Music News & Reviews

Sac State celebrates new School of Music

Performing at the CSU Sacramento School of Music’s Mosaic concert will be students (from left) Jordan Shippy, Trevor Hall, Christian Carreon, Monica Serrano, Marissa Tolbert, and Ray Anthony Trujillo.
Performing at the CSU Sacramento School of Music’s Mosaic concert will be students (from left) Jordan Shippy, Trevor Hall, Christian Carreon, Monica Serrano, Marissa Tolbert, and Ray Anthony Trujillo. CSU Sacramento

Music fills the rehearsal rooms at California State University, Sacramento, as students and faculty prepare for a milestone gala.

School is back in session for Sacramento State’s 200-plus music majors. For the first time in the university’s history, the emphasis is on “School.” When they came back to class, these students became part of CSUS’ new School of Music, a distinction decades in the making.

“It’s not easy to accomplish,” said school director Ernie Hills. “We’ve been at it for 20 years. We thought we had it at one point, but it slipped away from us. But now, we’re flying forward.”

To celebrate, the new School of Music will host “Mosaic,” a gala concert featuring the program’s rich diversity. More than 120 student musicians will perform during the Sunday, Sept. 27, concert. An outdoor reception will follow the concert.

 ‘Mosaic’ describes perfectly what this program will be,” Hills said. “It’s about all the different pieces that come together. We’ll have 10 performances, each significantly different from the next. We have brass, a saxophone quartet, vocal jazz, percussion, the wind ensemble, a new composition and more – all in about 90 minutes.”

Such an ambitious student concert can be daunting so early in the semester, he noted.

“It’s a wonderful sampling of what we’re able to do after only four weeks of class,” Hills said. “Some of us are wondering, can we actually do this after just four weeks? But everyone is working very hard; it will be exciting.”

The gala also will launch a “Friends of the School of Music” support group, Hills said. “This will be our development arm to help our school financially, physically and emotionally. … I want us to be the front door for the arts at Sacramento State.”

The university has long had a well-respected music program, he noted, but the name change elevates its public perception.

“The music department was one of the first started at the university,” explained Hills, noting the department’s 1948 birth predates the college’s J Street campus. “Music always has been an important part of the campus.”

Nationally accredited since 1964, the department evolved into a multifaceted program encompassing music instruction of many kinds. The school now has more than 50 faculty, including 21 full-time instructors.

“Our majors include instrumental, opera, choral, piano, world music, music education, jazz; you name it,” Hills said. “We’re a comprehensive music school with degrees at both the graduate and undergraduate level. ‘School’ denotes a professional program and a school is what we are; School of Music is the right name for what we do.”

Hills hopes the name change will help his musicians get noticed by their community. “There’s definitely more prestige, but it also helps with outreach,” he said.

“We think of our school as the hub of music in the Sacramento region,” he added. “We present more than 200 performances a year, not just by our students and faculty, but we host tons of everything, from student festivals to the Sacramento Youth Symphony.”

Upcoming highlights include November’s Festival of New American Music, the nation’s largest free music festival of its kind, and such guest artists as South Indian vocalist Gayathri Satya (Oct. 10) and African musician Baba Ken and the Nigerian Brothers (Oct. 15).

The name change also comes as Sacramento State has seen a surge in music education majors.

“We’ve seen significant growth in music education,” Hills said. “These grads are all getting good jobs, too. It makes sense; schools are better funded right now and supporting music programs. It’s a very good time to go into music education. That’s a great thing for our school, too, and bodes well for our music community.”

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

Mosaic: A Gala Concert

Where: Capistrano Hall, CSUS School of Music, 6000 J St., Sacramento

When: 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27

Admission: $15-$20

Details:, 916-278-5191