Classroom

 October 28, 2013

Jazz ensemble benefit fills the Fenix
By Kyle Dang

Carolyne Caires was one of four jazz vocalists who performed in the first half of the benefit concert, held at the Fenix in San Rafael.

Carolyne Caires was one of four jazz vocalists who performed in the first half of the benefit concert, held at the Fenix in San Rafael.

The College of Marin Jazz Ensemble delivered a blowout performance to a packed audience at the Fenix live music club on Sunday, October 13. The concert was one of several live off-campus shows the band has played this semester. Headlined by local saxophone master Mel Martin, the concert was billed as a benefit event, with fifty percent of ticket sales going to the COM music department. The concert was live-streamed on the Fenix’s website, and lasted for two hours, interrupted only by a 20-minute intermission. The stage was at complete weight-capacity, with 18 band members and their instruments crammed on it. The songs played were chosen from a library of pre-arranged music, access to which is one of the things their live shows help fund.

The first half of the show was punctuated by the ensembles four vocalists. Sequin dresses and bold jazz-tailored voices were the name of the game that night, as they belted out several sultry jazz classics apiece. Band members were all given ample solo time, and the chance to distinguish themselves. Wayne Corley, a local musician and retired schoolteacher, joined the saxophone sextet for the night. Playing the alto saxophone, Wayne quickly made an impression on the audience. During the intermission, several people commented on how good Mel Martin was, confusing Corley for him.

Mel Martin was born in Sacramento in 1943. He moved to San Francisco in his early twenties, and quickly became a staple of the sixties jazz scene, playing at historic venues like Bop City and Soulville. A virtuosic multi-instrumentalist, Mel formed several acclaimed groups and played with musicians as diverse and well known as Dizzy Dillespie, Santana, and Sinatra. In recent years Martin has taught music at Sonoma and San Francisco State Universities, while also teaching private students.

Absent during the first half of the show, Martin stormed the second half with an intricate saxophone duel with Wayne Colyer. Just off the stage because of the ensembles size, Martin played the crowd, chatting with the audience, leaning against the wall to watch the band, and sometimes disappearing behind stage. With the crowd roaring its approval at the end, Mel brought it all down with a slower waltzy-ballad that showcased his untarnished virtuosity.

Multiple ensemble members have credited the new band director, Casey Carnahan, with a rejuvenation of the group’s spirit. Cayce has begun to push the ensemble in a new and more active direction, booking them regular shows at clubs throughout Marin, and inviting notable musicians like Mel Martin and Tommy Taigo to play with them. Veteran ensemble saxophonist Bernard Knapp said, “Cayce is the best. He is a fantastic band- leader and a great musician. No other jazz ensemble instructor has organized so many club shows in a semester. He’s challenging us as musicians.” The ensemble has begun to perform regularly at the Seahorse in Sausalito, and will be performing there again on November 11.

Billing itself as a live music supper club, the Fenix opened in 2008 under the ownership of Laura van Galen and her fiancé Kyle Hixon. The club infuses state-of-the-art audio engineering technology with a classical jazz club atmosphere, and southern-french cuisine. Its army of black suited servers provide a constant stream of drinks and fresh food, going unnoticed as the stage, front and center, absorbs every particle of the audiences attention. “The whole idea of the Fenix is real live music, not that pre-recorded press a button stuff,” said Hixon. “We love to help nurture the musical community. This was a huge turnout and a great find.”

Combined, the ensemble members have over half a century of musical experience. Most played professionally or semi-professionally at some point, and have found a resurgent passion for playing live music. “I really admire this group and Cayce. It was an ambitious show and we tried hard. There’s always room for improvement, but we gave it our best offering, and that’s what music is all about,” said trumpeter Kaleo Larson.

The ensemble is composed primarily of older men, which has attracted a wealth of veteran experience, but lacks diversity. Paul Aubert, standup Bass and youngest band member on stage, said, “I don’t really notice the age gap. Music is sort of my life right now, and I think everyone in the band can relate.” While it might not bother Paul, this semester’s class time was changed specifically to entice high school students and other young musicians. Several promising musicians are already waiting in the wings for an open band position.

The Jazz Ensemble has class time on Tuesdays and Thursdays from four to five-thirty. They meet in the Performing Arts building. On December 5 the ensemble will be opening for the world-renowned drummer and big band leader Tommy Aigo, at a concert on campus. Featured guests include Marc Russo of the Doobie Brothers and Tom Politzer of Tower of Power. All COM students are encouraged to attend.

