A smorgasbord of sound

A smorgasbord of sound

The cast of “Rent” perform a preview of the upcoming show in the Performing Arts Building at Pierce College, Woodland Hills, Calif., on April 20, 2023. Photo by Rachael Rosenberg

Having the chance to perform on a big bright stage, in front of an unfamiliar audience, is an opportunity that many artists crave. 

Pierce College’s Music, Theatre and Dance departments held a diverse performing arts showcase during Multicultural Day Thursday afternoon. 

Percussion Instructor Kevin Good organized the program to include various music students along with having the Theatre department present a selection from their upcoming musical production of “Rent,” by Jonathon Larson. 

Performances featured music from the Pierce samba club, performance workshop class, and studio jazz band.

“Every performance opportunity the students get is incredible,” Good said. “One of the great and challenging things about performance workshop is everyone is coming from different backgrounds and different styles of music. That to me is what’s going to really help build their artistry.” 

There were many different instruments played throughout the performance workshop and studio jazz band showcase. From the cello and the piano, all the way to bass, drums, saxophone, trumpet and guitar. 

Emelysse Paez (top), who portrays Mimi Marquez, and Dale Van Slyke (bottom), who portrays Mark Cohen, perform a scene from the musical RENT during Pierce College’s Multicultural Day in Woodland Hills, Calif., on April 20, 2023. The play opens on May 5. Photo by Rachael Rosenberg

Music Professor Wendy Mazon reached out to Good and other music instructors, theater and dance departments to create a performing arts showcase that gave students the opportunity to perform in front of an audience. 

“We have a course in the music school called ‘performance workshop,’ which is open to anyone,” Good said. “You don’t have to be a music major, but we have music majors. That class is basically a safe and open space for people to practice performing in front of others.” 

Pierce student and jazz musician Adrian Clark spoke of the importance of being comfortable on stage as an artist and musician. 

“I feel like I’ve gotten pretty comfortable at performing in front of people at this point, especially as a jazz musician,” Clark said. “The trickiest part is just trying to be comfortable on stage because I feel like that’s when you put out your best sound.”

Pierce’s musical production of “Rent” performed “La Vie Boheme” to give the public a snippet of their upcoming show.

Musical Director and Collaborative Pianist Ryan Espinosa’s dual role in this production involves working with the actors and their vocals, along with playing piano during the show rehearsals. 

“This is one of, I want to say, 27 or so numbers in the show,” Espinosa said. “We’ve been spending about six hours, maybe a little more each week to prepare them for the show overall.” 

Espinosa shared how much time and effort everybody put into this production, in addition to preparing for their performance today. 

“We began our processes in early February, right when the semester starts,” Espinosa said. “The actors learn their lines, and then I work with them on the music. Shaheen Vaaz-Chamarbagwala, our director, works with them on their acting skills and it’s really a labor of love with everybody. Everyone puts in the effort and what the students put in is what they get out of it.” 

Although every production is different, Espinosa expressed the outstanding cast they have put together throughout this process. 

“With this particular production, we were very fortunate to have cast a really stellar cast,” Espinosa said. “But even with a stellar cast, you still need to prepare and everyone worked hard, especially for today’s performance. It’s all about their skill level and what they bring to the table. Working with their strengths and helping them with their weaknesses to build a well-rounded actor, musician, vocalist and dancer.”

The opening night of “Rent” is Friday, May 5, at 8 p.m., and will continue until May 14.