Renuka Asirvatham has worked in the Music Department since 2017. She assists the Chair with various department projects, provides Faculty support and manages student admissions and enrollments among other administrative duties. Although not a musician she thoroughly enjoys attending the CSUEB Music student recitals and performances. Renuka has been working remotely Fall 2020 Semester except on Tuesdays and Thursdays she is on campus. She loves spending time with her family, cooking for them, taking road trips and attending her Church.
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January 2021 Newsletter
Greetings CSUEB Department of Music Friends and Family! Since we are mostly sheltered in place and learning from a distance, we thought it would be the perfect time to start a new tradition - a (hopefully) yearly Departmental Newsletter. The current pandemic has encouraged us to find new ways to reach out virtually and we are taking the opportunity to do so.
Spring 2020 was a very disjointed term where we were forced to adapt to a completely online learning format after 6 weeks. With a summer to regroup and reconsider teaching modalities, we had a strong Fall 2020 and, despite some ups and downs, the new reality forced us all to learn a great deal. Our department continues to evolve and has shown positive signs of recent growth and it is probably quite different from when you were a student. We have new faculty and staff, new courses and academic pathways, and a renewed focus on embracing diversity and becoming more equitable and inclusive.
We hope that this Newsletter will give you a glimpse into what your CSUEB Department of Music is doing during these challenging times to train the musical leaders of the future and what some of the familiar faces of your era are up to these days.
We hope you are well and, as always, please be in touch. We would love to hear from you!
Professor and Chair, CSUEB Department of Music
What Day to Day Life is Like for a Music Major During a Pandemic
by Vanessa Gates
In the morning, I eat a banana and my Dad and I go for a walk at the nearby lake. When we get back I take shower, quickly get dressed, and hop on my laptop for Zoom classes. First up is piano and then aural skills with the same professor. I have my electric keyboard set up on a card table and use an office chair with two pillows so I can sit at the correct height. My feet aren’t able to be flat on the floor, but it's best to have my elbows high enough. I have my laptop balanced on a music stand leaning against the piano so I can be visible in class and then tilt the screen down and play for them if needed.
Keeping motivated during the pandemic and political tension can be difficult. Oftentimes, we are on edge emotionally. I remember that this professor had a welcome message for their classes for a week that said “We are so glad you are here.” Just reading that made me well up with happy tears. It felt really good to feel supported. This professor’s empathy for students and himself really shine through in this time. He is always ready to help students without acting frustrated or pretentious.
After those two classes I make and eat lunch. Then depending on when assignments are due I work on going through asynchronous lecture material for Music in Film or What to Listen for in Music class, record videos for choir, play the brass instrument assigned, or practice my solo repertoire. After my shift of online work for the university’s tutoring center, I pack up my backpack, instruments and music stand, and drive down to my boyfriend’s place near campus for my in person classes the next day.
The next morning I make sure to grab a beanie to put over the bell of my trombone for the teaching brass class. We start out inside in chairs 6 feet apart. The professor has a laptop set up where the other half of the class is attending from home. We switch who is in person to keep the amount of people in a room together at a minimum. The back door is also open for air flow. While inside, we only discuss the previous discussion board assignment and assemble the instruments. We only get to playing when we move to the outside center of the infamous round music building. We wear our masks when not playing and sit/stand more than far apart. It is helpful to hear the instruments in person. There are so many nuances of sound that our computer microphones can miss. I also like being able to hear my classmates play. We innately want to help each other and ask questions as people training to be educators. It also helps me judge how quickly I am learning because I can compare my playing to other students of similar experience. When we return to the classroom to disassemble our instruments, we also sanitize the chairs we used.
Although us music majors do have a group chat set up to build community, I certainly miss the lively halls of the music building. Seeing classmates, faculty, and staff in person everyday certainly made a positive impact on my mental health and learning. I miss saying good morning to the first janitor I ran into or popping into the music office to use the hole puncher while chatting with admin. I miss eating lunch and dinner with my friends. I miss doing homework together. The halls are quiet now. When I walk by practice rooms, I seldom hear the familiar mix of multiple people practicing. No one is going into their locker at the same time as me nearby giving me a reason to proclaim we are locker buddies.
