The Sound of Music

The School of Music's ensembles provide benefits for both students and community


tage fright. It’s an affliction that strikes musicians running the gamut from Ozzy Osborne to Luciano Pavarotti to Adele. Chase Spruill knows the feeling.

And when Spruill feels stress, he recalls his Sac State days performing in student ensembles as concertmaster of the orchestra and a founding member of the Camerata Capistrano baroque ensemble.

“As lucky as I felt to have an opportunity to engage with a variety of music and play with a lot of people, I was more overwhelmed than I could admit,” says the resident violinist at Rhode Island-based Community MusicWorks. “But in hindsight I was given the chance to be driven by curiosity and not succumb to pressure. And I’ve carried that with me into my career.”

Chase SpruillChase Spruill ’10 resident violinist at Rhode Island-based  Community MusicWorks

The School of Music boasts a collection of performing ensembles—many of which receive support from music-loving donors—including the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Marching Band and Sac State Choirs, to name a few. Ensembles bring together music and non-music majors who share a common interest in a musical genre. They’re also an opportunity for members to pursue a specialized musical education through rehearsals and performances.

School of Music graduates like Chase have gone on to careers as performers, conductors, composers and educators but the traits they learn can be applied to fields other than music, such as business or technology.

“Taking a leadership role, learning to work collaboratively and being a responsible team member are valuable skills no matter what you end up doing,” says Ernie Hills, director of the School of Music.

The vocal jazz program, led by alumna Gaw Vang-Willams ’10 (Jazz Studies), MM ’14 (Performance), has even earned national acclaim.

Sac State’s C-Sus Voices was named the top university ensemble in the country last year at the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival. The jazz vocalists were also voted best in the nation by Downbeat Magazine.

“Students have a number of performing opportunities at concerts held on campus and at top local, regional and international jazz festivals,” says Steve Roach, director of jazz studies. The program stresses both traditional and contemporary styles while giving them a look at the music landscape.

“We bring in guest artists who keep students in tune with professional musicians and give them a glimpse of what their career path may look like.”

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