New band director Casey Carnahan conducted the ensemble.

New band director Casey Carnahan conducted the ensemble.

October 4, 2013

Gallery design class prepares new exhibit
By David Lessin

Christopher West’s gallery design class discusses the installation of Richard Diebenkorn’s artwork inside the new Fine Arts Gallery.

Christopher West’s gallery design class discusses the installation of Richard Diebenkorn’s artwork inside the new Fine Arts Gallery.

Students in Christopher West’s Art Gallery Design and Management classes are playing a critical role in the preparation, installation and management of the world premiere of a new brand exhibit, The Intimate Diebenkorn: Works on Paper 1949–1992.

This exhibit showcases the early work and evolution of American painter and master artist Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1992). Diebenkorn was an artist, educator, and UCLA professor who spent most of his life in California. Each period of his work – the Ocean Park period, the Berkeley period and the Healdsburg period – were heavily influenced by his California environment.

“Richard Diebenkorn is arguably the greatest painter that America has produced,” said Chester Arnold, an artist, painting instructor, and chair of the Fine Arts Department and curator of the exhibit. “It is impossible not to have been exposed to him as a painter and artist if you went to any art school in America in the last 30 years.”

Arnold searched through hundreds of drawings, sketches and paintings at the Diebenkorn Foundation archives in Berkeley and selected these previously unseen works to encourage students in their own development as artists.

Mr. Diebenkorn’s work can also be seen in some of the most prestigious museums in the world, including the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum, the de Young Museum and SFMOMA.

And this morning, I am making my way through the various construction zones, detours and orange plastic fencing on campus, and toward the Fine Arts Gallery where the Art Gallery Design and Management students are preparing the exhibit of the world-famous American master. I knock on a set of nondescript, double glass doors on the southeast corner of the Performing Arts Center. White window shades mask every window, floor to ceiling. From the outside, the gallery draws absolutely no attention to itself, belying the extraordinary significance of the long hidden treasures being prepared for this exhibition.

The door swings open on the second knock, framing the kind, bearded face of instructor Christopher West. He motions me inside with the confidence and ease of a man who is nearing the end of a long, successful journey of installing the Diebenkorn exhibit. As I enter the gallery, the students are uncrating and hanging 38 pieces of art that have never been seen by the public, offering a rare backstage glimpse into the world of high art.

Small groups of students work together in teams on each of the interior walls. The students punctuate the white expanses with simple, natural wood frames displaying Diebenkorn’s drawings, sketches, watercolor paintings and collages.

“We have the opportunity to be some of the few people to see this art for the first time,” said COM student Grace Sorg. “When you see it on the wall it just comes alive. This is a Richard Diebenkorn exhibit and I have goose bumps, I really have goose bumps, it’s just amazing.”

At this point in the process, it’s clear that the students understand exactly what needs to be done and as such they are on task. West watches the scene unfold and, like a proud father, he enjoys the moment.

“It’s been a really hands-on experience for them thus far,” he says. “We aren’t just teaching it, we are doing it. Now that we are actually installing the work, it’s become a very real and very exciting thing.”

The students in the Gallery Design and Management class have been working hard all semester, performing all of the mundane tasks required when hosting the work of a famous artist.

“We’ve had students mocking up the exhibit, helping with the condition reports and helping with the lighting of the show,” explains West.

As the class has evolved, the instructor has been giving the students more responsibility for virtually every aspect of the exhibit, surprising some of the students.

“None of us ever thought we were going to be able to hang and touch and be as intimate with these works as we have been. I get to work with one of my favorite teachers and do something that is extraordinary,” student Carol Solomon points out.

“It feels really special, just to be holding [the art], it’s incredible. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Adrienne Niedermann.

This exhibit has been over a year in the making and these students are fulfilling a dream envisioned by College of Marin Fine Arts Chair Chester Arnold and the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation.

“College of Marin is extremely fortunate to host the world premier of this exhibit,” said David Wain Coon, president of the College of Marin.

West looks over his classroom and observes his students.

“It’s been really exciting for them to see the work live and in person. It’s something that we have been thinking about, talking about and working on for a long time and it’s nice to see it take shape. It’s been a long journey, and after all of the work that has gone into it there is a certain amount of satisfaction of having it ready to rock and roll,” he said.

