Alumni News

Alumni News

Mike Bennett 2004

At only 24-years-old Mike Bennett is emerging as one of the nations top drummers and percussionists. His tremendous musicality and on-stage charisma have led Drum! Magazine to call him, “full-fledged chameleon, showing restraint or blasting chops when called for, with a clean sound, metronomic feel, and a distinctly melodic soling style.” Modern Drummer Magazine agrees and says that he is, “on the fast track a versatile drummer who is building a reputation as one of L.A.’s finest.”

In his short career Bennett crosses many contemporary and world genres and has performed on both drum kit or percussion with artists such as The Estrada Brothers, Johnny Blas, Joe Jewell, Benise, David Garfield, Sandro Albert, Jonah Matranga, Max Bennett and many others! He has also appeared on television shows and stations such as The Tonight Show, The Ellen Degeneres Show, TeeNick, Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Jimmy Kimmel Show, MTV, VH1, MuchMusic and more! Bennett can also be heard on the new drum and percussion sample library available from Roland. He is also a highly recognized face in many international drum magazines through his popular articles and advertisements.

Mike is proud to be an artist and clinician for Taye Drums, LP Percussion, Rhythm Tech Percussion, Sabian Cymbals, Evans Drumheads, Regal Tip Drumsticks, Roland Electronics, Gibraltar Hardware, Kotz Cajons and E-Pad Practice Pads. He is currently performing with pop sensation Hilary Duff.


Andrew Ford 1982

Andrew Ford is recording and performing with David Crosby’s CPR and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Andrew also has a song on the new Al Jarreau cd Tomorrow Today entitled Flame.

Crosby, Pevar & Raymond ….

Listening to CPR, you have to recall the great Duke Ellington’s definitive comment on musical quality: “If it sounds good, it is good.” With that simple approach, David Crosby, Jeff Pevar, and James Raymond bring grace and elegance to contemporary harmonies that echo the best jazz and rock roots. It “sounds good,” which is a simple foundation supporting a complex structure. CPR includes a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter with a lasting influence on popular music, a guitarist who’s played with the greatest names in the business, and a keyboard player who’s a composer in television and film, and (like the others), enjoys backup, session, and performance credits with some of the hottest acts in the culture.

It’s this startling blend of solo and ensemble talent that is the basis for the band’s success in the studio and on tour. David Crosby brings almost four decades of experience to the group, as a solo folk artist, and as a founding member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash (and on occasion) Young. James Raymond began playing, composing, and arranging as a teenager, and by age thirty has played with top jazz and rock groups, while Jeff Pevar has been a force in the bands behind Ray Charles, James Taylor, Rickie Lee Jones, Joe Cocker, Shawn Colvin, B.B. King and many others. CPR’s close harmonies are like gold and silver threads running through the fabric of their music; following the intricate patterns of sound is an exercise in discovery.

The deceptively easy beat that marks the opening of  “Morrison” gives way to righteous indignation in its chorus. There’s a haunting imagery in “Somehow She Knew” that is mirrored by the poignant lyrics of “Time is the Final Currency,” and a rhythmic lilt to “Little Blind Fish.” The song “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” simply rocks. All through the album Crosby’s vocals blend effortlessly with Raymond’s and Pevar’s harmonies, creating an effect that’s a soulful reunion of the familiar and the unexpected. CPR creates echoes with every listening, because the heart has a memory of its own.

Words and photo from the official CPR website.


Fan Zheming 1980

Fan Zheming, a La Verne composition student of Prof. Gratz in the mid-1980′s is now the Vice President of the Shenyang Conservatory of Music in China.  The conservatory serves 8000 students.  Prof. Fan has won several international composition competitions.


Natalie Ganther 2002

Since graduation, Natalie has formed a duo with her twin sister Nicole. The group name is “Shirley Gaines.” They are working on their debut Gospel album. Natalie is currently working as an elementary school teacher for the Pasadena Unified School District. More recently she has worked with the American Idol, Reuben Studdard. Ms. Ganther sings on two of Reuben’s tracks on the new album and appeared on Jay Leno, and the Ellen Degeneres Show with him. She also appeared on BET’s”Celebration of Gospel,” Singing back-up for Americal Idol winners, Reuben Studdard and Fantasia, R&B artist Angie Stone, and Gospel Legend, Shirley Ceasar! Natalie also works as a songwriter/vocal coach for the”City of Refuge Chorale” in Gardena, CA.


J. Michael O’Neal 2003

J. Michael O’Neal is completeting a masters degree at Azuza Pacific University. J. Michael is not only a talented musician; he is also a music director and teacher. His musical directing experiences include the Golden Globe event (Keyboards) with performances by Prince, Justin Timberlake, Adam Levine, Herbie Hancock and Jonie Mitchell – 2005, The AESCE (Gospel Choir) at California State University at Fullerton – 2000-2005, Jazz Band at the University of La Verne – 2003-2004, Miss Black California Pageant (BET) – 2000, and consistently at Fountain Of Love Christian Fellowship (Pomona, CA) – 1990-Present. His teaching background includes: Las Banderas Academy at Colton – 2003-2005, Jazz Band Director/Jazz Improv – University of LaVerne – 2003-2004, and Professor in the Afro Studies Department (African American Music, Literature and Performance) at California Statue University at Fullerton – 2000-2005.