The next classes are Voice Lessons and Vocal Coaching. I grab my own music stand, my music, a pencil, and I slip on my singer’s mask. It allows me to breathe in without getting the actual cloth of the mask in my mouth. Having lessons outside in person has been so much nicer than having them online last semester. It's fabulous to be able to show my own physicality and model after my professors’ in person. After all, I am my instrument. Being a soprano, the fact that most standard microphones distort when singing too loud or too high was a detriment last semester. I am better able to use more of the full range of dynamics in person because there is no mic to worry about. The drawbacks of our spot outside are that we are placed right by an electric module which lets out a mechanical drone the whole time and that we are right next to a road. My vocal coach keeps it light hearted and makes a joke where he sternly pantomimes lecturing something important when a loud truck drives by. We get a good laugh out of it. We both know neither of us could hear each other when it happens. Once, at the end of my vocal coaching, I said to my professor, “Time to go home for choir now.” He pointed out how silly the sentence was. It's a sentence we never thought I’d have to say.
I drive back with just enough time to grab a quick bite before Zoom choir. Of course, it's different singing with the group online, but it's still very nice to see the same smiling faces I knew in person. Plus, they have made sure we don’t feel like we are singing alone, by using part tracks sung by a real person as a full choir. There are certain experiences we have had this semester that we never had the chance to do in previous years. Professors in the arts have banded together to help make new creative events for students. At our first in person rehearsal, we collaborated with an online dance class who danced along to our singing. I’ve always liked that it's my last class of the day so I can go off into my other responsibilities with a song on my mind.
In Fall of 2018, the CSUEB Department of Music welcomed Dr. Inés Thiebaut as Assistant Professor of Composition and Music Theory. Dr. Thiebaut was born and raised in Madrid, Spain and she holds a Ph.D from the CUNY Graduate Center (New York). Before her move to the East Bay, Inés held a 3-year Visiting Assistant Professor position at the University of Utah.
Dr. Thiebaut has recently redesigned the Music Computer Lab and the Synthesis and Recording Studio, including refurbishing the Department’s Buchla. The composition area has grown very quickly due to her energy, knowledge, and enthusiasm. Her recent works for the concert hall include a commission from flutist Julian Elvira, a piece for Prónomo flute and electronics, a chamber piece for The Cadillac Moon Ensemble, commissioned by Julie Harting and Elizabeth Adams as part of their Anti-Capitalist Concert Series in New York, and a piano chamber concerto for the Nova Chamber Music Series (with pianist Jason Hardink as soloist) which premiered in the Spring of 2017.
Inés's compositional interests also lie beyond the concert hall, as she is always eager to collaborate with other art forms. She has composed music for two productions of the Traverse City-based theatre company Parallel45, as well as several short films and dance pieces in Spain, Portugal, and the US.
The past year has been a unique one for the CSUEB Instrumental students! Although 2020 has been challenging in many ways, the past year or so has offered all kinds of interesting experiences for both the students and for Dr. Gaudry, our Director of Bands.
The spring semester of 2020 started off as most do for Dr. Gaudry, with several guest conducting opportunities. Freshly back from her fall Sabbatical, in the first 3 weeks of the semester she conducted honor bands in the North Bay, in Fremont and in Manteca. In all three places, she was able to joyfully reconnect with alumni who are now teaching band in the public schools, while at the same time make music with talented young instrumentalists and share with them all the things we do at CSUEB.
