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.

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Fall Fusion – Chirp Leads Stellar Equinox Party Lineup at Grove Studios Saturday

Chirp’s Jay Frydenlund and Sam Naples groove at Danfest in August. Photo – Mark Samano

Filled with progtastic, funkified fusion, Chirp will bring upbeat, dancy grooves to celebrate autumn’s upcoming arrival Saturday at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios.

The Ann Arbor prog-funk-jazz jam quartet will headline the Ypsi rehearsal and recording space’s annual fall-themed Equinox Party before intimate in-person studio and virtual livestream audiences.

“Ypsi audiences are always some of our favorites to play for, so we are extremely excited to play our first show at Grove Studios. It has a great music/arts scene, and my favorite part of playing for Ypsi audiences is all the creative folks we get to bump shoulders with at our shows there,” said Jay Frydenlund, Chirp’s vocalist and guitarist.

Frydenlund and his Chirp bandmates Brian Long (bass), Sam Naples (guitar) and Gastón Reggio (drums) will share the Grove Studios stage with some of the area’s most talented musical acts, including Violet Sol, Edison Hollow, Las Drogas, Fernando Silverio Solis, Jackamo, the Steve Somers Band, Ki5 Loops, Diont’e Visible and DJ Nitro.

The Equinox Party will feature seven hours of live music across three mini concerts in a small, socially distanced gathering as well as livestream sets from each artist. Attendees can purchase limited in-studio VIP tickets for afternoon, evening and night shows as well as tickets for individual artist livestream performances to watch at home.

“The Equinox Party is our annual anniversary celebration and largest event of the year where we showcase a diverse collection of artists, many of whom we’ve worked with or met throughout the year,” said Erich Friebel, Grove Studios co-founder and director of community engagement.

“We’ve decided to really blow it up with the Equinox Party this year. We’ll be hosting three, two-and-a-half-hour shows with three to four artists each and an hour of transition in between shows to cycle the artists and audiences in and out to follow the 25-person gathering rule Ypsi is currently under.”

Grove Studios has flourished in the virtual music space since launching Grove Sessions, a regular livestream performance and interview series, in March. The sessions spotlight a range of emerging and established artists and musicians in Washtenaw County and metro Detroit.

“We’re already six months into our third year on Railroad Street in Ypsilanti, which is super dope considering we’re still weathering the effects of a global pandemic and a previous three-month shutdown,” Friebel said.

“That reality, along with social distancing and gathering restrictions, encouraged us to rethink how we support the music community by moving our events to a virtual format and becoming a burgeoning media production company. We also activated our outdoor courtyard stage in May with audio and video production, which has evolved into a high-tech livestream performance format with small in-studio audiences.”

Continue reading “Fall Fusion – Chirp Leads Stellar Equinox Party Lineup at Grove Studios Saturday”

The Funky Beats Go On – Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk Host Livestream Show Saturday

Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk will livestream a show Saturday at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios as part of Arts, Beats & Eats’ “The Beats Go On” virtual and drive-in live music series. Photo courtesy of Valerie Barrymore

Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk will bring sparkling, soulful grooves and delectable, dancy R&B to an Arts, Beats & Eats livestream performance Saturday at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios.

“This will be the first Foundation of Funk virtual show, and we’ll be doing a few covers and originals. With the virus, we haven’t been able to incorporate any of our new material yet, but hopefully we’ll be able to add some new things soon. The guys are so talented; we just want to have a funky, good time,” Barrymore said.

Thankfully, Barrymore and her bandmates will return to a metro Detroit stage, an online one albeit, after going on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re one of 400 local acts performing virtual shows and drive-in concerts Aug. 27 to Sept. 3 as part of a new Arts, Beats & Eats socially-distanced festival called “The Beats Go On.”

“The Beats Go On” aims to raise $500,000 for artists placed out of work due to the pandemic, which has shuttered live music venues nationwide since March. Viewers will be able to donate individually to different artists and contribute to “The Beats Go On” Musicians Fund, a broader public fundraising campaign to provide donated funds to artists who receive over 50 percent of their income from music.

Despite the ongoing challenges with live music, many artists, including Barrymore, continue to write, record and release new material. In April, Barrymore released her latest single, “I’m Here for You,” a groovy, romantic ode to long-term relationships and lifelong love.

Glistening retro synths, pulsating electronic drums, vibrant acoustic guitars and funky bass surround Barrymore as she soulfully sings, “You came home and you talked to me/Tellin’ me how bad things might be/Askin’ if I’d still love you if things messed up financially/Money’s not what attracted me, no, no/Money cannot control me/You took my heart, and it’s yours, boy/So everything else is noise, boy.”

“‘I’m Here for You’ is a song about my love for my husband (Steve Somers), and regardless, I’ll be there for him. The music for the track was written by a friend of mine, Tobias Smith, and I wrote the lyrics. We actually did 10 or more songs for an album called L.O.V.E., but today they say to release singles and not albums. We recorded a while ago, and it took me a little to start letting them go,” Barrymore said.

Barrymore also collaborated with Smith last year on “Do It for The Kids,” an upbeat, bouncy social justice anthem about putting children first. Shimmering electric guitars, rhythmic percussion, whirring synths and humming bass propel Barrymore as she optimistically sings, “One plus one and now you are three/You are a family, what a blessing/Commit to love and commitment/Let no one in and destroy it/Grow and love/Do it for the kids/You got to do it/Do it for the children.”

“Children are so precious and should be treated as such. You see horrible things happen to the beautiful children, and it just hurts. Children should be loved and protected,” she said.

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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.

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