By Ryan Scanlon
KU is known for its Jazz Studies program on campus with the jazz ensembles and rehearsal bands. Now a few students in the department are taking what they’ve learned and are gaining a following.
“Center City Drive” is a group from the music department that plays covers of popular jazz and rock songs, along with their own original music. The group has performed all around campus including South Dining Hall, recitals in Schaeffer Auditorium and other locales.
Kevin Kjos, director of the Jazz and Commercial Studies program, taught each of the members in his jazz and rock ensembles.
“Those guys either were or are in the Rock program here, which recently won a national award for rock ensembles for an undergraduate program,” Kjos said.
Each member has individual musical inspirations, which shows through when the band performs works that vary from jazz to rock to John Mayer.
“I have been playing jazz for most of the time that I’ve been playing, but I’m working on moving to more R&B and modern styles,” said KU sophomore Kevin Almanza, the rhythm guitarist.
Other members however, pull their inspiration from elsewhere.
“I look up to artists like John Mayer, J Cole, and Kendrick Lamar, because they all kind of revolutionized the genres they work in,” said KU junior Bryan Rojas, the band’s lead guitarist.
While most of them have ties to jazz, they don’t want to be limited to a single genre.
“I feel like we hear a song we like, and we just try to play it,” said KU sophomore Tony Destin, their lead vocalist. “It could be anything. We just try to take a good sound and put our own twist on it.”
The group has worked with other artists on campus to help diversify their sound. Destin recently worked with rapper Derick Knox on a song called “Tony’s Song.”
The group formed in fall 2016, when Destin wanted to get some friends together to perform at an open mic night in South Dining Hall.
“I heard about an open mic night at South, and I started trying to find some people who were interested in making some music,” Destin said. “And it just kind of grew from there.”
Almanza originally teamed up with Destin as a favor before the band was official. “I don’t really know when it all started to come together, I just wanted to help Tony out,” Almanza said.
The group’s name has been refined since the group first formed as “Center City,” according to different members of the group.
“We came up with the name from a tune I came up with,” said bassist Dylan Langschwager, a KU junior. “Our drummer at the time came up with the lyrics and called it ‘Center City Lights.’ The name just rolled off the tongue, so we stuck with it.”
A few members have expressed an interest in continuing work after college.
“I think the group has the potential to go further than Kutztown,” said Langschwager, “It would be really awesome to make more content and release an album.”