Music faculty kicks off the semester with an evening of jazz


Joey Sellers leads the Jazz Faculty Concert on the trombone. Paul Johnson plays the bass. (Adam Gilles/Lariat)

The Saddleback College music faculty, led by Director of Jazz Studies Joey Sellers, continued their tradition of bringing in the Saddleback College semester with the Jazz Faculty Concert at McKinney Theatre on Monday night. The group, which consists of seven members of the Saddleback music faculty, performed for an enthusiastic audience with over an hour of original jazz compositions.

“I loved the energy of the audience,” said Sellers, who has been teaching at Saddleback for 15 years.

The faculty chose the majority of the songs in the program at the last minute during an hour long rehearsal together just hours before showtime.

“With all of it’s strengths, the strongest strength of all is the composition part because of Joey,” said Trumpeter Ron Stout. “That’s why we keep turning out so many good composers here.”  

The group played several student compositions which were selected from songs performed during a concert last May from the Spring semesters Jazz Composition & Arranging course.

The group performed some songs composed by the faculty such as “Dang (My Spleen)” by Guitarist Jamie Rosenn and “Over You” by Stout. Some of the student compositions included “Cornhusk Conspiracy” by Ethan Olinger and “Chromatiscope” by Dan Kwak.

“It’s one of the most challenging concerts when we do the student compositions because they learn the limitations of the instruments and they kind of write to those limitations,” said Stout.

The group closed the evening’s performance with “Anaphora” which was introduced by Sellers and student composer Logan Ivancik.

“One of the most important things to me is that the music was completely different than the way we rehearsed it,” said Sellers. “That’s what you want. The chance taking. That’s the danger of it that makes it exciting to all of us.”

from left Adam Bravo, Jerry Pinter, Paul Johnson, Ron Stout, Joey Sellers, Jamie Rossen perform a student composition at Saddleback College. (Adam Gilles/Lariat)

The music faculty has a storied history and have established their chemistry over many years. Drummer Paul Johnson has been playing with Joey Sellers since Sellers was in high school.

“He was this wonder-kid, this phenom that formed this band that was very challenging and his fellow peers couldn’t play it so, he got the college guys, us guys, to come and play it,” said Johnson. “I’ve been hooked on his writing and his musical genius ever since.”

The chemistry between Johnson and Sellers has carried all the way over to Saddleback College where they are part of a music faculty that has been teaching on campus and performing together for almost 15 years.

“These guys are not only exceptional musicians but they’re excellent teachers and they are friends of mine for years and years,” Sellers said. “They’re here for the music and they’re here for the students. It’s a very rare thing.”

The group uniformly acknowledge Sellers as the person that has kept them together for so long. “Joey got us all in here,” said Stout. “At any other Junior College you’re not going to have someone like a Joey Sellers.”

Pianist Adam Bravo rehearses prior to showtime at McKinney Theatre. (Adam Gilles/Lariat)

While the members of the evening’s group love jazz music and have dedicated many years to hone their skills on their chosen instrument, they are also aware and receptive to the fact that musical instruments and styles of music are constantly evolving, especially in the area of digital composition.

“The more variety, the better,” said Pianist Adam Bravo. “There is a popular music program here as well and we think of ourselves as synergetic with that.”

The music faculty encourages students to explore every available musical option that Saddleback has to offer. “Being able to do more than one thing…might save their lives at some point,” said Stout.

When they aren’t on campus teaching or performing, students might be able to catch the faculty members and other students playing live jazz at some local Orange County hot spots such as Barley Forge Brewing in Costa Mesa, Cook’s Chapel in Anaheim or The Casino in San Clemente.