The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

    New jazz director brings experience with U2, Iggy Pop and Big Daddy Kane to the classroom

    Jazz professor, David Moyer, plays his baritone sax in his office on Wednesday, Sept. 24. Moyer performed on tour with The Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Big Daddy Kane and Tears For Fears before teaching at El Camino College. “It was eye-opening to be able to travel to these places that I otherwise would never be able to travel,” Moyer said. Photo credit: Jeremy Yap

    Breakestra is preparing to go on stage and perform at the Glastonbury Festival, the United Kingdom’s equivalent to Coachella. Afrobeat musician Femi Kuti is following and waits backstage along with the rest of his band and Breakestra. One of Breakestra’s members takes a look at his saxophone and sees that its taken some damage.

    Glastonbury Festival parallels Coachella in more ways than one, including it’s proximity to nothing much at all. The man examining his saxophone, David Moyer, is trying to get the neck of his saxophone to fit into the horn.

    But Kuti saw Moyer struggling and called over the youngest member of his group to examine the saxophone. The band member looked over Moyer’s saxophone and asked if he had a razor.

    Moyer didn’t have a razor and said the horn player walked over to his saxophone case and grabbed his reed box. From within this box that had been traveling in the overhead compartment bin of an airplane, he pulled out a razorblade.

    “The kid is under the gun, trying to fix my horn,” Moyer recalls. “Working. Working.”

    T-minus 15 minutes. T-minus 10 minutes. T-minus 5 minutes.

    Moyer’s saxophone was fixed right before he and Breakestra were set to perform. After the fact, Moyer understands how weighted that moment was.

    “[Femi Kuti and his group] live in Lagos in Nigeria and I don’t know what their repair facilities are like or what their access is to instrument repair,” Moyer said. “But this was a test for this kid.”

    This moment in time was an instance that clearly stands out for Moyer, and not just because the show was good or that he got to see Kuti and his group perform.

    “We take for granted a lot of things that we can be thankful for,” Moyer said.

    David Moyer, 40, is El Camino College’s new Director of Jazz Studies and Concert Jazz Band Director.

    A Los Angeles native, Moyer received his Bachelor in Arts in Music Performance from University of California, Los Angeles and earned his doctorate in musical arts and a master’s in jazz music at the University of Southern California. He got his teaching credentials from California State University, Northridge.

    “I made the rounds of the universities,” Moyer said.

    In his first semester of teaching at ECC, Moyer is excited to learn from his colleagues and to learn how the school operates.

    “When the job was offered to me I jumped at the chance,” Moyer said. “This, from day one of going to grad school, had been the objective. So I couldn’t be more thrilled to be here.”

    ECC Dean of Fine Arts Berkeley Price said the college is lucky to have him.

    “He’s a fantastic guy, great personality,” Price said. “He cares about students.”

    Moyer began informally teaching when he was an undergraduate at UCLA and started teaching full-time as part of his profession when he was 24 years old.

    By the time Moyer was 33, he was working full-time for the Los Angeles Unified School District and for the non-profit Harmony Project. He decided to go back to graduate school and was motivated to work at a community college because of his interests in social justice and equitable access to education.

    “My dad went to Santa Monica College and I’ve heard throughout my entire life the best teaching that he’s ever had has been at the community college level,” Moyer said.

    Moyer also wanted to work at a community college because he believed that’s where he could cause the most amount of change.

    “I can teach the subjects that I really enjoy and I’m teaching adult learners that are here because they want to be here,” Moyer said.

    Moyer earned his doctorate in May 2018 and is getting used to his new title of “Dr.”

    “For the majority of my teaching career, my students have either called me Mr. Moyer or private students have called me David,” Moyer said. “So it’s a bit of a transition to go from that to Moyer or Professor Moyer. But I kind of like it.”

    Music has been part of Moyer’s family for a long time. Moyer’s grandfather was a violinist and his grandmother was a pianist and choral director at Paul Revere Middle School.

    But Moyer got into jazz in large part due to his father. Moyer’s dad is an avid record collector and fan of music despite not being a musician.

    “We used to go on road trips and it would be a big thing to go into his record collection and pick out the records and make the mixtape,” Moyer said. “He just had me into music at an early age.”

    Moyer got into jazz music in the eighth grade when he started playing the saxophone. His dad saw he was playing saxophone and recommended albums that slowly introduced Moyer to jazz.

    “It’s just been a passion of mine ever since,” Moyer said.

    Moyer realized he wanted to pursue jazz music when, as a UCLA undergrad, he went to see bassist Christian McBride at Catalina’s Bar and Grill in Hollywood.

    “I saw Christian McBride’s band play that night and they were on fire,” Moyer said. “They sounded great. They were just having the time of their lives.”

    It was May at the time and he had already declared his major as history. He realized that he wanted to pursue music but thought it was too late to switch his major.

    “But my high school had a relationship with UCLA, so they were able to arrange for me to have a late audition for the music program,” Moyer said. “I actually switched my major before I even took my first class at UCLA.”

    When he’s not teaching at ECC, Moyer composes, arranges, performs and records. He also co-leads the retro-futuristic jazz quintet D.D. Horns with trumpet player and former UCLA classmate Danny T. Levin. The band has released one record and is in the preproduction stages of their second.

    “We started releasing original music under that name a couple of years ago and it’s been a great creative outlet for both of us,” Levin said.

    Levin enjoys playing alongside Moyer because they have the same ideas about timbre, phrasing, tone and other aspects of music.

    “Because we both grew up listening to a lot of the same records, we both almost always have the same endpoint in mind about what we want things to sound like,” Levin said.

    Moyer has played saxophone on Jimmy Cliff’s Grammy-winning 2012 record ‘Rebirth’ and has worked in the recording studio with artists and groups including U2, Twenty One Pilots, Gary Clark Jr., and Iggy Pop.

    “I love working in the studio,” Moyer said. “There’s more room for experimenting but there’s less room for error because you have to be able to play whatever parts that you’re figuring out with a producer or artist.”

    Moyer has performed on tour with The Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Big Daddy Kane and Tears For Fears among others. He spent three years touring around the world with Breakestra, a music group that plays popular funk, jazz and soul breaks live.

    “It was eye-opening to be able to travel to these places that I otherwise would never be able to travel,” Moyer said. “Meet people that I would never be able to meet, see how music really can kind of connect us all together.”

    Moyer sees all of his musical activities as intertwined and connected.

    “Being a sideman, playing with other people, doing session work, teaching, being a professor here at El Camino … they’re all part of the same musical life,” Moyer said.

    The more that Moyer gets to know the history of ECC, the more he’s impressed.

    “There’s a really deep list of alumni that have gone to school here,” Moyer said.

    Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, jazz trumpeter Chet Baker and jazz pianist David Benoit are a few of El Camino’s music alumni.

    “The impact that El Camino has had on the musical life of the L.A. community is pretty deep,” Moyer said. “I’m really thrilled to be a part of that and to be able to help build on that for the future.”

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