By Evans Koukios
Washtenaw Community College’s music and performing arts departments had their Spring Student Performance and Production Showcase in the Towsley Auditorium on April 20, inside the Morris Lawrence Building. The evening started with demonstrations from the audio production and composition classes.
WCC Music Department chair Michael Naylor stated, “We now have a nationally recognized audio program and beginning in the fall, students that complete our audio program will also be Pro Tools certified.”
Faculty Advisor Jonas Berzanskis, who has been in the professional audio business for four decades, demonstrated techniques taught in WCC’s Computer Applications in Music class and explained how the technology keeps changing.
“I have a complete digital audio workstation on my smartphone for $30. I even showed a clip where you could produce a song with just your phone. It’s Take by Propellerhead,” Berzanskis said.
Hazelette Crosby-Robinson, an alum of WCC and graduate of the University of Michigan in social work, was ecstatic about what she learned.
“I’m just surprised that this room was not packed. Valuable information…. As a singer and songwriter myself, and a fledgling pianist, who will be joining the Jazz Combo next month under Steve Sommers, I’m so interested,” Crosby-Robinson said.
The other pre-main concert presentation was by the WTMC Performance Art Ensemble under the direction of instructor John Edwartowski.
“This used to be a club, but this is the first year that this is being offered as a for-credit class,” Edwartowski said. Four selections were performed in the lobby, and “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin was performed in the main concert. A retired EMU educator and music supporter, Jerry Robbins, arranged the selections.
In the main concert, two jazz combos – the WCC Jazz Combo, and the community band Ypsilanti Youth Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble – performed under the direction of instructor Sommers. The WCC Group Songwriters songwriting class, taught by Spencer Michaud, performed three original songs composed by Julius Tompkins, James Hall and Adam LaVasseur.
Also featured were vocalist Elora Agostinho Ometto, an international student from Brazil who was accompanied by music theory students Seth Huff, who played percussion, and Charlotte Pardo on piano. Nationally recognized musician, Victor Ghannam, performed on the oud, an Arabic instrument that is the precursor to the guitar, and WCC student singers Abdulsalam Alnajjar and Marian Layousse sang. Other soloistic performances included WCC Talent Show winner Christina Wallag and a R&B Duet by Charlissa and Myhana Mayes.
Throughout the evening during stage changes, there was student-run DJ music, something that will also be supplemented soon in the WCC curriculum.
The evening was capped with the WCC Jazz Combo reappearing with Maria Johnson and Julius Tompkins on vocal. Professional guest artist Skeeter Shelton from Detroit joined in on tenor sax and sang one of his songs at the piano.
As characterized in Naylor’s opening remarks, the music program at WCC is diverse in age and connected to all aspects of the music industry.
“We have people out in the world for decades that have been playing music, they are retired, and we have students very often that are high school age, and the beauty is that we have this interaction that goes on,” Naylor said.