Spring semester 2020 was dubbed “BrassFest 2020” because we welcomed two phenomenal brass groups to campus: Seraph Brass, an all-female quintet visited in January, and Septura Brass, on tour from England, visited in February. Both groups worked with students in a masterclass and performed an inspiring concert. Our very own East Bay Wind Symphony started off strong in 2020. To honor the diversity in our ensemble and our department, we decided the entire semester would consist of repertoire written by diverse composers, including only women composers and composers of color. This gave us a wonderful opportunity to explore and discuss in depth the variety of compositional languages and perspectives of these diverse composers. We were incredibly fortunate to perform a joint concert in February with the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West based out of Travis Air Force Base. These exceptional musicians performed separately and alongside the East Bay Wind Symphony, making for an incredible experience for our students. The event was made even more special because one of our very own alumni, trumpeter Alan Matteri, is a member of the Band of the Golden West and was a featured soloist that evening. We are so proud of Alan and everything he has accomplished!
Shortly after that concert and after starting on some new repertoire, we were forced to move our instruction online due to the shelter in place order. While this new modality presented some challenges for us, students continued learning by meeting remotely on Zoom for rehearsals, lessons and classes. Since that time, the East Bay Wind Symphony has been doing deep dives into the repertoire in a way that isn’t normally possible, by listening, analyzing, discussing and studying our music, alongside working on our musicianship by working on skills like sight reading. We’ve also welcomed several guest speakers on various topics, such as the Alexander Technique, personal musical growth, being a great ensemble musician, and in December we will be welcoming Barry Green, author of the Inner Game of Music.
This fall, we were thankful to be granted permission to have some in-person rehearsals on campus. Although our first rehearsal was delayed several times due to bad air quality and to extreme heat, we were finally able to meet in person starting in October. These rehearsals have been exciting for all of us since we haven’t been able to make music in person since the beginning of March!
CSUEB’s very own Dann Zinn serves as the Coordinator of Jazz Studies and Instructor of Saxophone. The Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo are the only two ensembles that have continued to rehearse regularly on campus throughout the pandemic. Although they are not able to perform a full concert for an audience this term, they have been active and were able to provide over 20 minutes of music for the recent Forever Pioneer Week.
The Department of Music welcomes a number of prospective new music educators into the music education program. The fall offerings include courses taught by Danielle Gaudry (Basic Conducting), William Harrington (Teaching Brass Instruments), and John Eros (Foundations of Music Education, Teaching Brass Instruments). Given restrictions regarding on-campus activities, particularly restrictions regarding playing wind instruments, the music education majors have had limited opportunities for face-to-face instruction. Despite that challenge, the music educators have still been successful at developing their brass skills via socially-distanced on campus performance (appropriately masked and protected), and creativity in locating individual performance spaces.
The Foundations of Music Education students are having thoughtful conversations, reflecting on their own backgrounds and goals with music education. Despite not being able to make observation visits to schools, the students have benefited from virtual presentations by area music educators.
Twelve candidates are currently in the process of completing their Single Subject Credentials in music, including two recent CSUEB music education graduates. Dr. Eros is particularly excited to have engaged an impressive collection of experienced school music educators to supervise the credential candidates.
In the Piano area, Dr. Shimron has been doing a combination of in-person and online teaching. CSUEB has been lucky to receive permission for some limited in-person instruction (with safety procedures) and that has proven to be successful and enjoyable. The in-person lessons (for those who are stateside) take place in our wonderful Recital Hall, using our two Steinway grands, spaced far apart. Otherwise, Dr. Shimron has been teaching lessons through Zoom, in combination with pre-recorded assignments uploaded to Google Drive. Scheduling has proven to be extra challenging this semester because several of our international students from China are actually attending classes from home (15 hours ahead of Hayward time)! Group piano classes have also continued online but work is being performed in our Digital Keyboard Lab (MB 2081) to enable in-person instruction (as early as this spring), using the East Bay Replay system (lecture-capture of class activities), together with Zoom. Piano students, including piano ensemble students, presented a Virtual Studio Recital on Friday, December 4.
The East Bay Singers were forced to move to online instruction in March 2020 and were subsequently forced to cancel their July 2020 appearance at the Barcelona International Choral Festival. The singing has not stopped, however, and the campus has enjoyed a great deal of singing this semester, particularly because Professor Christine Abraham and Dr. Jeffrey Sykes have used available outdoor spaces in creative ways to enable students to have face to face lessons in a safe, physically distanced environment. With the help of Dan Howdeshell, keyboards have been moved outside and voice students have been able to choose to receive valuable private instruction through live lessons. All other vocal instruction is taking place online.