Joe Bagg 1989

Joe Bagg continues to get rave reviews for his jazz organ and piano playing in the L.A. Times Calendar section.www.joebagg.com/


Melissa Stahly 2005

Melissa completed her M. A. at University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) in 2008. While at UMKC she particpated in a Sherrill Milnes master class. Ms. Stahly also went to the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in the summer of 2007. www.aimsgraz.com


Eunyoung Sohng 2006

Completed her M. F. A. in Collaborative Piano at University of California at Irvine.


Rick Flom 2004

Rick Flom is teaching at The Learning Institute which is a charter school located near downtown Phoenix. He is developing a guitar music program there. Rick is teaching two guitar courses at beginning and intermediate level, theory, and music appreciation. Mr. Flom continues playing bass and guitar in rhythm sections for some of the choirs his father is directing. Rick and his father play together in a Jazz/classical group as well.


Yukiko Nasu 1997

Graduate from ULV 1997 BA, and University of Miami School of Music, 2002 Masters of Music Therapy.


Gayle Serdan 

Gayle Serdan 1987

Graduate from the University of Southern California’s prestigious Thornton School of Music with a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Jazz Studies, and a minor in Music Education and Electro-Acoustic Media. She received her Master’s of Music from the University of Southern California and her undergraduate degree in music from the University of La Verne after studying at the Dick Grove School of Music.

Gayle is a well respected featured artist and educator. In addition to leading her own jazz trio, she has performed with Joanne Grauer, John B. Williams, Paul T. Smith, Stacy Rowles, Betty O’Hara and the Jazzbirds, Jack DeJohnette, Seiler Piano Company, Hammond Organ Company, the world-renowned Les Brown Orchestra and the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.

Her areas of interest are Jazz Organ and Piano, Jazz History, Jazz Pedagogy, the Art of Improvisation and Music Therapy. She is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda Music Honors Society and has received numerous awards from the National Association of Jazz Educators.In addition to teaching courses at the University of La Verne since 1990, she is a veteran teacher of Music Appreciation and Piano Lab at Etiwanda High School and the music director for the Youth Mentoring Action Network, a local non profit.


Ryan Harrison 1998

Ryan Harrison recently completed his 2nd CD titled “In the Beginning: Music for Reflection”. This CD is a dramatic, virtual-orchestra, new age soundtrack for the imagination. Each of the 10 original compositions was carefully orchestrated, based on fantasy themes such as unicorns, dragons, and princesses, to propel the listener into a musical world of emotions, life-symbols, and reflection. “In the Beginning” and his first CD “Gonna Make It” are both available for purchase online at SongForge.com where visitors can hear soundclips, read more about Ryan, and send him a quick note if they’d like. Ryan has two future projects in mind. One will be a Christmas Album, and the other, another vocal CD. Both will feature new, original compositions.


Ray Garza 1997

Ray Garza taught elementary and middle school music at the Hollywood Schoolhouse (HSH) for seven years and started the HSH Choir, Band and Stage Crew. He co-wrote an original children’s musical titled “A Scrambled Tale” which was also recorded by the HSH students. After leaving HSH, Ray joined East of Doheny Productions, a multi-faceted independent production company, with credits including Broadway’s Grey Gardens, The Full Monty, Napoleon and Flower Drum Song. While at East of Doheny, Ray managed and directed an affiliate children’s art program called “The Pickering Street Players.” The Pickering Street Players was created by East of Doheny to provide challenging, innovative and high quality theatre and arts programs for children of all cultural backgrounds who otherwise do not enjoy this in their schools. In 2008, Ray became a Production Manager for Stiletto Entertainment and Holland America Line Cruises.  As Production Manager, Ray oversees singers, dancers and musicians aboard Holland America Cruise Ships and is also enjoying the opportunity to travel all around the world!  Ray continues to perform throughout Los Angeles and recently appeared as Joseph in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and the MC in “Cabaret.”  In 2007, Ray became a member of the Pacific Chorale, one of America’s great choirs, delighting national and international audiences under the inspired guidance of Artistic Director John Alexander.


Melanie White 1984

Melanie White is self employed and enjoying working as a music consultant. She is a Music Consultant for the Claremont Unified School District. As a children’s music specialist, She has created an innovative, fun music tool for Kindergarten through sixth grade teachers and students, called Music Ed. In A Box. Music Ed. In A Box consists of dozens of grade specific original songs on CDs that relate to themes within the regular school curriculum. Everything from reading, math, social studies and science to good citizenship and caring for the environment, all taught through music! Music Ed. In A Box is currently in use at public and private schools in Duarte, West Covina, Upland, Covina, Claremont and even South Central Los Angeles. Each school that uses Music Ed. In A Box also gets a custom School Song. The School Songs are a big hit and it is amazing to see the positive effects of learning with music in the classroom. It brings fun and creativity to everyday learning through music.

Melanie currently also has family CD’s available at Border’s in Montclair. There are three different CD’s, geared for five year olds and older. Songs that are cool and fun to have around and teach things too! (CD names are :”Brand New Day’ , “Power of One” and “What We Got In Common”) Best of all, much of her writing and recording is done at home with the help of her husband, David and our two children, Nick who is 14, and Bridget, age 8.


Giloh Morgan 1992

Giloh Morgan is living in New York City, writing and producing music with his sister, Debola, for Atlantic Records.


Jason Walker 1994

Jason Walker (1994) completed his masters at USC and is now with music licensing firm, M.R.I. (Music Reports, Inc.)


Skip Sams

Skip Sams 1996

Skip Sams is a recording artist with his company Skip Sams Productions, Inc./SSP Records. His current release, Christmases to Come, features former Miss America 1998, Kate Shindle.

Skip is entering the last year of masters work at the University of Miami.


Please send your alumni information to music@laverne.edu