Esteemed guitarist rocks students

By Shardae Smith

Students in the Music Department had the opportunity to learn from American guitarist, singer and songwriter Charlie Sexton Sept. 27 through Sept. 30.

As a guest of the department’s Contemporary, Urban and Popular Music (CUP) program, Sexton was invited to spend the week as part of the Artist in Residence series to teach master classes with the department’s student ensemble bands.

“The difference between what goes on [during a master class] and what goes on making a record or [performing] on tour really isn’t that different,” Sexton said. “I mean, you see what’s available, what people are doing, how they’re playing together. Some people you work with a little more than others.”

Sexton, who currently tours six months of the year as Bob Dylan’s lead guitarist, has had success as a solo artist, producing records with Justin Timberlake and performing at a Haiti earthquake benefit earlier this year.

The department hosted the Charlie Sexton Residency Concert on Oct. 1, featuring students performing the songs they practiced with the legend.

Senior music major James Campbell was among the students who performed alongside Sexton.

“It’s fun,” Campbell said. “He taught me some calypso guitar, which is something I never did. I feel like my tuition dollars are hard at work.”

Sexton said last year’s Artist in Residence guest, blues singer Ivan Neville, made him want to experience what the residency program was about.

“That’s wicked for the [students] to be able to experience something like that,” Sexton said. “I was impressed this school would bring Neville in to work with the students.”

Sexton worked with ensembles of all levels in the CUP program, such as the pop rock ensemble, rhythm and blues ensemble and the blues ensemble, but upperclassmen and more advanced students performed in the concert at the end of the week.

“Most of our students had to [Google Charlie Sexton] because they didn’t know who Charlie was,” said Gary Yerkins, director of the CUP program. “We could bring in Kanye [West] and that would be fun, and I’m sure he would be a great teacher, but they already know Kanye. So why not give them someone they have to go, ‘Who is that?’ and ‘Why would they bring him here?’ Then they find out over the course of the week, ‘Wow, that was a heavy guy, that’s why we brought him in.’”

The department discussed what areas of music it wanted to focus on and from there, decided which artist could help with that particular area.

“Charlie’s a natural,” Yerkins said. “He knows how to get to the point.”

Who the college already has a relationship with is also a deciding factor, according to Joe Cerqua, production supervisor for the Music Department.

“My goal is to have [the artist] touch and meet as many students as [possible],” Cerqua said. “If I can get [the

artist] into a class that meets twice a week, that’s great because they walk away actually having a relationship with some of the students.”

As this was the first time he’s worked with college students, Sexton said he felt like a student himself. He told a songwriting class that he doesn’t know who will be the next to blow his mind.

“Hopefully they take some inspiration [from me] because, as we’re working on music and rehearsing music, I’m getting that from them,” Sexton said. “I’m not even thinking of these people as students…They’re players—they really are.”