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June 19, 2014

New degree program promises to rock

By Nicole Drake

“God of Rock, thank you for this chance to shine. We are your humble servants. Please give us the power to blow people’s minds with our high voltage rock. Now raise your goblet. It’s a toast to those who rock!”

Rock Music MajorDewey Finn always knew the path to become a true rock star and taught his kids how to succeed in the industry.

Welcome to the school of rock.

Thanks to the Department of Music, students pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in music will be given the opportunity to be accepted into its new rock and popular music track.

“The BA degree in music has been around for a while as a way for music students who have interests that do not quite fit into our established tracks - performance, composition, education and therapy- to craft a program more in line with their specific career goals,” said program coordinator Dr. Greg D’Alessio, associate professor of composition at Cleveland State.

The thinking behind this program is to be as inclusive as possible and to try and provide a strong musical education for anyone who wants it regardless of their previous experience or the genre of music that they play.

“The main difference for the student is that, rather than auditioning with performances of a classical or jazz piece, they can now audition playing whatever form of music they are most committed too — rock and roll, blues, pop, singer-songwriter, hip-hop etc — and then play in an ensemble which reflects that music rather than in a concert band, orchestra or choir,” D’Alessio said.

Two auditions were held on April 26 and May 31 for students who could meet the requirements by the new “Popular Music Ensemble” course, MUS 119.

“We have recently completed a couple of rounds of auditions and have around 10-12 new students in the BA for next year. Additionally, there are several existing students whose emphasis was already on popular music before the change in auditions was made,” D’Alessio said.

Auditions were in the instrument and genre which the student was most familiar with and the ability to read standard music notation was encouraged.

Although reading sheet music is not a prerequisite to audition, it will be incorporated in the course of study in the new program.

D’Alessio said the coursework includes songwriting, a film music classic, two courses on the use of computers in music (recording, production, arranging etc.) and history and theory classes, as well as the included core curriculum, is the basis for all traditional music students.

“All of the other basic requirements of the music degree are the same — harmony, musicianship , history etc. — it’s just that we don’t require a student to be proficient in classical or music or jazz in order to be admitted and to participate,” D’Alessio said.

To complement the students’ specialized music studies, the student can take electives to suit their interests in other areas such as business, arts administration or any other field the university has to offer.

Kate Bill, the student recruiter and enrollment administrator, is in charge of handling the scheduling of the auditions while Dr. D’Alessio and Chris Vance, instructor of the rock band ensemble, oversee the auditions.

“We will be holding the third audition in August but the date has not yet been determined,” Bill said.

She said students are required to prepare material up to 5-10 minutes on the instrument they feel most comfortable with, and most auditions are “quite lengthy because they incorporate theory diagnostic and are very specific.”

There is a basic theory placement exam, ability assessment test on written material, which is not required but a given advantage and students are required to play some basic material at the examiners discretion.

Eric Kruger, senior journalism and public relation major, said “the rock and popular music track seems to be a great new option for Cleveland State music students to learn more about their craft and expand their skills by playing music that interests them.”

A similar program exists within the home of the Rock Hall of Fame archive, Tri-C (Cuyahoga County Community College).

“We are working with Tri-C to set up what’s called an ‘articulation’ between our programs whereby students from the two-year program at Tri-C can transition smoothly to CSU — credit transfers, no program reduces etc. — and that CSU students could take classes at Tri-C if there was an offering they were particularly interested in,” D’Alessio said.
Stay tuned for summer auditions.

For more information or to schedule an audition, contact Kate Bill at m.c.bill@csuohio.edu or 216-687-5039.