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Gratz Band hits all the right notes with inspirational jazz

Professor Reed Gratz and his band – which includes Mike Bennett on drums, Michael O’Neill on guitar and Andrew Ford on bass – performed in Morgan Auditorium on Valentine’s Day. This was the first concert in the renovated hall formerly known as Founders Auditorium. / photos by Candice Salazar

Karlie Bettencourt
Associate Arts Editor

The Reed Gratz Band filled Morgan Auditorium will the cool sound of jazz on Monday night.

The eight songs the band played were just enough to get the large audience interested and also keep their attention.

“It was unique from the music I am used to listening to everyday,” said Justeen Montelongo, sophomore liberal studies major. “It was a great way to show off the different types of music we have in the music program.”

After the first couple of songs were played, Reed Gratz, a professor of music, introduced the members of the band and told a little about each of them.

The band consisted of Gratz on piano, Michael O’Neill on guitar, Andrew Ford on bass and Michael Bennett on drums.

“This is what friends do in their leisure time,” Gratz said.

All of the songs performed at the concert were original compositions by Gratz.

“I just published three books of my compositions,” Gratz said. “For this, I just flipped pages and picked some. That was my attempt to show a variety of things.”

While playing, all of the members had great energy that the audience responded to. In fact, many audience members were tapping their feet, bobbing their heads and wiggling in their seats to the beat of the music.

Most songs featured of solos by each of the different members.

While playing his solo, Bennett made sure to entertain the audience not just with his music, but with his multiple facial expressions while moving his head to his own beat.

“I played all improvisation,” Bennett said. “Most of these tunes I’ve never played before. You just need to keep your ears open and be creative.”

He is an alumnus from the University of La Verne who graduated in 2004 with a degree in music.

Bennett was not the only one grooving on stage. O’Neill had a guitar solo where he stood up and danced around while swiftly moving his hands up and down on the guitar with no problem. The audience clapped and cheered when his solo was finished.

O’Neill has played guitar for 30 years and has five solo CDs out that can be found at CDBaby and iTunes.

Ford graduated from La Verne with a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Along with playing bass, Ford has produced and arranged the album “Lady” which also can be purchased on iTunes.

All four members communicated with impressive ease while on stage. They were honed into each other’s playing in order to end the song at the right moment.

The audience, which took up almost the entire Morgan Auditorium, showed their appreciation for the performance by giving the band a standing ovation after the last song.

“Fantastic La Verne talent,” President Steve Morgan said. “I think now we have a venue where the talent shines.”

Karlie Bettencourt can be reached at

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