Visibly moved by the beat as they bobbed their heads and tapped their toes, audience members were transported back to the jazz age during California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) Steinway by Starlight concert held on June 11 in the University Theatre.
The second such concert in the past year, Steinway by Starlight is a direct result of CSUDH being an All-Steinway School. Wishing to replace its aging inventory of practice and performance pianos and raise the profile of its music program, the CSUDH Department of Music purchased 21 Steinway instruments in 2014 and sought the prestigious designation by Steinway & Sons. As an All-Steinway School, CSUDH is able to invite world class Steinway Artists to campus to perform.
The summer Steinway by Starlight concert, hosted by CSUDH alumnus and actor Jeff Coopwood (’08, M.A. Humanities), celebrated music from the early 20th century with an impeccably played selection of jazz standards by the Alan Pasqua Trio, led by Steinway artist Alan Pasqua, who performed on a Steinway grand piano that he picked out at a special loft in Downtown Los Angeles.
“I’ve played pretty much all there is to play and these pianos [Steinways] are the best pianos in the world,” said Pasqua, who in addition to being a performer and composer is also an educator. He added that he believes it is important for students to have access to high quality instruments, like Steinway pianos.
Most of the numbers the trio—Pasqua, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Pete James Johnson—performed were up-tempo, such as Irving Berlin’s 1932 classic “How Deep Is The Ocean,” and “On The Sunny Side of the Street,” written by Jimmy McHugh and lyrics by Dorothy Fields in 1930.
The group also took it down a notch, performing George Gershwin’s “Someone To Watch Over Me,” which Pasqua called one of the most beautiful melodies he has ever heard. He also noted that although most of the songs they performed were more than 70 years old, the melodies remain timeless.
The night was wrapped up with “When Will The Blues Leave,?” which was an homage to jazz musician Ornette Coleman, who according to Pasqua changed the jazz genre. Coleman had passed away earlier that day.
In addition to the Alan Pasqua Trio, the evening also featured the CSUDH Jazz Ensemble, who’s first song was an original piece written by recent CSUDH alumnus, pianist Ken Givens (’15, B.A., music).
Givens said he was excited to perform the piece for the audience, although he admitted that Pasqua was a hard act to share the stage with.
“Good grief,” said Givens. “He’s crazy good… I can’t even process that fast and he is doing it effortlessly.”
The ensemble also featured vocalist Mia Monk, a 19-year-old CSUDH biology student and the grand-niece of renowned jazz artist Thelonious Monk. She sang on the ensemble’s performance of two of her favorite Billie Holiday songs: “Cheek to Cheek” and “Body and Soul.” Monk said that although she is not majoring in music, she loves being a part of the ensemble and that the group is very “close knit” and “welcoming.”
A winter Steinway by Starlight will take place December 10, 2015. More information will be announced as the date approaches.