It was an hour before showtime, and all through the house, every creature was ready to bring down the house. The stage was set by the instructors with care, in hopes that the performers would soon be there. The performers came in with their instruments to shred, while visions of rocking danced through their head...
Enough with Christmas! The victory lap of 2019 started on Saturday, December 7 at Showcase XII. Students worked hard and played hard, showcasing their immense growth as writers, singers, instrumentalists, performers, and more. From rock-and-roll to reggae, from funk to jazz, SoundLife students demonstrated why this ain’t your average music recital.
“This is not a recital. This is a concert,” declared SoundLife Program Director and Co-Founder, Chris Vazquez. He continued, “Enjoy this show like you would your favorite band. Celebrate these performers, for today they are no longer students; they are writers, they are bands, they are artists...they are rock stars.”
The show kicked off with a rousing three-song set by Brother, a newly formed band of two sets of brothers (who are not new students of SoundLife). They tore through classics like “Welcome to Paradise” by Green Day and “Dammit” by Blink 182, which featured an impressive drum solo. Each song segued directly into the next, leaving the audience barely able to breathe. Their energy and execution were infectious. The crowd roared as they struck their last chord.
Following these guys is no easy task, but Zeke Greene was up for it. Zeke took the stage alongside a band of professional session musicians to perform “Birthday” by The Beatles. This was his first time performing on stage, and one thing became crystal clear: Zeke is a natural.
The pace changed as Charles Foster took the stage to perform a short set of songs on the congas. As a percussionist, Charles chose two radically different selections: a latin standard and pop/funk classic. His love for music and charm were endearing. Charles was an inspiring example that music education is for all ages and that it’s never too late to follow a new passion or rediscover an old one.
After Charles, another newcomer followed on vocals: Aidan Disney. Aidan Disney is a young man wise beyond his years. He was quick to address the audience by thanking Charles for sharing different styles of music. His words prompted the crowd to applaud. This level of awareness, humility, empathy, and sensitivity was so wonderful to see in such a young artist. Aidan beautifully sang two 90s classics, “Just Breathe” by Pearl Jam and “Wonderwall” by Oasis with accompaniment by his instructor, Mark.
Following Aidan was yet another first time performer: Laila Gilio. Laila sang and played guitar while Mark continued to provide additional accompaniment. The highlight of her performance was a gorgeous rendition of the Oasis masterpiece, “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”
At this point, the concert took a shift to highlight full bands. The first of these bands was “Hashtag.” Composed entirely of schoolmates, Hashtag are veterans of the stage, and their experience showed. They tore through a three-song set that showcased a high level of musicianship and improved command over the stage. Their guitar solos, tones, and parts were well-arranged, and their singer Leo had a swagger that spoke for his experience. The highlight of their performance was an original composition called “I Don’t Care.” It’s fair to say that their die-hard fans loved to see their growth as artists.
Seeing that the back end of the concert program was all bands, the concert curator wisely placed two solo piano selections between bands. First up was Laurel Skaggs performing a quirky and well-put-together version of “Something in the Water” by Brooke Fraser. She sang and accompanied herself with confidence and poise. Laurel was followed by her brother Cormac, who performed a solo classical piano selection.
These two solo performers quickly transformed into rockers as members of the next band, “The Rock Mojis.” This seven-piece band gave the audience one heck of a show. Their four-song set included new hits like “Sucker” by the Jonas Bros, as well as classics like “Shout It Out Loud” by Kiss. Each song segued right into the next with wonderful staging, stage banter, and crowd interaction. By the end of their show, they had the whole room clapping and singing to “Shout It, Shout It, Shout It Out Loud!”
When XPosition took the stage, it was clear that they came to make a statement. This was a band full of veteran performers. In the SoundLife community, they could be considered a supergroup. XPosition was, after all, born out of early SoundLife Jam sessions at Exposition Studios in Los Angeles. These budding artists shared a diverse set that included “Warning” by the Reggae band Pepper, “Cruel Summer” by Taylor Swift, and “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac. Each song featured different different vocal combinations with band members switching roles and even instruments. The highlight of their show was absolutely the epic ending to Fleetwood Mac’s masterpiece.
After XPosition, TBD took the stage. As another veteran band of performers, TBD showcased their experience right from the start. Having recently performed a 90-minute set, material was not in short supply. However, their challenge was to present an original show of new music. They met this challenge and brought the audience three fresh, new, original songs that displayed a contemporary vintage sound. Each song displayed thoughtful lyrics, intricately arranged instrumental parts, varying tempos, and a fusion of styles. TBD closed their show with a punk-rock-inspired “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” which sent the audience into an overwhelming frenzy.
The finale of the show saw the Cotner Crew taking the stage to shake things up and showcase an entirely different skill set. Cotner Crew is a jazz trio featuring guitar, upright bass, and drums. Small-band jazz combos are challenging, as the instrumentalists are each required to contribute a tremendous amount to the music. These young men did a marvelous job working their way through classic standards, such as “Sonnymoon for Two,” “Blue Bossa,” and even “Cantaloupe Island.” Each of these songs feature different soloists. The improvisation and overall musicianship was at a high level for such young artists. It will be exciting to see them continue to grow and develop.
With a runtime of nearly two-and-a-half hours, it was an afternoon jam-packed with outstanding promise and potential. These rock stars deserve every bit of the applause they received. There wasn’t a moment during the entire show that felt like a “recital.” There were no polite claps spaced out between awkward pauses. This was genuine fun produced by real musicians. We can’t wait for the next one!