Note that the program has now added “Contemporary” to
its title. It’s a small linguistic change that underscores the
significance of the direction that the program has taken under lead
faculty member Dr. Denise La Grassa.
“It was time for the title of the program to better reflect our
direction and priorities,” La Grassa said. “We are taking jazz out
of the history books and showing students that it is not only the
foundation of much of today’s music, but that by merging jazz roots
with their own backgrounds and musical tastes they can create new,
cutting edge experiences for their audiences.”
La Grassa is building on her approach which treats jazz as a
performance art. She has been moving the jazz program at Lincoln
College toward this goal since her arrival in 2017, developing shows
that meld video, dance and acting into musical performances. She has
also forged new relationships for the college to give students
training in production, recording and editing.
“There are a lot of jazz programs that emphasize technical prowess.
That is important and we will continue to follow rigorous standards,
but it is all too easy to overlook the fact that jazz has its roots
in performance. Ultimately, our students need to have a solid
foundation and understanding of how to inspire and entertain today’s
audiences,” La Grassa said.
“In addition, they need to be able to take their music from initial
concept all the way through the process until they have a final,
finished product ready for worldwide distribution,” La Grassa added.
The special lecture with Breeck is just one example of the
experiences La Grassa plans to give students this year.
Los Angeles-based Breeck is most known for his work on Disney’s
“Gravity Falls” and the upcoming “Voltron” series reboot for
Breeck’s colorful style of composition paired with his witty
technical execution and fluidity as both a composer and songwriter
brought him to write music for several Disney animated shows,
including “Star vs. The Forces of Evil,” “Pickle and Peanut” and
“Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja.” He was the composer for
MTV’s “Awkward” and is currently scoring and writing the songs for
Cartoon Network’s hit show “We Bare Bears”. For Nickelodeon he
scored the series “Fanboy and Chumchum” and penned the theme for
“Robot and Monster.”
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Breeck was also a member of the critically acclaimed band The Mae
Shi. His lecture will be Sept. 26, at 3:30 p.m. and will be open to students
from area schools as well as the public.
The program this year is also adding instruction in studio recording production,
taught by Grammy nominated engineer/producer/songwriter Erik Nelson. Nelson, who
owns and operates Eclipse Studios in Normal, began working with Lincoln College
jazz studies students on an occasional basis last year.
“Under Erik’s guidance, students are learning to record, mix and produce their
own compositions. Contemporary jazz isn’t about just blending the foundations of
jazz teachings with the voices of today, but it’s about producing and delivering
music and performance that connects with the public. In today’s connected world,
artists are no longer dependent on east or west coast labels, but on quality
music and performance that can succeed anywhere,” La Grassa added.
La Grassa said she is also planning opportunities for students to again work
with Rick Barnes, who operates Rax Trax recording studio in Chicago. Earlier
this year students traveled to Chicago to record and produce their own
compositions at Rax Trax. La Grassa said Barnes has indicated he is willing to
continue offering that opportunity to Lincoln College students. Contemporary
Jazz Studies major Christian Lloyd spent his summer working as an intern for
Rick Barnes at Rax Trax Studios where he gained hands on professional experience
in studio and audio production.
La Grassa said she is also very appreciative of local venues, such as Spirited
Republic and Deep Roots Café, that have opened their doors for students to
perform. Getting students out into the community, performing at commercial
establishments adds to the college experience and helps students gain the
feedback they need to become professionals, La Grassa added.
But, as the television pitchmen used to say, “wait there’s more.”La Grassa said
she is working with Erick Nelson and his client Montana of 300, who has appeared
on the top television series “Empire,” to find a date for the rap star to also
give a workshop to students.
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