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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

Jazz band finds its rhythm

By Sophia Pu | Production Chief

Photo courtesy of Ceres Black
BAND BUDDIES Ceres and the Universals pose for a photo after their performance outside of the M Building on Nov. 4.

   “When we work together, finishing a song and getting through it, just the looks on everyone’s face…it gives you this feeling,” described senior Ceres Black fondly. “I feel at home.”

   Black is the singer in Gabrielino High School’s jazz band, Ceres and the Universals. Taught by Melissa Romero, Visual and Performing Arts department, the course began being offered as an elective again this year, and currently has seven members.

   “Playing music together as people and eventually performing, I always liked that idea,” said senior Matthew Jesus Quinones, the band’s pianist.

   The ability to bond and depend on each other is what makes the elective special.

   “[My favorite part is] the people, they’re all really chill, and cool, and awesome,” said freshman Ryan Chiou, who plays the tenor saxophone. “It doesn’t really feel like a class compared to the others.”

   Though many of the members have their roots in marching band, jazz band is smaller and chooses which songs they play.

   “Jazz band is chill,” laughed senior Liam Dowell, who plays trumpet. “And it’s actually really fun to play random, tough songs.” 

   Contrary to its name, jazz band plays soul, rock, and pop. As Dowell stated, the class is actually more of a rock band. The freedom of choosing their own set list and the challenge of learning new songs is part of what makes the class fun.

   “When we’re picking songs, we usually want to think about how we are as a group and how we sound,” explained Black. “The difference in between “Lover” by Taylor Swift and “Sunday Morning” by No Doubt just shows how big our range is.”

   When choosing songs, the band has learned to navigate each member’s range. They have had to change songs because they were out of Black’s vocal range, had a differently tuned guitar part, or a difficult saxophone part.

   “I think it’s taught all of us how to work in a group better, and how to collaborate,” said sophomore Caleb Byrner, guitarist.

   Their ability to work past differences is evident as each member weaves in their own influences. Senior Elijah Rivadeneyra, guitarist and bass guitarist, was first inspired by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, exploring alternative and indie rock in his own music. Byrner began playing after watching “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”, while freshman Mykel Irvin Mariano, guitarist, branched out from Filipino songs to swing music.

   “I like playing swing music since it is fun to play and sing to, relaxing to listen or even dance to, and fairly simple to learn,” Mariano explained.

   Another key part of the class is their performances, which allow the band to be appreciated and motivate them to improve their skills.

   “It’s very cool to see people cheer for you after you work hard,” Quinones said.

   Last semester, Ceres and the Universals had one performance, a lunchtime concert in November. Though the group’s January performances were canceled after their drummer left, the band hopes to promote themselves more, try new roles, and continue venturing out of their comfort zones.

As individuals, they all want to continue growing, and some have pursued music beyond the band.

   Dowell played in the Rose Parade and is hoping to minor in music in college. Rivadeneyra released “Lose Control” by Deneyra (ft. Ceres Black) on Dec. 30, which can be listened to on all streaming platforms. Black also has a song of her own called “Lune”, out on SoundCloud and YouTube under CERES.

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Jazz band finds its rhythm