The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The end of an era

Rory Snyder is retiring from his position as Director of Jazz Studies after 21 years at DVC. Before he came to DVC, Snyder was Director of Bands at Homestead High School and Jazz Director at Santa Clara University for 16 years. He currently teaches jazz history, jazz theory and improvisation, jazz combos, the day jazz band, and the night jazz band, which is becoming a fee-based course in order to avoid the new restrictions placed on class repeatability.

Snyder graduated with honors from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree in music education and afterward completed his Master’s degree in conducting and instrumental literature at the University of Northern Colorado, where he also graduated with honors.

Over the course of his career as a saxophone player he has worked with well-respected musicians and groups including The Temptations, Johnny Mathis, Clark Terry and Jack Jones.

Owen Lee, who directs the Philharmonic Orchestra and teaches music theory at DVC, has known Snyder since he was in high school. “He was the band director at my rival high school,” Lee said. Since then, he has had a huge respect for Snyder’s “dedication to music education, and, more importantly, to jazz” and has “a huge respect for him as a player.”

Ian Williams, a saxophone player and three year student of Snyder’s, described him as a “great advocate for jazz” who “still plays like a monster.”

“He’s the greatest music teacher I’ve ever had, because he’s been able to help me so much.”

According to Williams, Snyder encourages his students to listen to jazz and transcribe solos to improve their playing. He also urges his students to sell tickets to their jazz concerts in order to spread jazz appreciation throughout the Bay Area.

For the last ten years, Snyder has been taking his jazz groups to perform at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Jack London Square, where legendary musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Harry Connick Jr. have performed.

Snyder said his favorite thing about teaching is “turning students on to jazz” and to music in general. “Everybody should take at least one music class, music appreciation, beginning piano…because we don’t need just musicians, we need listeners.”

“One of the things I really enjoy about community college,” Snyder said, “is the diversity of students. I’ve got a 17 year old [baritone] sax player in jazz band and an 84 year old trumpet player.”

Snyder’s contributions to DVC’s music department include the expansion of the jazz program and the hiring of many excellent professors, which Lee called a “behind-the-scenes” accomplishment, something less widely known about than Snyder’s involvement with the jazz studies program. While he was chairman of the music board, Snyder hired professors and instructors including Owen Lee; Bruce Cook, who teaches anthropology, music literature, and piano; and Bret Peppo, the current chairman of the board and Director of Choral and Vocal Music.

When Snyder came to DVC in 1991, the music program was very good, but the jazz program was much smaller than it is today. Snyder worked to incorporate classes such as jazz combos and jazz piano into the program and recruited players to fill the new classes.

A few years ago, budget cuts threatened the entire jazz program. Snyder, along with the rest of the Applied and Fine Arts Division, protested, and they eventually forced the administration to re-evaluate their decision.

The music department has become much more comprehensive over the years. DVC now has very successful band, orchestral, choral, theory, and jazz programs, and the Music Technology Center is known as “one of the best on the west coast,” according to Snyder.

Although the music program is very successful, Snyder thinks it could go even further. He hopes that his replacement will work to improve the department. After his retirement, Snyder will continue to play with several groups and direct the night jazz band.

“When you’re a musician, you don’t stop,” he said. “I’ll be playing my horn ’till they pry that thing out of my hands.”

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The end of an era