Fall That Jazz – Steve Somers Offers Virtual Music Classes through Washtenaw Community College

Longtime guitarist Steve Somers performs live in Ypsilanti. Photo courtesy of Steve Somers

Steve Somers plans to jazz up fall classes in Washtenaw County.

The longtime Ypsilanti guitarist-composer will offer fall semester jazz, guitar and music courses virtually for aspiring musicians through Washtenaw Community College (WCC). Starting Aug. 31, Somers will teach jazz combo and improvisation I & II (MUS 105-106) along with beginning and intermediate guitar (MUS 133-134) to 20 students per class.

All 16-week classes will include a combination of online class meetings with individual virtual consultation and assistance with various recording projects. Students can now enroll for fall classes through WCC’s website.

“The virtual classes will be offered with Zoom meetings, and we will do recording projects online where people submit their parts or solos, and then I will mix it all down here at the studio at Alley Records,” said Somers, who also leads the Ypsilanti Youth Orchestra Jazz Ensemble.

Somers also will host a non-credit jazz orchestra class virtually through WCC starting in October. The class will feature a mix of online meetings and performances for all ages.

As an influential musician, creative entrepreneur and community leader, Somers has taught jazz guitar classes at WCC for nearly 20 years and performed in jazz, classical, blues, R&B and rock solo and group projects since relocating to the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area in 1979.

Somers relocated to Michigan after touring nationally and internationally with a California-based band in 1970s. They hosted mini-residencies five to six nights a week at clubs and hotels as far east as Minnesota before disbanding a few years later.

After that, Somers started studying classical guitar with Nelson Amos at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in classical guitar music performance in 1984. Two years later, he studied with world-renowned composer and conductor Anthony Iannaccone while earning a master’s degree in music theory and composition from EMU.

“When I was still an undergraduate, he accepted me, and we worked for a couple of years and made some good progress writing music for piano, guitar and other instruments. Then, he accepted me in the master’s program, and I wrote a piece for the chamber orchestra that’s still in the library there,” Somers said.

In 1990, Somers returned to the live stage with the Steve Somers Band, which specializes in blues, R&B, rock and jazz and features vocalist Valerie Barrymore (who’s also Somers’ wife). The band frequents local and regional clubs and festivals, performs at private events and has been nominated for numerous Detroit Music Awards.

Throughout the ‘90s, Somers also launched Alley Records, a music production company that offers recording, CD pressing, audio post-production, graphics and equipment sales nationwide. Today, he continues to operate the company on a smaller scale and focuses on recording and CD production.

As a lifelong musician, Somers credits The Beatles’ Feb. 9, 1964 legendary appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” with inspiring his love of the guitar. At age nine, he started playing guitar and later studied jazz, blues and popular styles with an impressive roster of instructors, including Jim Luttrell, Jack Eskridge, Dave Creamer (who recorded with Miles Davis) and George Barnes (who was one of the first recording artists to use an electric guitar).

While growing up in Berkeley, Calif., Somers formed his first band in middle school and saw The Beatles, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix perform live in the Bay area. Those pivotal musical experiences laid the foundation for a prolific, rewarding career for Somers.

“When I was in my early and mid-teens, I really liked the blues rock sound, like Albert King or Jimi Hendrix. My instructors were more into jazz, so they got me studying a lot of the jazz chords, theories and harmonies. It was good to get exposed to that music, which is a little more complex than basic rock stuff,” said Somers, who’s also influenced by George Benson and Wes Montgomery.

With a multi-genre background, Somers continues to draw from those jazz, blues rock and classical influences while composing new music. He’s written several new sonatas and featured recorded performances on his YouTube channel while also livestreaming every Tuesday at 8 p.m. via Facebook.

“I’ve been able to have more time for writing music and finishing up that second sonata for guitar. I was working on the first sonata back in January, February and early March. Now, I’m looking forward to having more time to work on my own music,” he said.

For more information about WCC fall semester virtual music classes, contact Somers at ssomers@wccnet.edu.

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