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Vineland students schooled in rock by music group Face at Landis Theater

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Members of all-vocal rock band Face from Boulder, Colorado, hold a musical workshop for Vineland students prior to performing a concert for the students at the Landis Theater in Vineland on Friday morning.
Chris LaChall/Staff Photographer

VINELAND – Jaslynn Gonzalez couldn’t sit still in class Friday morning.

Her feet stomped.

Her arms swayed.

Jaslynn belted out “Uptown Funk” with the gusto of a fourth-grader in love with music — and she was not alone.

The Landis Theater was an impromptu school of rock, gospel, jazz and even some barbershop harmony for more than 500 Vineland Public School students ranging from kindergarten through high school.

In a two-part presentation, Face, a Boulder, Colo.-based all-vocal rock band, showed students how they do what they do.

They followed up with a concert.

Russell Swanson, the Main Street Vineland executive director, said he got to know the group while visiting Colorado.

When he learned that Face was headed east for its New York City debut, they scheduled a stop at the Landis Theater.

“I reached out to Vineland Board of Education Superintendent (Mary) Gruccio and her staff to see if they would have an interest in pursuing the educational aspect that Face offers and have them also put on a concert for the students,” Swanson said.

School district officials didn’t hesitate.

Buses whisked students involved in school choirs, bands and drama groups to the downtown venue.

“This is what we want to do,” said Nathan Frey, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, referring to providing unique educational opportunities to inspire students in their areas of interest.

This is the second such partnership.

In October, the district teamed with Main Street Vineland for another type of rock lesson that featured paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara, founder/director of the Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park of Rowan University, who shared his knowledge of dinosaurs.

Swanson’s goal is to create a series of educational/cultural collaborations between Main Street Vineland and the Vineland Public Schools to expose students to new ideas.

During Friday’s workshop, Face members — Forest Kelly, Ryan Driver, Cody Qualls, Stephen Ross and Mark Megibow — told the audience they were about their age when they were drawn to music. They honed their craft in school choirs and bands.

Starting out singing for tips in markets and malls, they are now full-time musicians, producing their own music and touring.

The all-vocal group enlisted the music of The Beatles to let the students hear the evolution of a cappella. They performed “Let it Be” in Gregorian chant, classic choral, gospel, barbershop and pop styles.

Face engaged students, encouraging them to use their voices to emulate the sound of instruments.

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Megibow taught students how to beatbox in just 30 seconds by mastering two skills — speed talking and spit.

Starting with the phrase “boots and cats,” he explained how to replicate the bass and snare sounds of a drum.

“Short and sharp,” Megibow said.

To add in the high-hat cymbals, he told the students to think of Greek food and illustrated how he could transform the word “tzatziki” into music.

As students practiced in the audience, Megibow urged them to keep their faces loose.

“It doesn’t matter how silly you feel, the sound is awesome,” he said.

“I think it’s awesome,” Max Leuchter Elementary School student Melina Cortes said. “I’ve learned a lot.”

The fifth-grader was now thinking of her voice as an instrument.

“I like to try and make my own music,” Melina said, adding she looked forward to coming up with new ideas.

Face also detailed how the group arrange its trademark harmonies, breaking down a song and rebuilding it.

Using “Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5, they explained the group starts with Kelly, the bass singer; and Megibow, the beat boxer, to set the beat and tempo. That’s the foundation on which they build, adding other vocals.

Lessons learned, it was time for Face to practice what they were teaching.

Students sang along to the concert and danced in the aisles.

Angelli Vaquerano, a Durand fourth-grader, was looking forward to impressing her parents with her new beatbox skill.

“They’re going to say, ‘Wow,’” she predicted.

 Angelli, who sees her future in musical performance, enjoys being on the stage.

“I do sometimes get nervous and excited,” she said. “I like it.”

 Angelli enjoyed the Face concert. She also loves pop star Ariana Grande.

“People tell me I sing just like her,” she said, hoping her talent will one day take her around the world, including a stop at her hometown Landis Theater.

Deborah M. Marko: 856-563-5256; dmarko@gannettnj.com: Twitter: @dmarko_dj

 

 

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