Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

The rumble of 1,700 viewers members crammed the nice and cozy summer time air on the Pepsi Amphitheater in Flagstaff — all eagerly ready for the present to begin.

Earlier than the touring artists took the stage, a lady and her guitar confronted the spectators. Standing entrance and heart, she appeared two inches tall to the folks behind the group.

“The very first thing I seen was simply how big the viewers was,” stated Ellie Fern, a junior learning widespread music. “The gang went again for what appeared like miles, and I may clearly see the folks smiling within the entrance row.”

She did her typical routine earlier than taking the stage: she took deep breaths, had a sip of water, shook out her nerves and tuned her guitar. Then, she received her cue.

However she wasn’t phased by the group. If something, she was extra nervous to sing in entrance of 20 classmates from her voice class.

“It looks like that is the place I am meant to be, and that is what I am alleged to be doing,” Fern stated. “I’ll present the folks my music, and I’ll join with this viewers as a result of that is precisely what I used to be placed on this earth to be doing.”

The subsequent day she went again to her regular routine. She made her means over to one of many newest additions to the Downtown Phoenix campus: Fusion on First.

Nestled between a YMCA and a Circle Ok, Fusion opened initially of the Fall 2021 semester. Not solely does it provide on-campus housing for as much as 550 college students, however it additionally created a house for the one undergraduate music program not based mostly on the Tempe campus: ASU’s widespread music program, which began in Fall 2020, is a selected focus inside the Bachelor of Arts program in music.

After two years, this system’s college students and school have solid an setting centered on cultivating college students’ numerous pursuits in music and making ready them to enter at this time’s music trade.


As a result of the favored music program began in the course of the pandemic, the primary cohort of 36 college students was taught just about. Fern, a part of this system’s firstclass, stated she felt fortunate to have been a scholar in that first 12 months. Regardless of all her courses being on Zoom, she noticed it as a possibility to develop nearer along with her friends and school.

John Paul Rabusa, a senior learning widespread music, stated this system’s director and professors turned to their college students to create a very good studying setting as a result of this system was so small.

“I felt like a trailblazer,” he stated. “We had the flexibility to assist form this system in the way in which we thought can be finest for the longer term college students that have been coming in.”

However the early-pandemic funk set in. Some days, Rabusa would lay in mattress and query what he was doing together with his life taking music courses by means of a pc.

And, like something new, there have been rising pains. Wanting again at his time in this system, senior Kenji Beriau stated he felt like a guinea pig testing out model new courses and tools.

“On the plus aspect, that is the way you study finest, is when issues aren’t working,” Beriau stated. “Nothing has been easy, however nothing good is ever easy.”

Abigail Parks, a junior in this system, stated it is arduous to think about all the brand new alternatives in this system she and her friends are going to overlook out on as soon as they graduate, however it’s fulfilling to say she was there when this system first began. Reflecting on her digital 12 months, she realized they did not have any of the bodily assets they do now.

“Not having all these issues available to us on the time made us much more inventive and had us pondering of ways in which we may get collectively and make the most effective of the state of affairs,” Parks stated.


As college students and school established the favored music program’s foundations over the following two years, it started to gasoline their passions in return. The trailblazing work of the so-called guinea pigs began paying off.

Fern, a singer-songwriter, stated her voice has develop into a lot stronger after taking voice classes by means of this system for the primary time. This system additionally uncovered her to music kinds and types of manufacturing she would not have tried in any other case.

“I do not suppose I might have grown almost as a lot as I’ve … if I did not go to highschool for music,” she stated.

This system has helped different college students uncover profession paths they by no means anticipated to go down.

Parks attended the Burlington County Institute of Know-how, a vocational highschool in New Jersey, the place she studied voice efficiency. She grew up performing in choir and musical theater, which helped her make the choice to enroll within the widespread music program with a efficiency focus.

However the deeper she received into this system, she realized she had a better ardour for songwriting and producing music.

“I wish to work with different artists … and finally I wish to open up my very own document label,” she stated. “My focus can be extra on [people of color], particularly girls.” She added that the pliability of this system looks like a very good match for her to “experiment in these newfound passions.”

The favored music program has a novel concentrate on the trendy music trade and entrepreneurship. ASU’s different music applications revolve round musicology, schooling and idea, as they classically practice college students in particular devices or genres.

However in at this time’s music trade, “you want professionals to put on a number of hats,” stated Samuel Peña, assistant director of the favored music program. Peña and different widespread music instructors wish to put together college students for the music enterprise by giving them an interdisciplinary talent set and empowering them to be entrepreneurial.

The bodily parts of Fusion are additionally basic to the favored music main expertise. Fusion holds observe rooms that may perform as mini recording studios, acoustically handled ensemble rooms with PA techniques, and an tools desk the place widespread music college students can try DJ tables, microphones, laptops, keyboards and different know-how to be used.

These musical assets, together with courses and professors, put together college students for a person capstone venture of their senior 12 months. There are about 15 college students at present working to finish their capstones to be the primary graduating class of ASU’s widespread music program.

Senior Sophia Bavishi is dividing hers into two sections — one every semester. For the primary, she is going to create a digital set by dwell looping utilizing an Ableton Push. Then, she’ll document the set and movie a complete efficiency. For the second half, she’ll do a dwell efficiency at an area venue.

“I by no means noticed myself as a dwell digital performer,” she stated. “This program has opened my eyes to one thing that I believe has actually now resonated with me and develop into part of my performing.”

