California State University, Northridge’s Valley Performing Arts Center has hosted several world-renowned artists since opening its doors in 2011. In the past few months, however, many of these talented performers have not been alone on stage.
Accompanying heavy metal legend and CSUN alumnus Serj Tankian ’89 (Marketing), lead singer for System of a Down, during his two sold-out VPAC shows Nov. 10 and Nov. 12 was the CSUN Symphony, the student orchestra open to music majors and non-music majors.
Many of the students, according to Music Director John Roscigno, have been fans of Tankian for a long time and had been rehearsing hard the whole week prior to the event.
One of those fans was first-chair violinist and music performance major Jessica Alvillar, who said the experience meant the world to her.
“I was a huge System of a Down fan back in the day and followed [Tankian] on all his endeavors since,” Alvillar said. “It was such a blast playing with someone so revered among his fans, and to share that love with him on the stage was something I’ll never forget.”
On Oct. 8, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis performed at VPAC alongside CSUN’s Jazz “A” Band. Marsalis is a nine-time Grammy winner, while the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is made up of 15 acclaimed jazz soloists and ensemble players.
The Jazz “A” Band regularly take top honors at the Monterey and Reno Jazz Festivals. The group also performed at this year’s Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl alongside jazz singer-pianist Anthony Strong.
The highlight of the evening for CSUN’s Jazz “A” Band, according to Director Matthew Harris, occurred when Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra trombonist Elliot Mason sat in on one of the student band’s songs. The group also had the chance to sit backstage with the orchestra and talk to the professional musicians after the show.
“The experience was invaluable,” Harris said. “Performing with Marsalis and the orchestra definitely raised the bar for our performance as well. It really put a fire under us.”
Earlier in the fall semester, CSUN’s first a cappella choir, Acasola, performed alongside six-time Emmy Award-winning actress Tyne Daly in the musical DEAR WORLD on Sept. 30 at VPAC. Accompanying Daly and Acasola on stage was a cast of 13 performers and a live 25-piece orchestra.
The performance was the first time Acasola has performed at VPAC, said Acasola President Gabrielle Maestras.
“We’ve been trying to get on that stage for a very long time, so to have performed on [VPAC’s stage] with so many talented individuals was a dream come true,” Maestras said. “Understanding the importance of the special opportunity given to us was definitely a humbling experience for the entire group.”