Jesse Davidson

Our Valley is at the beginning of an artistic renewal — a resurgence fueled by the grand reopening of venues and clubs throughout our state.

The tide is receding and the wave is forming. In our desert community, there are new places to play and older venues are kicking into high gear. Of equal importance, Antelope Valley College’s Performing Arts Department is offering in-person performance and lecture classes once again. Historically, AVC has been a beacon for creative people from all walks of life. It’s a hub to refine their craft and expand their social circle.

Now, students will once again be interacting and performing on campus in the fall. Alternatively, many courses will still be offered with an online option. The variety of classes offered is vast and reminiscent of a major university.

In the dance category, many styles are offered, like ballet (DA 102), jazz (DA 104) and modern dance (DA 103).

In the theater department, many acting courses are offered including Fundamentals of Acting (THA 110), Comedy (THA 116A), and Improvisation (THA 130) courses.

The music department is offering traditional selections like orchestra (MUS 166), keyboard (MUS 131) and choir (MUS 181).

The commercial music department offers a selection of contemporary and traditional courses. The schedule includes the History of Rock and Roll (MUSC 103), History of Hip-Hop (MUSC 108), History of Women in Rock (MUSC 107), Studio Music Production, Beginning Rock Band (MUSC 175A), Jazz Improvisation (MUSC 124A), Stage Voice (MUSC 122), the Music Industry (MUSC 104) and more.

To learn more about this change on campus, I spoke with Dr. Gary Heaton Smith, the instructor for the Marching and Commercial Music Ensembles and Nathan Dillon, Performing Arts chair and instructor for the History of Hip-Hop.

Nathan Dillon: Students that I’ve talked to are dying to play live again. If you want to train your music chops with people in person, now you can. In the past, we’ve had people in our Beginning Rock Band that only played guitar for three or four weeks before they signed up. If people during COVID decided, “I’m stuck at home, I want to learn to play guitar,” now they have the chance to actually play in a band. However, it’s not just about our Commercial Rock Bands on campus. It’s also choir, orchestra, acting classes and our performances. If you want to be in a theatrical production, that’s all face-to-face now.

Gary Heaton Smith: Ensembles are back in person. Many of the ensembles are going through a rebranding, so it’s an awesome time to get in on the “bottom floor” and be part of something new and fresh. For example, the AVC Symphonic Band (MUS 160) is shifting its focus into more high-end, comprehensive repertoire and working on a different technical approach to get students much better at their instruments, while playing in a fun but demanding ensemble. Despite the challenges over the last year, many of us are excited to be back in person and connecting with other humans. To celebrate that, AVC’s Commercial Music Ensemble (MUSC 220A-C; Test Flight) is presenting a concert in November themed around a Party in the USA. As the world gets healthier, it’s time to gather, connect, and celebrate!

ND: Students want to learn how to make electronic music. How to record themselves at home. Since we couldn’t put on our Rock musicals, I had to rethink about how we were going to use the money for our Commercial Music program. What I did was pay for five years of ProTools recording software licenses and become a partner in the AVID Learning Program. Now, if students take our Studio Music Production classes, they can receive their protools user certificates.

GHS: The marching percussion ensemble (drum line; MUSC 170A) is also going through a rebranding. For one, we’re now listed under Commercial Music to help solidify the upcoming opening of a brand new certificate surrounding the marching arts. We also have a new schedule format that will help maximize rehearsal efficiency, ease for non-AVC students to enroll and enhance our overall performance ability. Likewise, a course in the upcoming marching arts certificate is being offered for the first time in the fall. It is MUSC 160A Marching Arts Design and Pedagogy I. It is a comprehensive introduction into marching arts design and teaching for those music education students who will end up standing in front of a marching ensemble. We’ll cover music composition storyboard creation, scheduling, fundraising, and other logistical concerns that are typically not discussed in music education programs.

The upcoming fall semester for AVC begins on Aug. 16.

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