New Music Industries Director brings wealth of musical experience


New Music Industries Studies Director Nick Vasallo lectures at CSU East Bay

Daniel Maraccini, Features editor

Composer, metal-head and former Diablo Valley College student: all of these titles describe new DVC Music Industries Studies Director, Nick Vasallo.

Born in Oakland and raised throughout the Bay Area, Vasallo, 35, has accomplished quite a bit since his Viking days. After gaining his first of four college degrees, Vasallo left DVC in 2003 and transferred to California State University East Bay, where he completed his Bachelor of Arts in Music Composition.

From there, he went straight to the University of Santa Cruz, where he earned Masters and Doctorate degrees in 2009 and 2011, respectively. Vasallo then taught around the Bay Area at schools including Los Medanos College and Gavilan College.

His most recent teaching position was as an assistant professor at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona’s Music Industries program.

Now, he’s back at DVC and is set to replace longtime faculty member Mark Steidel. In addition to the director position, Vasallo will also be teaching songwriting and sound for picture classes.

“I am most excited to be back home and teaching at my alma mater,” Vasallo says. “There is a romantic quality about going back to where you came from. Like a circle completing itself.”

Another part of that circle has been Vasallo’s role in the Bay Area metal scene.

He was a founding member of Antagony, the group for which he played for during his entire 14-year college career (including his time at DVC). The group was something of a legendary player in the Bay Area underground scene and is often cited for its unique blend of grind and slow doom metal sounds.

Since 2008, he has been a member of the extreme metal group Oblivion, which, in addition to Vasallo and other Antagony players, features former members of other underground bands All Shall Perish and Hacksaw to the Throat.

His resume serves as proof that excellent musicians study music extensively.

“There are no negative outcomes in studying music,” Vasallo said. “A lot of musicians ask me if they should study music. I usually answer with an analogy: If you want to be a chef wouldn’t you want to learn more about the art of cooking?”

In addition to his metal and academic successes, Vasallo has composed music for TV shows and several feature-length films. He is also the artistic director for Composers Inc., a non-profit that has aided American composers for over 30 years.

But of all his music experiences, Vasallo says teaching has been the most rewarding.

His passion for watching students make their own music is what keeps him coming back.

“There is something truly special about creating something,” he says. “It becomes alive. It exists. Whether it be a beautifully recorded song, or a gorgeous chord progression–witnessing students exceed their own expectations while being creative is an amazing thing.”