Terra State’s musical program doesn’t lack rhythm with performances and a mix of technology


FREMONT – For Alyha Herrera, her time to shine comes when she’s on stage, showing off her powerful voice.

She has big dreams of performing full time, touring, making her own albums and opening a fashion line.

Herrera, a Fremont resident, enrolled in the Terra State Community College music program in 2014, then transferred to Cleveland State University in 2016.

Things didn’t work out for her in Cleveland.

So she paused, did a soul-searching, came home, and started all over again at Terra State.

Now she’s back in the college’s revamped music program.

Michael Czeczele, director of musical arts and technology at Terra State, said Herrera is part of the college’s old and new music programs, with Terra State now focusing on performance and improving skills in music technology.

“I feel like they’re more focused on you as an artist,” Herrera said of Terra State’s program, as Czeczele explained basic piano chord progressions to him during a class in one of Terra State’s music practice rooms.

There are about 20 full-time music students in the Terra State program, Czeczele said.

The college is looking to increase enrollment at all levels and return to pre-pandemic levels.

With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions at Terra State and colleges in Ohio, Czeczele wants to publicize the college’s music program and put Terra State’s ensembles back in the public eye.

“You say ‘Terra State Music Department’ to someone and they say, ‘I didn’t know Terra State had a music department,'” Czeczele said, as he spoke about the musical ensembles in the university and plans to bring the Midwest Rhythm Summit back to campus.

Alyha Herrera, a music student at Terra State Community College, is taking a piano lesson this summer with Michael Czeczele, director of Terra's Musical Arts and Technologies.  Herrera started college in 2014, transferred to Cleveland State University, and then returned to Terra State to graduate.

Terra’s musical program has grown

Piano practice for Herrera ended at 4:30 p.m., as she and Czeczele walked a short distance to the college recital hall.

They rehearsed with the Terra Fusion Ensemble, which is one of the college’s 11 ensembles and includes a mix of students and faculty.

Jeff Blanchard, assistant music professor at Terra State Community College, plays the trumpet during a rehearsal with the college's Fusion Ensemble.  Blanchard has been in the college's music department since 2003.

When Terra State started looking for a new direction for its music program a few years ago, officials tried to figure out what its students needed and what they didn’t need, Czeczele said.

He said today’s musician needs a combination of technology and performance skills.

“So we moved into a hybrid direction where we combined the recording technology, the live music technology with the performance aspect, and that’s what we call the hybrid degree that we have now,” a Czeczele said.

Czeczele took charge of Terra State’s music program four years ago.

He said the music program also offers certificates to students who wish to focus exclusively on performance or an aspect of music technology.

To turn the musical program upside down, Terra State added a percussion ensemble.

When the college added this ensemble to their brass group, the combination evolved into a symphony concert orchestra.

Czeczele said Terra State was rebuilding its choir after eliminating the group for two semesters during the pandemic.

“We had to give up vocal music for a while due to COVID restrictions,” Czeczele said.

The addition of the percussion ensemble allowed Terra State to expand their number of music ensembles to 11, Czeczele said.

Jeff Blanchard has been with Terra State’s Music Department since 2003, when the college launched its music program.

When he started at Terra State, there was only a choir, a jazz band, and classes for music students.

An adjunct professor, Blanchard teaches the trumpet, brass choir, jazz orchestra, and harmony orchestra of Terra State.

“It’s really exciting now,” Blanchard said, adding, “We are getting the quality of kids that we think we need to get.”

The program emphasizes performance, the use of technology

Before Jacob Amstutz enrolled in Terra State’s music program, he didn’t own a computer or anything electronic related to music production.

Amstutz had known Czeczele since sixth grade, when he attended Woodmore Elementary School.

Terra State’s Music Director served as the band’s assistant director at Woodmore and gave private drum lessons in Amstutz.

Michael Czeczele, director of the music program at Terra State, presents the college's state-of-the-art mixer.  Czeczele said the music program has made a concerted effort to promote learning in music technology.

When he started at Terra State, Amstutz wanted to work in a studio or play the drums after graduating.

Amstutz, an Elmore resident who graduated this spring, learned to play the drums and mix through music technology classes at Terra State.

He now creates his own music videos and drum covers and uploads them to a YouTube channel.

“I didn’t learn any of this until I came here,” Amstutz said.

Jacob Amstutz plays the drums during a rehearsal of the Terra State Fusion Ensemble.  Amstutz, a resident of Elmore, graduated in 2021 from Terra State's music program.

The Fusion group repeats

Amstutz is one of the 10 founding members of the Terra State Fusion Ensemble, the college’s newest musical group made up of students and faculty members.

The fusion ensemble plays combinations of pop / rock and jazz music arranged by the band members.

Before Amstutz, Herrera and the rest of the ensemble got ready for a 90-minute rehearsal on Thursday night, Ann Sergent, Dean of the Liberal Arts and Business Division at Terra State, sang a few covers. in the college recital hall.

Ryan Weaver, an assistant professor of psychology at Terra State who plays guitar in the fusion ensemble, accompanied Sergeant as she sang lyrics on her phone, her voice reverberating through a nearly empty D building.

Ryan Weaver, an assistant professor of psychology at Terra State Community College, plays guitar in the college's fusion ensemble.  The set includes a mix of teachers and students.

Sergeant said she came once a week during her lunch break to sing in the room.

The dean said the advantage of the music program is that it is convenient and students are encouraged to take the initiative with ensembles like the Terra State Fusion Group.

“They’ve installed all the equipment. Not just their own equipment, but the recording equipment, the microphones, they do all of that. So part of the program is not just playing but learning all of these things.” , said Sergeant.

Sergeant said the college wanted to build on the steady growth in pre-pandemic enrollment in the music program.

She and Czeczele said interest in Terra State’s musical ensembles has been high on campus for both musical and non-musical majors, with students taking the initiative to form contemporary and hip-hop ensembles.

College seeks return to live music performances, brings festival back

As the fusion band began their rehearsal, Czeczele asked the band members to stop and start over several times as they performed a cover of Styx’s song “Mr. Roboto”.

Czeczele first asked Henry Rofkar to play only the trombone, then asked other members to join in on the trumpet and keyboards.

Within the fusion group, the members all write their own arrangements for the songs, Czeczele said.

He said the students start and run everything.

“The whole idea I created this group for is that they could create their own groups,” Czeczele said.

Terra State Community College music student Alyha Herrera rehearses with the college's Fusion Ensemble on June 17.  The ensemble will perform on July 3 at the college as part of an Independence Day celebration.

After the fusion band’s rehearsal, Czeczele said Terra State has also been working to improve their music studio.

The college now has a state-of-the-art mixing station adjacent to its recital hall.

Czeczele said students can perform live, record music, bring it to the mixing station and master it.

The fusion ensemble performed live at the Titan Tough Rally on campus in April and will perform on July 3 as part of the Independence Day celebration before a nighttime fireworks display.

With COVID-related restrictions removed, college ensembles will look to resume a full program of shows and concerts.

Czeczele said the college will bring the Midwest Rhythm Summit back to Terra State in April 2022.

To help the music program maintain its momentum, a scholarship fund is set up through the Terra College Foundation.

Czeczele said Terra State President Ron Schumacher came up with a scholarship idea to attract and retain music students with the foundation’s available endowment funds.

Schumacher said music students will be able to apply for scholarships of $ 750, with enough money set aside to fund 20 to 25 students.

“We wanted to focus on our music program,” said Schumacher.

The president of Terra State said his goals were to increase enrollment and add ensembles to the college’s music department.

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Twitter: @ DanielCarson7


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