Choral rehearsals have taken place via Zoom and singers have used the semester to learn online learning tools (such as Zoom, Soundtrap, Vocaroo and Flipgrid), record 6 songs, and they presented their work for the semester in a program titled, Resilience . All singers have also learned and recorded a vocal performance project or created a choral composition.
Graduate students Whitney Huang and Anthony West have been instrumental in helping run rehearsals and learn music and musicianship and they will take over the East Bay Singers in weekly, in-person rehearsals in Spring 2020 while Buddy James is on sabbatical.
Members of the East Bay Singers were able to meet in person two times during the Fall semester and the first resulted in a moving singing session in front of the Healing the Trauma of Racism Altar in the University Theatre.
Virtual Guest Speaker Series
Since distance was not an obstacle during Fall 2020, the Department reached out to leaders around the world to work with our students as part of the Virtual Speaker Series. Students enjoyed the following public speakers during the Fall Semester and our graduate conductors also learned from Shireen Abu Khader, Josephine Lee, Edward Maclary, Bruce Rogers and Tim Sharp.
The Department of Music welcomes our newest faculty member, Dr. Kathleen Rountree . Dr. Rountree is new to teaching at CSUEB but she is not new to teaching, nor is she new to CSUEB.
Dr. Rountree was a student of renowned concert pianist Ruth Slenczynska and has performed as soloist and chamber musician in the US, Europe, China, and Russia.
In addition to performing, she has held positions as a keyboard teacher at Appalachian State University and LSU, before holding administrative positions at several universities, including the University of Northern Colorado and UNC-Greensboro. From 2010-2019 she served as Dean of the College of Letters, Arts, & Social Sciences at CSU East Bay.
Our current faculty continue to make music during the pandemic. Here are some examples of the creativity and innovation of our faculty:
Bill Harrington continues to lead the East Bay Youth Orchestra (formerly known as YOSAC). EBYO continues to partner with CSUEB, and CSUEB student Omar Ortiz is EBYO Associate Conductor where he has done a fantastic job directing online rehearsals of Borodin’s Polovetzian Dances.
Pat Klobas , double bass instructor, took part in the Sun Valley Music Festival and you can view highlights here .
Artie Storch , our longtime CSUEB percussion instructor, was featured on Fear / Release for Percussion Quartet by Ellen Reid in the recent San Francisco Symphony production of "From Hall to Home." The show was broadcast on KQED TV and NBC Bay Area (channel 11) and is streaming on-demand at sfsymphony.org
Jeffrey Sykes , coach and accompanist, performed the Igor Stravinsky: Suite Italienne - Minuet and Finale as part of the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society of Wisconsin .
Dan Howdeshell, Music Equipment Technician
"I have had the pleasure of being the Music Department equipment tech since 2015. During this very different year, I have taken on the job of keeping students and staff safe as possible from COVID by providing PPE as well as keeping our equipment, rehearsal rooms and practice rooms clean and safe by using guidelines and protocols set by the University and the CDC. My hope is that all who enter our building feel safe and free to learn and develop their talents."
Justin T. Plank is the CSUEB Music Resource Center Coordinator, a position he has held since 2013. While in-person performances are postponed and most classes held online, Justin continues to support our students and faculty through virtual means. Student recitals and juries have moved completely online, and Justin has helped to create new processes to ensure the integrity of these important educational milestones amidst the pandemic. Justin also assists the department with graphic design for advertising and recruitment campaigns, music transcription for chamber ensembles, purchasing, library requests, copyright compliance and website maintenance.
An enthusiastic "Greetings and salutations!" to all the Music Department students, alumni, staff and faculty from Mariko Abe (BA 1975, clarinet)!!