These works have a special importance to anyone studying art, Arnold points out. “They are small sketches, remarkable and beautiful. They reveal so much about his personality and the works that were being born in his studio. Each period of his work – Ocean Park, Berkeley, Healdsburg — all had highlights along the way and you can see them happening. It is an exhilarating study depicting the development of an artist.”

Bart Schneider, publisher of several books on Diebenkorn, said, “The virtuosity is stunning.”

The Gallery Design and Management class is a hands-on working fine art gallery, where students can get world art gallery experience.

Carol Sorg explains, “We will be taking the exhibit down and we will be spackling the walls and sanding and painting. It’s the nitty-gritty and also the glamorous part as well.”

West sums up the whole experience: “The combination has been nothing short of spectacular. We have a new space and we have this incredible opportunity with the Diebenkorn exhibit. I have a tremendous, dedicated, talented, brilliant bunch of students and as an instructor, it doesn’t get better than this.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays until 8 p.m. The show will run through November 14 in the new Fine Arts Gallery in the Performing Arts building, located next to the box office and off the main lobby.

October 4, 2013

The beat goes on for new music club
By Elisa Bryant

There’s a new beat on campus and it’s called the Music Club.  In years prior, the club on campus   was called Media Arts and Music Alliance. They have not been active in over two years. College of Marin student Adan Roldan went to see Vickie Lamke, assistant director of Student Affairs, to ask where he could sign up for the Music Club. He was told that there was no club for music at that time.

“I was disillusioned because I really wanted to be part of a Music Club to learn from others, but when I asked about the music club, Vickie said there wasn’t one and encouraged me that if I wanted one I should start it myself,” Roldan said.

“Since I started, everything has just pretty much fallen into place… I’d like to see the Music Club be more than a one semester deal.”

Jon Gudmundsson, who teaches Media and Arts, will be acting as adviser for the group and Nick Tara, COM alumni and music industry professional, has joined as a mentor and teacher.

[EDIT: Jon Gudmondsson advises the music club, and is a laboratory technician in the Communications Department.] 

Tara has a degree from Pyramind,  a music and audio production school in San Francisco, where he received his training in audio engineering and music theory. Known now as DJ-GU, he  has worked as a member of numerous bands for the past six years and as a professional studio guitarist since age 16.

Roldan is working toward a bachelor’s degree in business and a minor in music so he can persue a career in teaching and one day open his own music school.

Members of the club have different long-term goals in education as well as in the music industry, but they all share a passion for music and improving their  talents while taking courses at COM.

Tara’s goal working with the students this semester is to get them to a place where they feel comfortable performing live. He is interested in motivating each and every member of the club and hopes to helps them find what works for them and build on those talents in a professional way.

“Finding your hum, your home with the rhythm, and how that harmony transmits the message you are trying to convey — now that’s good music,” Tara said.

He is coordinating with incumbent president of ASCOM Steven Petker to have live music and free food events on campus two days a month throughout the remainder of the school year. Tara is getting Music Club members ready so that sometime during this semester they can make a contribution to the live performances along with already established and known bands.

“ASCOM is bringing life and fun back to our students and campuses,” Petker said. “We want all COM students to know more about who and what ASCOM is and to just have fun and enjoy being part of College of Marin.”

The Music Club is hoping to recruit more members to join the club. If anyone is interested in joining, they can contact Vickie Lamke of student services or go to the COM Music Club’s Facebook page.

The next live music event will be the Halloween Club Fest, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on October 31 in the Quad on the Kentfield campus.

March 15, 2013

Reducing your carbon foot print:
Environmental Action Club member’s journey to a greener life
By Paul Scott

As an older student here at COM, having gone through many changes over the last several years, I’ve found that I need a new path in life. I stepped out of my old regime, said goodbye to a decent career, and took a dive off a cliff yelling, “what have I done?!” the whole way down.

I still don’t know the answer to that scream – maybe I’m still falling.

In pondering what I should do, I took a hike one day. This had become part of my daily routine. On this hike, I had an epiphany, one that was very simple and probably wouldn’t warrant a “wow” from anyone else. Its simplicity was the reason I found it so weighty. I decided to see how far the trail would lead, and for starters it led me to COM.

