Music majors rock around like clockwork

What started as a course final project in 2011 transitioned into a class based almost entirely on a new Sonoma State University tradition. Students performing in the upcoming Rock Collegium on May 4 take on their own approach to various classic rock genres in an experimental ensemble lead by Sonoma State Music majors. 

In 2012, Music professor John Palmer organized a “history of rock” upper division seminar, which later turned into to the current experimental ensemble

“Rock Collegium is a very fun and productive class that lets us play and sing covers of popular rock music from the last few decades, as well as create our own original music,” said senior Ryan Perry, one of the upcoming performers, who will be playing tenor saxophone and singing. 

“There’s a lot of student direction in this,” said  Palmer, who is now the chair of the Music Department and Musicology program. “I put them in a room, have them rehearse, then I leave, I just let them run it.” 

The Circus Phreeks [(left to right): Pablo Robles, Cameron Shellnut, Jacob Robert, Brynn Dally, Spencer Causey, Matthew Bowker, John Mayer.] practice together in their rehearsal for Rock Collegium. (STAR // Brandon Sparks)

The Circus Phreeks [(left to right): Pablo Robles, Cameron Shellnut, Jacob Robert, Brynn Dally, Spencer Causey, Matthew Bowker, John Mayer.] practice together in their rehearsal for Rock Collegium. (STAR // Brandon Sparks)

At the heart of this MUS 481 special topics course, lies the exciting opportunity for Music majors to learn and play music from their favorite artists, as well as showcase songs they’ve written on their own. 

This semester’s Rock Collegium features five different groups assembled together to play the show students have been practicing for since January.

 Each group will be playing a series of well-known cover songs as well as a few tunes that they have written themselves.

“It’s such a unique class to be in and I’ve never been in an environment that is so inclusive and supportive,” said Maddie Kaminsky, a junior Music Performance and Composition major, who has participated in Rock Collegium since last spring. 

There will be 10 to 12 cover songs from beloved bands such as Rush, Radiohead, Billy Joel, Kansas and will even feature an a capella set, but expect a few surprises. 

“We do play things that aren’t on the program just to surprise people,” said Palmer. 

For drummer Nick Carico, this will be his sixth semester performing in Rock Collegium.

“Rock Collegium tests my ability as a drummer as well as bolsters my effectiveness in working with many different bands,” said Carico. “I’ve made lifelong friends by being in Rock Collegium, and I cherish the experiences I gain by performing with my classmates.” 

Rock Collegium will not only be a farewell performance for some seniors, but a celebration and appreciation for new and classic music tunes alike. 

“It’s a lot of work that we put into these concerts, but at the end of each show, it’s always worth it when we see how many people come and support us,” said Kaminsky. 

Not only have students spent countless hours rehearsing and practicing for the show, but many of them are also playing instruments in the orchestra and/or singing in choir, all while keeping up with a 16 to 20 unit semester. 

“This class is rewarding as it is fun and I look forward to Rock Collegium every week,” said Perry. 

The course also delves into the history of rock and roll to help influence the performance. 

The term “classic rock” is quite broad as under its umbrella are many subgenres such as psychedelic rock from the 70s, glam bands from the 80s and grunge from the 90s. Students have been able to use these concepts as inspiration for creating and writing their own original pieces of music. 

“I have some very good students this time,” said Palmer. “I have students who I know if I put them in a room and just leave them alone, something good is going to come of it.” 

“Dr. John Palmer, who leads the ensemble, plays a big part in making the class what it is,” said Perry. “He is a great professor for this class because of his appreciation for all music and his willingness to give students the opportunity to play these songs while maintaining a high level of professionalism.” 

Tikcets are $8 for the general public and free for Sonoma State students. The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. May 4 in Schroeder Hall.