A lot of the times they are free to do what they like. 

“I just listen to everyone’s ideas and put stuff together,” said Shiflet. “They will bring me ideas like ‘Hey, let’s try this’ and I’ll listen to it and I’m looking for a piece that’s a good piece for all musicians. An ensemble piece that the band is going to have fun playing and has good vocals. It’s a collaboration really.”

Shiflet’s daughter Lahre Shiflet is a vocal coach. She did some of the vocal arrangements. Shiflet would have her come in and work with the group for a bit. 

“She’s really talented and has amazing ears for hearing parts,” said Shiflet. “She figured out all the harmonies and put together a track for the singers.”

Shiflet praised how respectful the group is and that there is no ego with the group which makes working with them enjoyable. 

“They are phenomenal,” said Shiflet. “All the vocalists are good. All the instrumentalists are really good. I would say this is my favorite group right now.”

Future performance: 

Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. on J street

For more questions and details email [email protected]

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