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Gratz inspires with piano

Musicians Andrew Ford, Mike Bennett, Steven Biondo and Reed Gratz filled the President’s Dining Room Monday with music Monday as the quartet performed songs written by Gratz during recovery from back surgery last Spring. The faculty lecture was titled “New Compositions for Voice and Anthroplasty.” The musicians were given the score one week prior to the performance which gave the audience a chance to watch the musicians sight-read the work together and develop the performance without rehearsal. / photo by Rafael Anguiano

Musicians Andrew Ford, Mike Bennett, Steven Biondo and Reed Gratz filled the President’s Dining Room Monday with music Monday as the quartet performed songs written by Gratz during recovery from back surgery last Spring. The faculty lecture was titled “New Compositions for Voice and Anthroplasty.” The musicians were given the score one week prior to the performance which gave the audience a chance to watch the musicians sight-read the work together and develop the performance without rehearsal. / photo by Rafael Anguiano

Michael Escañuelas
Staff Writer

The President’s Dining Room was rocked Monday by a live band performance which featured professor of music Reed Gratz in front of a packed audience.

As part of the weekly faculty lecture series, Gratz’s presentation consisted of seven works including a continuous wrap of songs at the end of the performance which lasted for little more than an hour.

The performance used music rather than a lecture which was a large departure from the lecture series’ other presenters. The music was accommodated by a slide show with pictures from Gratz’s travels.

Gratz communicated with every band member before each song, considering each piece was quickly sketched out and given to the members almost a week before the lecture.

“I sent them sketches a week ago,” Gratz said. “It’s always exciting to have world class players to play your music.”

Gratz, who is an accomplished pianist and began teaching at ULV in 1977, was accompanied by three other musicians to help him compose his performance.

Andrew Ford, a ULV alumnus who has experience playing with artists like David Crosby and formerly taught bass at the University, played bass guitar.

Another ULV alumnus, Michael Bennett, played the drums. He recently completed a recent tour with pop star Hilary Duff and has worked with several groups like Samahdi Project and the Joe Jewell Quartet.

Steven Biondo, La Verne’s music department coordinator and professor of the West African Drumming course played percussion.

“Reed was my mentor,” Bennett said. “It’s good to see all the guys anytime I can come back home.”

Each song brought new surprises for both the audience and the performers.

“I’ve been playing with Reed for 30 years,” Ford said. “We see things the same way.”

“It was a nice surprise,” said Amanda McCadden, a junior liberal arts major who attends the weekly lecture series. “I was amazed they were able to interact with music they’ve never seen before.”

Throughout the show Gratz gave some insight into the pieces that he was performing.

Careful not to talk too much, Gratz noted at one point in the performance that if you have to talk about your piece, then it’s too long or not finished yet.

Most of the music was written or influenced by Gratz’s travels in Amsterdam during his sabbatical leave.

He noted some composers that he worked with and some of the genres of music that influenced his work throughout the performance.

Gratz’s has family who resides in Amsterdam, so he is able to travel there frequently. It’s a completely different experience there, Gratz said.

In addition to his travel stories, Gratz also gave the audience insight into his equipment.

Playing on a Fender Rhodes 73 Suitcase Piano, he gave some background on artists like Ray Charles who used that model. Gratz expressed his displeasure with electric pianos and praised the Fender’s portability.

Throughout the final song each member gave a small solo which drew applause from the audience.

Michael Escañuelas can be reached at michael.escanuelas@laverne.edu.

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