A Man for All Seasons – Steve Somers Jazzes Up WCC’s Winter Semester Music Classes

Steve Somers performs at Grove Studios in Ypsilanti. Photo by Kyla McGrath and mural by Joanna Farben

For Steve Somers, jazz weathers all seasons, especially winter.

The Ypsilanti guitarist-composer will share his longtime love of jazz, guitar and music through virtual winter semester courses for aspiring musicians at Washtenaw Community College (WCC).

Starting Jan. 11, Somers will teach Creative Jazz and Improvisation I & II (MUS 105-106) and Beginning and Intermediate Guitar (MUS 133-134) to 20 students per class.

All classes will include a combination of online class meetings with individual consultation and assistance with varying recording projects as well as virtual recitals. Students can now enroll for these online winter classes through WCC’s website.

“The jazz and improvisation classes allow students to work on different songs each semester and learn about jazz and improvisation concepts. They submit solos and parts online, which I mix in my studio at Alley Records to create an audio recording,” Somers said.

“The guitar classes combine both beginning and intermediate students in one class. Beginners work on basic chords and strumming patterns while the intermediate students work on melodies, solo concepts and more advanced bar chords.”

Somers also will bring in Ann Arbor hip-hop artist and Grove Studios marketing head Max Preissner, aka Max Price, to offer a social media class for music students through WCC. Management for Working Artists (MUS 285) will help musicians learn how to promote their own music through social media.

“Many of the students are interested in eventually writing their own music, and Max will help them learn more about how to market it and utilize social media,” Somers said.

As another course offering, Somers will offer a virtual non-credit Community Jazz Orchestra class through WCC that starts Feb. 24. For those seeking financial assistance, WCC’s Emeritus Scholarships provide free tuition for Washtenaw County residents age 65 and older who enroll in non-credit and credit courses, including music.

Outside of the Community Jazz Orchestra, Somers will teach a virtual Ypsilanti Youth Jazz and Music Theory Class starting Jan. 9 for students ages 9 to 18. Adults are welcome to participate as mentors and learn more about jazz music and theory.

Somers Then and Now

Valerie Barrymore and Steve Somers heat up Grove Studios. Photo by Kyla McGrath and mural by Joanna Farben

As an influential musician, creative entrepreneur and community leader, Somers has taught jazz, guitar and music classes at WCC for nearly 20 years and performed in many different projects since relocating to the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area in 1979.

Somers relocated to Michigan after touring with a California-based band in the 1970s. Together, they hosted mini-residencies five to six nights a week at clubs and hotels before disbanding a few years later.

After that, Somers studied 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 at EMU.

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. The band has played local and regional clubs and festivals and been nominated for several Detroit Music Awards.

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

“Most of the artists that I work with at Alley Records I have known for years. I have known Brian Perrone since the 1990s and am currently mixing, mastering and arranging several new songs for him. I also work with Harvey Dreaver, Laurel Federbush, Soul Singing Sam, Jacob Leiva and others,” Somers said.

“Soul Singing Sam just released a new single called ‘Marry Me, Cherish Me,’ which we are helping promote. My wife Valerie (Barrymore) just wrote a new Christmas blues song that we premiered at our holiday livestream event in December. We’re planning on a lot of new material in 2021 and more shows at The Ypsilanti Food Co-op venue.”

Last year, Somers released his latest 14-track album, Sonatas for Guitar 2020, a dreamy, peaceful classical guitar-filled journey that instantly soothes weary souls. He also finished a new solo guitar piece called “Fantasy for Guitar,” an 8-minute movement, and formed the Steve Somers New Jazz Trio with Raf Jasper (bass) and Myron Krasicky (drums).

“We are working on some original songs now and hope to have the recordings available soon. The smaller group seems to make sense right now, and I enjoy working in that format with good musicians,” said Somers, who’s inspired by George Benson and Wes Montgomery.

Somers shares his new guitar music through weekly livestream performances every Sunday at 5 p.m. and hosts paid Alley Records virtual shows the last Sunday of every month via Facebook. The next paid virtual performance will take place Jan. 31 and feature special guests from the Alley Records family.

For more information about WCC winter semester virtual music classes, contact Arnett Chisholm at achisholm@wccnet.edu or (734) 751-5818.

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