Jazz series to display student talent


Nina Cestaro

Matt Zebley Plays Jazz Concert in Faculty Band at DVC and Leads Jazz Ensemble in Concert this Fall

Nina Cestaro, Staff member

The Diablo Valley College student Jazz Ensemble will host the Northgate High School Big Band this fall for the first time.

This semester’s jazz concert season led off  Aug. 19 with a faculty concert, reviving a tradition that had been on hiatus for several years.

Matt Zebley, a Grammy-award winning musician and jazz instructor who hails from University of Southern California, organized a free concert that included faculty musicians from both DVC and Los Medanos College. They played both original songs and jazz standards in one long set. The next set date for a faculty performance is Jan. 20th, 2017. 

The band is composed of Glenn Appell, a full-time DVC instructor on trumpet; guitarist Mike Williams, pianist Ben Flint and bassist Ben Levine from LMC; and guest performer Timothy Angulo on drums.

The faculty band project developed as Zebley realized “it’s important for our students to see us doing the very thing we teach.”

Zebley is a relatively new instructor at DVC. He was drawn here by the diversity of the student population. Skill set, age, background and life experience lend themselves to newer teaching styles, which he refers to as “constructivism — a student centered approach to teaching, where we are a guide by the student’s side.”

He was pleased to find that several other DVC faculty share this student-centered approach as well. He appreciates the way that music can bring such different levels of students together in a spontaneous and democratic process, similar to the way improvisational jazz is performed.

Zebley won a Grammy for best soundtrack for a film and has been touring and playing with the Brian Setzer Orchestra since 1999, a 17-piece big rock-n-roll band based in San Francisco. He will leave in November to tour the U.S.

Zebley strives toward finding a balance between his academic, artistic and personal life, that “allows me to give and receive in each of these areas, which feeds into my humanity, my spirit and my knowledge base. All of this is then cycled right back into teaching, performing and caring for my daughters.”

He is supportive of his students who have aspirations of becoming professional musicians and/or transferring to a music department at various state Universities.

Zebley revealed that he was bit by the jazz bug quite early in life and started playing in grade school, but didn’t start improvising and seriously committing to it until high school.

“I love the discipline, the sound, the self-expression. I was hooked and wanted to be on stage, playing, recording. I love all of it and so I decided to go to Berklee College of Music in Boston and then USC for graduate school.” There he met mentor Dr. Sheila Woodward, who has now moved on to Tacoma, Washington.

The joint Jazz Ensemble/Northgate High concert is 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30 at the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $8 pre-sale at the box office or online at dvcmusic.net or $11 at the door.

A second concert featuring student Jazz Combos will take place 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4th in room M-101 in the Music Building, $8 pre-sale or $10 at the door.