Rabusa, who can also be engaged on his capstone, noticed a recurring theme all through his time as a well-liked music scholar. Except for constructing his personal venture, he helped construct this system and the rising music scene in downtown Phoenix.

“We’re actually beginning one thing new,” Rabusa stated. “We’re shaping what the Phoenix music scene goes to appear to be for years to return.”


It was 2019 and, like lots of his friends in widespread music, Rabusa had utilized to Berklee School of Music, a nationally famend music faculty in Boston, Massachusetts.

Rabusa grew up in metro Phoenix as a first-generation Filipino American. His father labored for the Phoenix Workplace of Arts and Tradition, which Rabusa stated related him to the native artwork scene his whole life.

“I by no means had the notion rising up that Phoenix was lower than a spot like New York or LA or Nashville,” he stated. “I simply at all times felt prefer it was not as developed because it might be, and I at all times noticed the longer term for it.”

Rising up in a musical household and attending church gave Rabusa a basis within the arts since childhood. He attended Arizona Faculty for the Arts, the place he took a music observe and was concerned in choir and theater.

Rabusa at all times knew he wished to get a university diploma, however when he was accepted to Berklee, he needed to flip down the provide as a result of he could not afford it. As a substitute, he stayed in Arizona and enrolled at ASU as a vocal efficiency main.

“After [my freshman year] was accomplished, I felt somewhat misplaced,” he stated. “I did not essentially really feel like I slot in with the extra operatic kinds, or the extra jazz kinds, or the extra musical theater kinds.”

That is when he realized ASU was creating a brand new diploma for widespread music, and the director of this system, Erin Barra-Jean, attended Berklee. He stated it was “actually serendipitous.” When it got here time for this system to interrupt floor, his ideas of Berklee light away.

“All of us come from very comparable backgrounds the place we did not really feel like we had discovered our neighborhood earlier than we joined the favored music program,” Rabusa stated. “I believe that all of us [had] this need to exit and discover people who find themselves like us. And after we did, it was essentially the most thrilling factor ever.”


Beriau was working on the tools desk in Fusion someday when his boss, Patrick Driscoll, senior know-how coordinator, advised him this system was going to begin doing open mics at Crescent Ballroom, a staple downtown Phoenix music venue down the block from Fusion.

Driscoll enlisted Beriau — who focuses on non-performance facets of this system and has experience in audio engineering and mixing — to assist work the system and sound for college students performing on the open mics.

After a number of open mics, Beriau turned acquainted with the employees at Crescent Ballroom.

One evening, he walked over to the manufacturing supervisor and stated “Hey, thanks a lot for having me. In the event you ever want somebody, let me know.”

Then the manufacturing supervisor stated “really…”

Beriau stated “that was the most effective phrase I heard that complete semester.”

He was contracted to work at Crescent Ballroom shortly after. Beriau attributes his new job to the favored music program; the partnership between this system and Crescent has bridged the hole between ASU and the native music neighborhood, he stated.

“I have been facilitating on behalf of Crescent now for the brand new interns at ASU who’re attempting to study these items,” he stated. “I am sort of setting the stepping stones for all the brand new Kenjis to discover ways to run the sound for Crescent.”

Except for program partnerships, many widespread music majors have established themselves as artists in each nook and cranny of the encircling neighborhood by means of gigging.

Fern has been gigging since she was 16. She continues to select up gigs virtually each weekend as a type of revenue.

“This 12 months, I’ve realized to compartmentalize myself; I’ve gigging Ellie and artist Ellie,” she stated. “While you’re gigging at eating places and lodges, you might be there to entertain the visitors, so I play principally cowl songs which might be well-known. … Artist Ellie can do no matter she desires.”


Fern stated she’d a lot fairly wrestle a bit and be proud of what she’s doing than be caught in an workplace job. Nonetheless, studying to attract distinct strains between artistry and the trade has been an enormous a part of being a well-liked music main.

“The toughest factor has been the transition of music as a passion to now it is my life 24/7,” she stated.

Beriau loved the transition from music as a passion to music as a profession. He transferred to widespread music from laptop science and stated he’s lots happier.

“I really feel like (this system) might be a bit extra rigorous,” Beriau stated. “However I am one of many fringe college students to be on that perspective. That stated, they’re very accommodating regardless of the place you are at as long as you are prepared to place within the work.”

This system has seen extra college students enroll this 12 months, including their particular person aptitude to the neighborhood — a testomony to this system’s future potential.

“Every semester I have been right here I may see a lot progress,” Bavishi stated. “I can solely think about (how far it’s going to go), and I am very excited. … That is solely the beginning, and I believe if I come again right here in 5 years, it is gonna be big.”

Not solely have college students constructed a program from the bottom up, however they’ve additionally made a mark on the College and the state. 

“The music scene is gonna develop with or with out this system,” Beriau stated. “However I believe with us being an accredited College, it will have extra college students come over right here and acknowledge there’s extra to Arizona than simply my diploma.”

Edited by Alexis Moulton, Camila Pedrosa, Sam Ellefson and Greta Forslund.

This story is a part of The Have an effect on Difficulty, which was launched on Nov. 2, 2022. See your entire publication right here.

Attain the reporter at [email protected] and comply with @savdagupion on Twitter. 

Like State Press Journal on Fb and comply with @statepressmag on Twitter and Instagram.

Savannah DagupionMagazine Reporter

Savannah Rose Dagupion is a reporter for State Press Journal. She moved to Arizona from Hawaiʻi to check Journalism and Mass Communication on the Cronkite Faculty. 

Proceed supporting scholar journalism and donate to The State Press at this time.

By Admin

Leave a Reply