After working for the CSUH/EB Music Department from 1972-2017, Mariko is greatly enjoying retirement and keeps busy teaching a full load of private clarinet and bass clarinet students, taking care of hubby and fellow music alum William "Bill" Shannon (BA 1975, French horn; MA 1988, composition ), and being a mommy to their two adorable cats, Tucker and Maddie. Mariko and Bill reside in San Francisco, continue to play with numerous Bay Area musical groups, and have two beautiful daughters, Laurel, 31, of Sacramento, and Alana, 29, of San Francisco.
"I am thoroughly enjoying my retirement which included a recent trip to Italy (wonderful hiking and dining in Tuscany), and I've resumed playing the oboe in earnest -- even bought a new Loree oboe and I practice every day!
It always puts me in a reflective and happy mood when I think about the creative and wonderful students, faculty and staff I was so fortunate to work with over the years in the Music Department at Cal State!"
Ken Howenstein is a sales representative for Burton’s Fire Inc, A ROSENBAUER dealership selling fire apparatus. He travels between California, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska. His two boys (Jacob, 8 and Evan, 13) keep them very busy between school, Scouts, and of course, music! Miss my CSUEB family!
Former and Emeritus Faculty
"I'm currently Associate Professor of Music/Director of Bands at the University of Northern Colorado (Greeley), where I conduct the Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, and guide all aspects of the graduate wind conducting program. I also continue my international work in both Italy and Spain with the International Music Project (IMP). When not teaching and conducting, I'm often on a hike in the Colorado mountains and trails. I am truly grateful for the terrific students I was fortunate to work with during my brief tenure (2007-2011) at CSUEB, and I love seeing the wonderful music educators and performers they have become!!"
"I am now at the University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory of Music, Dance, and Theatre where I have been serving as the Coordinator of Jazz Studies since Fall 2018. In the years since leaving CSU East Bay, I have been continuing to perform, recorded with Marcus Shelby Orchestra, and Co-Produced and performed on Tiffany Austin’s acclaimed album Unbroken. My family and I deeply miss the students, friends, and colleagues at CSUEB and wish everyone the very best!"
Dave Eshelman recently performed in an online version of his arrangement of J.J. Johnson’s version of "Hello Young Lovers" along with CSUEB Alums Jeanne Geiger, Nate Conrad, Brandon Au, Rich Lee, trombones; Colin Hogan, piano; Dan Parenti, bass and Steve Moretti, drums.
He performed with CSUEB Director of Jazz Studies Dann Zinn and CSUEB Alum Dan Parenti, bass; joined by Glen Pearson, piano and Leon Joyce, drums. The outdoor socially distanced concert featured the music of Joe Henderson and was videotaped by CSUEB alum Ron Davis at the CSUEB Concord Campus. The concert was presented to the CSU Osher Lifelong Learning Institute audience in late September.
Dave continues to direct the California Jazz Conservatory Studio Band and led them on a European Concert Tour in July of 2019. He also continues to teach at the Hayward La Honda Music Camp at the Jones Gulch YMCA Camp which happily survived the CZU fire this summer. Dave sang (yes sang) and played trombone for the Camps Virtual Campfire which was held on line in lieu of camp this year.
Frank La Rocca and Lucia have moved to Claremont (near Pasadena) to reunite with children, their granddaughter and future grandchildren. Dr. La Rocca did complete three projects in the last year: a Requiem for the Homeless (which was to have been premiered 11/7) - a polyphonic Mass for a parish in Seattle (delayed till 2021) and a short piece for the Madrigirls of the University of Glasgow which will be premiered in December. The photos (above) are from the East Coast premiere of Mass of the Americas, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception — the Catholic version of a “national cathedral”. There were approximately 3,500 people there, on a Saturday morning.
Tim and Kathy Smith are retired from academia, and live on a 4-acre "ranchette" in Wilton, CA - out in the country south east of Sacramento. Tim retired from academia in 2008 (leaving CSUH in 2007, and spending a year as a Visiting Professor at CSU, Sacramento), but has maintained an active schedule of clinics, guest conducting and adjudications (although not since March...). He conducted the Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra from 2007-2018, and has been Music and Artistic Director of the Sacramento Symphonic Winds, a very fine adult community wind band, for 4 years. He continues to play horn in a Sacramento area brass quintet, does occasional freelance playing, and has been on the Coaching staff at the Humboldt Brass Chamber Music Workshop since 2006.
