Out of the entire year, this week may house our biggest cultural dichotomy.
Thursday was Thanksgiving and today is Black Friday. Thursday, we came together to celebrate thankfulness, selflessness, family, etc. Clawing at the back door, while everyone eats Aunt Nancy’s stuffing, is the ravenous mob waiting to pounce. They will get the 80” flat-screen regardless of how many old ladies must be trampled under foot. I exaggerate, but at the core, this is a metaphor.
Many people want to be Gandhi without feeling guilty about giving that nun the finger in traffic. While nobody is perfect, our society functions on the weight of those who truly devote themselves to selfless pursuits. In the Antelope Valley, Nate Dillon is one of these chosen few.
Along with teaching at AVC, he also has spent years promoting/booking shows, building various stages for venues from AV’s past and recording countless local bands, free of charge. He is still teaching and is the current Performing Arts chair for the campus and planning the upcoming “American Idiot” musical on campus.
Jesse Davidson: Can you give an overview of your AV Music Scene history?
Nate Dillon: My start began in the early 1990s, when I decided to start taking classes at AVC while still in high school. I ended up taking a class that used to be called Garage Band, instructed by the very talented James Bistany. While working on my AA, I met a great guitar player named Nick Alexander, a drummer named Crystal Jurado and together, with an old friend of mine named Robert Marshall, we formed a Punk band called Dead Rats. We continued on for nearly a decade, with a rotating cast of additional musicians, including the final line-up of Qumar Shiek on drums, Chris Constable on guitar and Dave Sipes on bass. I also joined an alternative Rock band on bass named REDLeTTER with grade school friends Eli Ryder on drums and David Harris on guitar and lead vocals. David Harris and I eventually created a local record label called No Exit Records, which we ran in the AV for 20 years, until finally closing shop in 2017.
I started substitute teaching after receiving my BA degree from CSUN in the early 2000s. I was still playing in the bands and I was also still putting a lot of energy into No Exit Records. A couple artists on my label told me that a woman from AVC wanted to talk to me, but I was so busy with my work and art, that I neglected to follow up. Ultimately, Chris Constable put her number in my hand and said something like, “Laura Hemenway told me that I have to make you call her right now!” After a brief introduction, Laura offered me a job teaching for the Commercial Music program at AVC. Unbeknown to me at that time, Laura Hemenway was one of the most amazing people I would ever meet in my life. She is a talented musician, natural leader and loving nurturer of all things artistic. She then asked if there was anything else I wanted to teach and I told her, “Garage Band.” James Bistany was no longer at AVC and the class was up for grabs, so I found myself lucky enough to teach the very class that had been my gateway into the Antelope Valley music scene.
JD: How is the production of “American Idiot” coming along?
ND: “American Idiot” is the most exciting project I have been able to work on at AVC. We have a fantastic person directing (Suzanne Wakefield), an amazing musical director, Gary Heaton-Smith; the super talented Tina Herbeck, as vocal director; and the fabulous Cindy Littlefield and Rochelle Guardado as choreographers. This show is going to be off the charts. I have already put a lot of work into getting this project off the ground, but it would not have happened if it were not for the support that we have received from our college president Ed Knudson and Dean of Arts and Humanities Duane Rumsey. We have just finished the “American Idiot” auditions and posted the cast list. There are four male and three female lead roles, along with about 30 students currently cast in ensemble. Instrumentalist auditions will be held on Feb. 4 (the first Tuesday evening of spring semester). I expect they will need at least seven or eight musicians, depending on their talents. The show is planned to open on April 24, 2020, with additional performances on April 25, April 26, May 1, May 2 and May 3.
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