Local band has Cal State East Bay influence


Daniel McGuire,

When I walked into Jupiter Pizza in Berkeley, it looked like a small, underwhelming restaurant.

However, inside was a spacious venue and a large outdoor section accompanied by a stage for live music. The rustic setting was accompanied by the sounds of the West Grand Brass Band. With half of its members holding performance or composition degrees from Cal State East Bay, they often spend their time playing at local farmers markets in Hayward and Oakland as well as at restaurants and on the streets of Berkeley and San Francisco.

The sousaphonist held down the bass lines that acted as the foundation of many of their songs while the drums, alto saxophone, trumpet, tenor and bass trombones filled the remaining parts of the jazz standards or music arranged by members of the band.

The trumpet player cracked jokes and introduced their songs while the other members of the band danced while they played, adding to the energetic environment.

The West Grand Brass Band was formed when a number of members were approached by the samba troupe the Hot Pink Feathers to perform at a carnival parade. Afterward the members decided it would be fun to busk at the 2015 Golden State Warriors championship parade and continued to seek out venues to perform at, according to band leader and alto saxophonist Matt Couzens.

The band consists of six members, all who have different types of degrees in music, some with emphasis on composition and arranging, while others are music minors. Three have degrees from CSUEB while the rest acquired them from UC Berkeley, SFSU, Chico State and Gonzaga.

Couzens, the band’s alto saxophonist, has a jazz studies degree from Sonoma State University and is one of three members with an emphasis on composition. In the West Grand Brass Band, he uses his degree knowledge to arrange many different popular songs that fit the band’s instruments.  

Although all current members are considered original founders, bass trombonist Noah Ortiz, with a music degree from CSUEB, was one of the three members that performed at the 2015 Warriors parade, which he described as “the very first iteration of WGBB.” Jeffrey Miller, a CSUEB music theory and composition instructor, called Ortiz “one of the best of our recent graduates in trombone.”

Sousaphonist Jordan Nadell has experience playing in a brass band from his time at Chico State where he studied performance for three years. Paired with his composition degree from CSUEB and his recording arts studies education from SFSU, Nadell has the ability to arrange music for the WGBB. Miller also described Nadell as “one of the most talented composers I’ve taught at CSUEB, and wrote excellent pieces for band, string quartet and brass ensemble.”

Drummer Thomas Dreiman has a bachelor’s degree from CSUEB in music with an emphasis in percussion performance and composition. CSUEB percussion instructor Artie Storch described Dreiman as a “thinking man’s drummer… [giving] thought as to what kind of sound is best, where it belongs, and whether it serves the intent of the piece in question.”

Tenor Trombonist Chris Lundeen, who has a jazz studies minor, was asked to sub for an absent band member and enjoyed it so much he decided to continue as a regular member.

Trumpet player Adam Borden, with a music minor from UC Berkeley was invited by a long time friend to come to a jam session that ended up being more of an audition, according to Borden. He joined the band after being asked shortly after the jam session. He teaches and fixes instruments at the Music Time Academy in Livermore, and plans on being a member of the band as long as he is welcome because “now is the right time for a band like this, one with a good mix of jazz, pop, and funk,” Borden said. “It is contemporary without giving away any soul.”