If the best way to learn something is to do it, then Bakersfield College music students are going to get quite an education this weekend at the first Panorama Creative Music Summit.
Students will leave their mark all over this two-day event, which is described as bringing BC alumni, students, faculty, local performers and visiting artists together to perform original music and explore "a broad range of styles and creative approaches across the jazz-pop continuum."
The brainchild of BC music faculty Josh Ottum and Kris Tiner, the music summit features guest artists Chris Shlarb and Psychic Temple, pianist Cathlene Pineda and percussionist Tatsuna Nakatani, who will perform in the evening and work with students during the day.
"The interactive learning side of this is just as important as the public performances that will happen," Tiner wrote in an email.
Tiner said that in addition to workshops in commercial music and technology, students working with Nakatani will learn to perform a work he has composed for his gong orchestra, a unique collection of gongs for which Nakatani has developed a special bow, similar to that used for the violin, and a bowing technique that allows sounds to reverberate for long periods of time, creating unusual sonic effects.
Other BC students will get to perform their own music.
"Four students were selected by audition to perform in the first set Friday night," Tiner wrote. "So we will open the summit with about 30 minutes of new material by student writers."
Tiner said students will also run the show, working backstage, running sound, lighting, recording the performance and interview artists.
The summit is the product of a growing investment in the performing arts department at the college. Ottum was hired two years ago to implement a new commercial music program, which prepares students for careers in rock and pop music (traditional music degrees focus on classical music), music technology and the business side of music. Tiner, a longtime adjunct faculty member, joined the full-time faculty this fall, heading up a new jazz studies program.
"I’ve been producing jazz concerts in Bakersfield for almost 20 years, drawing in artists from all over the world, and one of the things I want to do now that we are finally building a Jazz Studies program at BC is to bring more of those events to the campus," Tiner wrote. "Last summer, (Josh) and I started talking last summer about what it would loo like if we combined our programs together and it all flowed very spontaneously from those conversations."
In addition to the guest performers and student performers, Ottum will perform with his trio, and Tiner will perform with Pineda. BC alumnus and Cal State Northridge graduate Andrew Morgan will also perform with his quartet.
Tiner said he and Ottum are already planning next year's summit.
"Once we have a jazz combos class established next fall, the summit will be an opportunity to present student work in that medium as well," Tiner wrote.
But the picture — and the opportunities for students — is even bigger than that. Tiner said the hope is for this to become an annual showcase for new work from both programs, to demonstrate that all the music in the "jazz-pop continuum" — jazz, rap, singer-songwriter, Americana and the like — can co-exist.
"And the common language that brings it all together is creativity, the freedom to explore new ideas in music together," Tiner wrote.