Kathy was Professor of Vocal/Choral Music at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento from 2006-2016, and remained very active in the American Choral Directors Association (including a term as Western Division President). In her retirement, she has been enjoying a return to studying and playing piano (we are now proud owners of a 1923 Steinway Grand) adjudicating choral festivals, and sewing. We have two married adult children (who live in Denver and San Francisco) and two beautiful red-headed granddaughters (5 and 7). Our new "COVID stay-at-home and be safe" project has been gardening. Check out the photos!
"It seems for me that this year has been mostly dealing with the effects of the Corona-19 virus pandemic. We did our stint of sheltering in place when that was ordered in March, and have, more or less, continued to avoid crowds and to social distance and wear our masks when venturing out. Getting groceries has now become a big event outing! The gym to which I belonged was closed so my exercise regimen was stopped, causing a bit larger waist line than I would like. Doing the cooking at home is a fun activity and enjoying a nice wine with the meal (or at happy hour) keeps me sane. Lots of recipes on the web to try. Other pandemic activities include putting together puzzles, reading, and yard work. The organist at the church I belong to in Castro Valley resigned recently, so guess who was tapped to fill in for a while! Getting into a weekly practice mode has livened up my brain cells, offsetting the decrease of my muscle cells. And, playing for an empty church is different, but services are streamed on Facebook and Zoom. If there is an organist out there who would like a job, let me know. I thought I had retired! The lack of outside activity gave my creative muse a push to write an organ composition called "Trumpet Tune for a Pandemic". It had its premiere at a recent Sunday service. We had two river cruises booked for this year which were cancelled, but we can look forward to perhaps enjoying that activity next year. Looking at travel shows on TV doesn't quite give one the same experience and can't make up for actually being on a trip. Best wishes to all for a healthy and enjoyable holiday season and a much better 2021!"
"Dear CSUEB family, it’s nice to think of you all over the holidays. I know about some of your life and professional successes through your social media postings, but I’m also looking forward to hearing more from everyone! As you know, I moved to Madison and the University of Wisconsin in 2012, and while that was a difficult decision at the time, it has worked out really well. Professionally, I have had wonderful opportunities over the past few years to play and write a lot of music. My most recent project is “Elegy for an Undiscovered Species,” an album of music I wrote for jazz quintet (with Dayna Stephens and Ingrid Jensen, whom some of you worked with when they were guest artists at CSUEB) and string orchestra. It was a huge project for me, and I got super lucky to get it recorded just under the wire in late February before air travel and concert hall closings would have made it impossible. The album is coming out later this spring. You can also find some of my previous recordings on Spotify, etc (including “Love Wins,” which I recorded after Keith and I successfully sued the State of Wisconsin as one of eight couples in the ACLU’s marriage equality lawsuit). But the biggest thing in my life has been the birth of my daughter Clea in 2017. Pandemics, physical distancing and the lockdowns of the people and things we love have been hard on everyone, but we’ve been lucky that Clea’s preschool has stayed open, and she’s loving life, learning about the world, and making lots of friends! Winters here get pretty cold, so over the winter break, we’ve been going sledding (perfect hill across the street from our house) and teaching her to ice skate on the frozen ponds. Between Clea and our two dogs and two cats, it’s never quiet at home, which is pretty great right about now. Wishing you all a happy New Year!"
Share Your Story!
There are many things that strike me about the CSUEB Music Department including the amazing faculty, the hard-working alumni, and the tradition of musical excellence. There are many stories to tell, and we share them so that you may enjoy them.
We also want to know your story. If you are a student, faculty member, or alum of our department, let us know what you are doing so that we may continue to build upon our tradition of musical excellence.
- Buddy James
CSUEB Music Department Chair
and Director of Vocal and Choral Activities