I’ve been an outdoorsy type all my life, backpacking, camping, biking and hiking all over the place whenever possible. Although that has been the focal point of my life, the rest of life directed me elsewhere – career, wife, house, etc. “Elsewhere” also led me to the arts – music, specifically – still a major passion of mine, equal to my love for being out and about in what I consider the true world.

Having no idea the can of worms I was about to open, I enrolled in the Environmental Course at COM and was immediately bombarded with so much information about how screwed up everything has become. Not just the environment, either. The tragedy was across the board – culture, economics, you name it. But as the course proceeded, and the details began to emerge, I’m beginning to see the connection between all these seemingly unrelated issues.

Joe Mueller is my esteemed professor. I have learned so much from this smarty-pants in the three months I’ve been here, and he’s just an all around great guy to boot. I have heard that some folks may not feel the same, that he’s overboard when it comes to being green. Some may feel something like, “Uh-oh, here comes Joe! He’s going to give me grief about not printing on both sides of the paper.”

Well, why aren’t you printing on both sides of the paper? It’s easy – printer/copiers are already set up to do so. And doing so can reduce the amount of paper being used by the campus by quite a bit. If you have 20 pages of text and print on one side, you use 20 pieces of paper. Print on both sides and how many sheets are used? Of course it doesn’t always work out quite that well, but you get the idea.

I think the world needs more people like Joe. He’s not trying to make anyone uncomfortable, he’s trying to make the point that we have seriously depleted most of our natural resources and that in continuing to do so we risk unalterable environmental damage. The facts and the science is there to back this idea up. If we continue on this path, we will irrevocably doom ourselves to a hellish existence.

But it’s not all that gloomy. There’s hope out there, a lot of folks and organizations take the issues as seriously, if not more so, than Joe.

The real hope, though, is us. By doing simple things to start, we can and will make a difference. You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that keeping your house clean is good for you. You don’t have to be liberal or conservative, rich or poor. What you should try and grasp is that cleanliness should extend outside. The planet is our house – and our only one. We mess it up, we clean it up, or everything gets very sick.

So, in trying to take my first baby steps towards “walking the walk and talking the talk,” I decided to hook up with some fellow classmates.

The result is the rebirth of College of Marin’s Environmental Action Club. With the friendly push and guidance of Joe, and the infectious enthusiasm of President Susan Arati, the EAC is up and running. It was first formed in the early nineties and has gone through a handful of incarnations. Focusing initially on improving recycling efforts on the Kentfield campus, we hope to expand, recruit new members, and make everyone on and off campus to think a little “greener” in their daily lives.

The EAC has approached the cafeteria about ways to improve their waste situation, like reusable utensils and plates. There’s discussion about introducing healthier, organic food choices, possibly some from local vendors.

We plan to team up with the Indian Valley campus to share ideas. They have a wonderful garden, and we’re thinking of combining forces and having a farmer’s market on the Kentfield campus as the IVC campus already has.

We’ve noticed planting of non-natives in the new landscaping. Many species of plants not native to an area will become “invasive”, meaning they can overtake or out-compete other species, altering or damaging a local environment.

In promoting awareness, we want to offer tips from time to time; things you can do that will make an impact – without impacting you too much.

For instance, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is not a cliche; you can make it an automatic way of life by simply buying less, reusing containers, and by making sure you can recycle or pass on what you don’t need or want any longer. The more you do this, the more of a habit it becomes. There is a movement going around with the motto “Zero Waste in Marin by 2025”, and by taking the above actions, you will be doing more than your part.

When you give your old clothes or other material goods to charity, shop for things you might want or need yourself at those same places. Not only do you help someone less fortunate than yourself, you also spend your money locally.

Use public transportation or carpool with someone. Ride a bike, or walk. We’re talking with a consultant from WeGoMarin.com about their real-time ride sharing app just getting underway and already being used by the Larkspur Ferry, the SF Ferry, and Autodesk. Some of you may already be participating, as they have had a table in the Cafe set up recently.

There are now an estimated 6.6 billion cell phones in use. In the USA, the average time between upgrading phones is only 18 months, even though most phones will still be functional. Most “old” phones end up in landfills. Ask yourself if you really need a new phone, or are you just keeping up with a trend?

I hope you take some of this into your heart. At least think about it. Read about related stuff in books, magazines and websites. I’m still learning and so can you. In future columns, we hope to target more specific issues and try to keep it as local as possible, even as close as the campus itself. But remember that it really is all connected. What you do here can affect something further away than you might think.

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