Rock 'n' Roll 101: ASU Rock Band class to perform at Evelyn Smith Music Theatre

The class's end-of-semester concert setlist includes Guns N' Roses, Fall Out Boy and more

Every Wednesday evening in Gammage 311, the walls can be heard vibrating with the sound of bass guitars, electric guitars and drums, all playing the same tune. The students playing these instruments are all preparing to show off their skills for their fall performance this Wednesday, Nov. 23, at the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre.

The semester-long work will consist of a line-up of seven bands and will include rock from different decades of music history from the 1950s to the present day. In between sets are class songs, where the entire ensemble plays a piece as a unit.

"So what (my students) do is they pick out a tune from each period of rock, and they can redo it however they want to do it," explained Joseph Felice, director of the Rock Band class. "That's why you'll see stuff like Lynryd Skynyrd and Slither in the same set." 

This is Felice's fourth year teaching the Rock Band class, and he said his class has evolved over the semesters. 

"It seems like it gets better every semester, and we get people that have stuck around for four semesters ... what happens is that you start building connections." Felice said. "One of the bands here is on their third semester, and so now they're going out and getting gigs, clubs and playing events. So it's a good way to get feedback for your group and grow and move at a faster pace than you would if you just did it in a garage band." 

Felice mentioned that the bands practice regularly for almost 3 hours a week in class and outside of class on their own time. He said that many of his students are not in the music program at ASU and come from a diverse range of majors.

Taylor Hower is a technology entrepreneurship junior and primarily plays guitar and bass. He has had 10 years of musical experience — much like many of the other students in Rock Band.

"It's really a wide range of talented students here who have been playing forever," Hower said. "You have music majors who can take this class, and you also have beginners who want to get some performing experience."

Gabby Nacion, a digital culture junior with an emphasis in music, has been taking the class for three straight semesters. She said she has seen the class change over the past few months.

"At the beginning, it's a little bit shaky because people are still trying to figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are, so things don't always start off strong, but at the end everyone pulls it together, and you get some spectacular musicians that play in the concert," she said. "Especially, too, if you see them grow from the beginning of the semester to the concert, you can see how much they've improved."

The students, Nacion said, gauge each other's strengths and form their own bands without faculty involvement.  Rehearsals are mostly on the students' personal time, with class performances in between. She said having past musical experience is helpful but not necessary.

"Honestly, there's some amazing people in the class who don't even know how to read sheet music, and they still really come through with the songs," Nacion said. 

Abril Guerrero, a senior majoring in tourism development and management with an emphasis in resort leadership, is a vocalist in the class and plays mariachi guitar.

"I really have enjoyed this class," Guerrero said. "You know, it's difficult being a senior and having so many things to do, but I always make time to practice and make sure that I'm learning my part and getting everything done. It's a stress reliever for me, because my major isn't in music — but I love music."

Their final semester concert, which is free to the public, will take place at the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre from 7 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23.


Reach the reporter at mphan2@asu.edu or follow @mvyphvn on Twitter.

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